Checklist for Final Paper

As you move toward the finish line for your paper, here’s a handy-dandy checklist to make sure that you’ve hit on the points we’ve discussed in class.  As a reminder: all drafts, final version, and presentation worth 50% of the overall grade.  Due to my calendar error, your paper is due Monday, April 22 @ midnight!  (And don’t forget, if you get desperate: as per the syllabus, everyone is entitled to one extension if you need it.  It requires that you negotiate that extension with me at least 24 hours in advance, however, so think ahead.)

Nuts and Bolts

  • 17-25 pages
  • 12-25 relevant sources (relevant=special attention to the important and oft-mentioned authors/theorists and critical sources in the field/scholarly conversation; depending upon your topic and chosen text(s), some of these—probably no more than 1/4—may be reviews or less-formal critical or scholarly secondary sources.)
  • MLA style internal citations and bibilography, to the extent that these are provided in the latest MLA guide.


  • A clearly articulated argument that identifies a specific approach to the text and defines its terms. It should also tell us something new, whether that be a surprising reading of a classic text or cultural phenomenon, or the first interpretation of a neglected work or idea.
  • An explanation of why your argument matters, and to whom.  (One way to get there is to ask the question: what’s at stake in your argument?  What would it change if people agreed with you? What new avenues of research or intellectual engagement would it open up for others to pursue?)
  • A detailed description of at least one critical conversation that you’re entering (a synthesis of the five most important scholars discussing the evolution of narrative; three competing views of episodic television, etc.), and a specific discussion of what you intend to add to that conversation.
  • Close, attentive work with primary and secondary sources.  I expect to see you using close readings of the primary sources to support your argument, and quoting or paraphrasing the secondary sources as well.   You might want to refer back to the models of of secondary source integration that we discussed in class.


  • A consciously-chosen and articulated approach that leads your reader, in linear fashion, through the various components of your argument.
  • Each segment of your argument should have a clear relationship to the ones that precede it, and to the argument as a whole.

[Suggestions: The following can be useful cognitive tools for organizing your paper, and examples of all of these can be found in the secondary sources we’ve read for class.]

  • Chapters or segments.
  • Footnotes.
  • “signpost” language.  For example: “If, as I described above, x is true, then what I will explain next…”; “To review: x, y, and z are important parts of the frame that I’m constructing for this novel.  My own reading, then, will make use of these specific components…”; “At the beginning of this paper, I discussed x; I want to return to that here in order to…”
  • captions for screenshots


In other words, a stellar final project will possess:

  • a clear, original thesis that contributes a compelling idea to an existing critical conversation
  • a thorough synthesis of the scholars, writers and thinkers who contribute to that conversation
  • a variety of original interpretive work, grounded in specific passages or scenes from the primary text(s)
  • a variety of references to relevant secondary work
  • a logic and design that allows the reader to follow your train of thought and see the ways in which your are aligning your analyses of primary and secondary sources to support your argument.
  • a cogent and readable style that coheres to standard grammatical and syntactical conventions

Information on Hayles

Next week, as you know, we’ll be convening at EMPAC in Troy to hear Katherine Hayles’s lecture on technogenesis (her theory about the incursion of scientific/digital incursions into the studies of the humanities).  You can read the brief description here, as well as the Berkshire Stage write up.

Logistics: The talk technically begins at 6, and the box office recommends that we show up a bit early in order to make sure that we get seats.  My plan is to be there @ 5:30; please come when you can (I realize that this will depend on your schedules, transportation, etc.).  If you need transportation, please let me know.  [The good news here: it will be an early night for all of us!]

By tomorrow, I’ll post some information about a short Hayles piece that I’d like you to read in preparation for her talk.  Keep an eye on Twitter, and then check back here for the update.

Updated Schedule and Rough Draft Alert!

If you check out the newly-updated schedule, you’ll see that I’ve moved things around a bit, to give you more time to make the move from your exploratory draft to your rough draft.  We’ll do a bit of work on this as well in the moved-up “draft workshop,” but in the meantime, here are the moves that I’d like to see you make in your rough draft:

  • evidence of a preliminary literature review (3-5 sources)
  • evidence of an emerging theoretical position (at least 3 sources)
  • a handful (at least 3) close readings of specific passages and/or scenes
  •  a preliminary thesis/argument that positions your interpretation of these passages/scenes with reference to the lit review and the theoretical position
  • a preliminary attempt at articulating the stakes/implications of your argument.  What intervention is it making into which conversation?  What will your interpretation of the text change or highlight about it, and what expectations/assumptions will change because of it?

Draft should be 10-15 pages, and include your working bibliography.

Exploratory Draft

I know, I know, it’s early!!  But before we go much further, I’d like you to take the opportunity to track the themes/ideas/questions/positions that you’ve returned to over the course of your thinking thus far; to reconsider some of the terms and theorists that we’ve encountered, and to begin to do some brainstorming about particular research and project directions that you might be interested in pursuing as we go forward.

To that end, I’ll leave some very specific directions here about how to assemble and write an exploratory draft (6-8 pages) to send to me by Friday March 8 @ noon.  DON’T PANIC.  This is to get the juices flowing, and to pause and reassess where your own ideas and proclivities fall within the heuristics that our readings thus far have constructed.

The idea of an exploratory draft is that you use writing as a process to arrive at new ideas and insights that will help you to formulate a question to research and explore, and that will later evolve into a thesis for your final project.  If you got to the end of your exploratory draft and said: “hey!  THAT’S a question I’m interested in pursuing!” it would be successful.  If, along the way, you manage to create some usable text for your paper, that’s an added bonus, but it’s pretty rare.

So what does an exploratory draft look like?  These are the elements I’d like to see.

  • First, I’d suggest that you use your blog posts, comments, and tweets as the impetus for your work here.  Read back over them.  You’re looking for common threads, or ideas/questions that you haven’t yet answered to your satisfaction.  Look for places where your ideas have changed with respect to later readings, and post-class discussion.  How might these serve as a place to begin exploring for this draft?  [All of this is your own language, so USE passages from your posts and comments in your draft—quote them, and explain the ways that you think about this now, in retrospect.  Have your reactions deepened?  Changed?  In what ways?  It might be useful for me to see those in context, so if you do use material from the blog, please provide the title/date of the post or comment so I can refer back to it.]
  • Second, please put a statement of some sort at the top so I know what I’m looking at.  You might write your tentative argument, or some key terms that you’re investigating, a question/questions that have animated your reading thus far, etc. Anything that indicates where you’re going as you start the draft.
  • Third, and this should be the bulk of the draft, I’d like to see you work closely with at least 4 sources, primary and secondary.  By “work closely” I mean engage with their arguments and direct quotations.  [Note: you should know that I’m a sucker for close reading.  Be advised.]  What do you see in these quotes?  What ideas/themes/conundrums does it relate to?  What are its aesthetic/political/cultural functions?  What kind of work do these passages perform?  What about them draws you in or repels you?  How do you see them in relation to one another, or to other sources or contexts? Dig deep!
  • Third—and IMPORTANT, when you’ve finished, read over what you’ve written and write a few sentences that describe where you are NOW.  What do you see that’s new in your thinking?  What new insights or questions did you write your way toward?  Make sure that you attempt to explain what the implications of your ideas might be—in other words, why might this idea matter, and to whom?

Viewing Sherlock, Season I

Sherlock is our first non-print text, and so it’s worth noting a couple of things to keep in mind as you view it.

  • First and foremost: discussing a visual text can be difficult, because you can’t really have the whole thing in front of you to reference.  As a substitute, I’d suggest that you take notes while you watch, or immediately after viewing.  (In a perfect world, you’d watch the episodes more than once, and then double back to take notes.  In lieu of that practice, scribble down lines, images, scenes that you think are notable while you’re watching, and revisit key ones after you’ve seen the whole thing to assess their importance.)
  • In the same way that form is important when you’re reading a print text, so too is it important in a visual narrative.  If you’re not familiar with film theory and vocabulary, I’d suggest that you take a quick skim through some of the major terms on the Yale Film Studies site (see sidebar).  The basic terms can help to give you some ideas of what to pay attention to, but even a quick look at the categories listed (mise-en-scene; editing, sound, etc.) can help to attenuate you to the ways that visual and audio elements impact the meaning created in the narrative.  Note any images or sounds that you find striking in the episodes.  Look for patterns.  Think about how they affect you as a viewer.
  • While I’ve been suggesting the ways that Sherlock is different than our other texts, it also bears some interesting similarities.  What are the connections that you see between Sherlock and Mr. PeanutThe Uses of Enchantment?  What mechanisms does it use to establish truth and/or reality for the viewer—what are its “conventions of realism”?  How do characters establish truth/reality for themselves?  What methods of reading or interpretation get them to the truth?
  • Finally, we’ll talk with Jim Collins about the ways that literary culture has become popular culture.  Sherlock came out after the films that he discusses in his book.  does Sherlock cohere to some of the same processes of tranformation?  Does it take on new ones?
  • Enjoy!

Welcome (and Get to Work)!

In class today, we considered these questions (among others):

  1. what is the current status of reading, and how are the functions and ubiquity of digital media changing definitions, uses, and pleasures of narrative?  In what ways are literary scholars and writers, who have traditionally been the champions, custodians, and advocates of narrative, adapting to the changes in reading?  What are the stakes of the reading “crisis” for them?  How might our functions, values, and cultural roles shift in the Information Age?
  2. In what ways do we expect narrative to convey reality or truth?  What are the conventions here, and are they adapting to the changes we discussed above?

In the service of exploring these two questions, there are a set of tasks that I’d like you to get started on this week.  Primarily, they are related to the first of the two questions above, and they are the basic tools that underpin new dimensions of writers’/scholars’ networked communication.  (Here’s a link to an article that describes the role of these, if you’d like to review; you’ll see why I want you to create both a blog and a Twitter account, and start to experiment with them.)    Below are detailed instructions on how to set up both, if you need them, as well as instructions about what to do with them once you have them.  What I need from you posthaste: the url for your blog via email, by 1/18, so that the class can follow you; in addition, please post an introductory tweet using the hashtag #eng576 so that we know you’re up on Twitter.  Don’t forget to post to your blog and to Twitter (see assignments below). Finally, come back by this site before class on Tuesday, 1/22, to leave comments on classmates’ blogs (they’ll appear in the sidebar).  Too much?  Too confusing?  Don’t hesitate to ask.


Before next week Tuesday (1/22), you’ll need to get yourself a blog to use for online writing. If you have one already that you’d like to use, that’s super—just send me the link (make sure that it will allow people to comment easily even if they don’t have a blog on the same platform.  I’m looking at you, Tumblr).  If you don’t, there are quick and easy instructions to follow. Here‘s the way I usually describe it to students.  Once you’ve got an address for your blog, I’ll need it so that I can put a link to it on this site. Please email the link to me no later than Thursday evening, January 18.

You’ll also need to complete a  blog post that introduces you to the class, just to get warmed up, and then a substantive post about the reading material for the week by Tuesday, Jan. 22 @ midnight. In depth information about your substantive blog writing can be found at the page devoted to social media work.  Your first post, however, should serve as an introduction.  What do you think we should know about you?  In what ways do you position yourself vis-a-vis the terms we’ll discuss this semester: reader in the digital age, narrative, writerly/scholarly identity and performance?  Tell us a story about your experience getting situated within these practices and networks.

Finally, practice tweeting (also described in the social media work link above), and please come to our course site, choose two of your classmates’ blogs to read, and post thoughtful comments on them.  We’ll trouble-shoot all of this in class on Wednesday.


  1. Register for Twitter (want some tips?  See YouTube for a variety of tutorials)
    • Send me your Twitter screen name/handle.
  2. Create your network: follow the class hashtag (#eng) and the other members of the class (check back here for their info).
    • On any individual’s page, you can choose to follow that person. The option is right beneath his, her, or its picture/image. Click on that button. You can then choose if you want to receive device updates from that individual.
    • Find some other interesting people to follow.  Check out writers and scholars that you like, and suggest them to your classmates. (Example: Jason Mittell la media scholar who didn’t quite make it onto our reading list, is an active Twitter user.) You can also follow different services to get updates from them, like CNN, McSweeneys, or local outlets, like All Over Albany.  (If you get super-interested in the article I linked to in the introduction, you can also follow the star of the show, Brian Croxall.)
  3. See the social media work link for more info about tweeting for class.
  4. For the first week, experiment with Twitter and get a feel for a variety of posts.  Familiarize yourself with the functions and protocols of twitter—hashtags, following, trending topics, etc.  Try out what you see!

Bonus: Other interesting ways to use Twitter.

  1. There are a number of desktop applications. A popular one for Mac OS X is Twitterific. Twitterific is also available as a free application for iPhone or iPod Touch.
  2. You can sync your Twitter updates to your Facebook status and vice versa. Just install the Twitter application on Facebook.
  3. Use your cell phone camera in conjunction with Twitpic.

(adapted from Brian Croxall’s Twitter Assignment)