Poesia/Theoria 201701 — Assignments

Presentation = 15%

Mid-Term Paper (3000 wds) = 20%

Term Paper (6000 wds) = 30%

Take-Home Final Exam (4500 wds) = 20%

Participation = 15%


Participation: 15%

As this is a seminar, your participation — oral, active, engaged, enthusiastic — is essential to the course. It is not acceptable to sit silently throughout class. We expect active participation from all members of the class, and will be grading that participation exclusively in terms of quantity. That is, we are not grading the quality of your contributions, but whether or not you contribute, period. This means that no one will get points for making better contributions than others. But it does mean that you can easily get these points simply for speaking up often and to the point. They are the easiest marks you’ll get in grad school — maybe ever!

In this spirit, we will begin each week’s class with a very short writing sprint in which you will be encouraged to think freely and originally with the week’s readings. This is your opportunity to begin doing some original theorizing of your own in a completely pressure-free environment: no one will read what you write, and you need not ever share it with anyone. It’s part of our attempt to move the class beyond merely training you in critical thinking, and helping you hone your abilities in creative thinking as well.

Presentation: 15%

Each student will present orally a proposal for the term paper. The proposal should state clearly four things:

  1. what you will argue (not what you will “explore” or “consider” or “investigate,” etc.)
  2. that it is new or how it contributes to the scholarly conversation on the topic
  3. why it matters; what is at stake in your intervention into that conversation
  4. how you will do it: what moves will you make in your argument, what sort of approach will you take, what sorts of theoretical commitments are you undertaking, etc.?

You will have 15 minutes to present the proposal, followed by 15 or more minutes of taking questions, clarifying the proposal, and workshopping it to remedy potential weaknesses and enhance existing strengths. All students are expected to offer feedback on each presentation; we mean it when we say this is a presentation for the purposes of workshopping the ideas and approach prior to writing the paper.

Mid-term Paper (3000 wds): 20%

For this assignment you will need to select a cultural object or phenomenon and relate it to the course readings and themes. Your paper should run to 3000 words. It should

  1. present the object or phenomenon
  2. read the phenomenon in terms of one or more of the readings for the course
  3. formulate and prosecute a rigorous argument about the phenomenon

To these ends, the argument in question must be non-obvious and compelling. You will be assessed on your ability to shed unexpected light on the object or phenomenon you have selected. Superlative work will go beyond even this new light, showing how the phenomenon itself is a form of theoretical thought and/or provokes amendments to existing modes of theory.

Term Paper (6000 wds): 30%

Your term paper should tie the course content into your own research interests, however they are configured. This means that there is considerable latitude in how you approach this topic: come and speak to us about your plans. The aim here is for you to work towards a theoretically sophisticated paper that engages with both the aesthetic and the theoretical — indeed, with the aesthetic as theoretical and the theoretical as aesthetic. The field is in fact wide open, so be creative. But also, remember that your paper should be making some sort of argument. It will not be enough simply to do something neat or provocative if you are not also advancing a rigorous argument in the process.

Take-Home Final (4500 wds): 20%

This assignment will require you to survey all the required readings from the term. You will need to

  1. devise three rubrics into which you can organize all the material from the term
  2. write three essays, one on each rubric, outlining
    1. your logic of inclusion/exclusion
    2. the continuities and discontinuities among the material
    3. the theoretical/aesthetic strain you see uniting the material you have grouped under each rubric

Each essay should be no longer than 1500 words.

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