Optional blog #8: Vonnegut

The last blog post is optional. Doing it will have either a positive or a neutral effect on the “Blog Posts” category of your grade (worth 25%).

Pick one of the following prompts and answer in a short essay of 500-1000 words.

1. Explain at least one idea about time offered by Slaughterhouse-Five. Compare that to the way time works in another piece of fiction (book, movie, etc.) or within a particular philosophical, scientific, or religious system. What do you learn from the comparison?

2. Is Slaughterhouse-Five an example of “uncreative writing”? Explain, and make it clear to your readers why we should care.

3. Read “The Scourge of ‘Relatability,'” by Rebecca Mead. Do you agree, disagree, or a little bit of both? Explain with reference to any one of our assigned readings. You’re free to discuss your own experiences; however, the main source for your argument should be the words of the literary text.

Due on Wednesday, April 15 by midnight.

Twiny Jam (Bonus)

Porpentine, one of the most prolific Twine creators out there, is hosting a Twiny Jam: a call for Twine games made with 300 or fewer words. Her deadline is April 9.

As you may recall, I’d hoped to do some more in-class work with Twine as a medium, but then we had our “snow” day. So I’m giving you the option of creating a Twine of your own for some extra credit. Following Porpentine’s rules, your Twine should have 300 or fewer words, plus as many legally sourced images and sounds as you want.

What to make your Twine about?

  1. Present a story or idea related to your keyword/research topic. It should pack some rhetorical punch, be that comic or sentimental or anything else.
  2. Teach a lesson from Rhetorical Grammar in a memorable, fun way. Use your own examples.

To submit this optional assignment, upload the game file (______.html) to your domain. You can also submit it to the “Jam,” if you feel so inclined.

Some of my ENG 101 students last semester made Twines, which you can check out.

Guidelines for April 1 revision

Please submit the following on Blackboard by Wednesday, April 1:

1. Your original article about This American Life, Radiolab, or Twine, annotated by you.

2. A substantially revised and improved version of the article, aimed at a real (earthling) publication.

In your mind, fill out the template, “Sit down, _____________: we need to talk about the way __________________ was presented in this podcast/game, right now, because ______________________.” The “because”–the central question–could be aesthetic (what makes a segment good or bad?), ethical (e.g., do interviewers have special obligations toward their subjects?), historical (the effects of Vietnam War-era chemical weapons; the early days of the internet), or anthropological (understanding value systems or social rituals). Don’t tell us something you already knew, or that no one would argue with (friendships are important; being locked up sucks). And the podcast/game itself might stay at the center of your piece, or it might become more peripheral.

3/22 Edited to correct due date.

Blog 3/18: That’s quite a variety!

When we return, we’ll jump into the podcast project. Please come prepared to discuss the Radiolab and This American Life episodes on the syllabus. Also, if you know whom you’d like to work with, join one of the “Podcast” groups on Blackboard before Wednesday, March 18. Otherwise, I’ll assign students to groups based on research areas.

For your Wednesday night post, choose one of the following topics and write an article of 500-1000 words:

  1. If you were a space alien whose only knowledge of American life came from a single episode of This American Life“20 Acts in 60 Minutes”–what conclusions would you form? Why? Consider culture, values, economy, life forms, aesthetics, and so on (and, no, you don’t need to use the “space alien” thing).
  2. After listening to the Radiolab segment about “yellow rain” and reading Kalia Yang’s response, what do you think about the way the podcasters handled the interview? About their apology? About, dare we say, the facts of the matter? What do you think led you to your position?
  3. Discuss one of the Twine games on the syllabus. What was it like to play? What does the medium allow the creator to do that another genre (say, an essay or short story) might not? What are the drawbacks of Twine as a medium for presenting this particular story?


Hope you all have a relaxing break.

Revision for March 4

Comments on your partner’s post will be due Sunday night as usual.

For next Wednesday, please submit the following on Blackboard:

1. Your original post about “The Yellow Wall-paper” (or sentimentalism or A Room of One’s Own), annotated by you. There are several ways to annotate a digital text: using Genius (which we sampled with “The Tell-tale Heart”), Diigo, or another annotation app; by dropping the text into a Word, Google, or Open Office document and using the Comment feature there; or you can print your blog and mark it up by hand.

2. A substantially revised and improved version of the paper.

This revision will be worth 6 points, that is, 1.5 times the weight of a regular blog post. We’ll talk about revision strategies in class.


Blog for Feb. 25

Choose one prompt, and write a short essay of 500-1000 words.

1. Find 2 or 3 essays about “The Yellow Wall-paper” anywhere on the internet, and compare them in terms of purpose, style, evidence, and subtlety of analysis. Include MLA citations for all of them.

2. How does the narrator of “The Yellow Wall-paper” feel about other women? How do you know, and what does that suggest?

3. “If only space were more feminine” (Queyras 21): How do you think Gilman, Woolf, or Queyras (choose one) would characterize the difference between the sexes? Does this author believe in a distinctly feminine mode of writing, thinking, or experiencing the world? Your evidence should come from the assigned texts, not from facts about the author’s life. Include MLA citations of any secondary texts you consult.

4. Browse the entries on sentiment/sentimentalism in Keywords in American Studies, Urban Dictionary, and TV Tropes. Then describe a contemporary public figure who uses sentimental tactics to change the world. It could be a politician, actor, musician, even one of your professors. What makes his/her/their approach sentimental? Are there any limitations to it? Do you think your generation responds to sentimental things the same way as your parents’, or as Harriet Jacobs’s?

Post for 2.18: Remixing Advice Literature

Edited on 2/14 to add more examples.

“The world is full of texts, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” -Kenneth Goldsmith, “Uncreative Writing”

“There is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to notice but myself, and that is that it changes as the light changes.” -Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wall-paper”

This week’s assignment is a remix–similar to a remix of a song, or a video mash-up. 1. Choose one or more of the following: Gilman, “The Yellow Wall-paper”; S. Weir Mitchell, Wear and Tear; Mitchell, “The Evolution of the Rest Treatment”; Susan Power, The Ugly-Girl Papers; Comstock, Traps for the Young
and, if you want, one popular text (magazine article, ad, etc.) about health, beauty, or parenting, for men or women, published in the last 2 years.

2. Use whatever technique you please to turn the document(s) into something different. Your remix may be in the same genre of writing as the original, or something entirely different. The usual rules of grammar and argumentation don’t apply (cf. Lemon Hound). However, your work must demonstrate serious thought and intention. A good remix makes an argument about the original works, but indirectly.
At least three-quarters of the material should be unoriginal. Minimum length: 300 words.

3. Add a bibliography at the end, in MLA style, to the best of your abilities. Include any tools you used to manipulate the texts.

For more information and inspiration, you may want to read (or skim):

Blog 2.11: Design Philosophy

This week’s digital assignment is to begin organizing your domain with an intention in mind. In short: Who would you want to visit YourName.com? What would keep them coming back? What would they leave the site knowing about you? This is the beginning of your design philosophy. If you’d like some more guidance, check out the resource page on digital writing and design.

  1. Give your domain a title. If your author name is still “My blog,” change that, too.
  2. Choose a theme–a template for the overall look and feel of your site. Play around with the “Customize” and “Widgets” menus, and, if you want, plugins.
  3. Think about the information architecture of your domain (see Portfolio Keeping, pp. 59-61 [on e-reserves]). This part is all about helping the user find what s/he wants as intuitively as possible. Decide whether you want the class blog to appear the front page of your domain, or you’d prefer a static front page. (Or maybe you want to create a subdomain for this class.) Do you want to organize your blog posts by category, tag, or both? What do you want to put on your secondary pages?
  4. Maybe you want to add some images. Intention is key here. Make sure any images you use are licensed for reuse, or ones you’ve created yourself. Also, make sure pictures don’t interfere with the readability of the text.
  5. Using VoiceThread, create a video tour of your domain. It should be at least 2 minutes long. Embed the VoiceThread in a regular blog post (choose Share, then paste the <iframe … /iframe> code into WordPress). In your video, don’t just point out the obvious! Explain your rationale. What makes the theme a good fit for your writing? For your digital identity? Would someone know how to contact you and find other important information? Maybe you have ideas that you’re not sure how to put into practice. In that case, you can use screenshots of other websites and show us what you hope to do.

Comment (due Sunday, Feb. 15): Add your comments to the VoiceThread itself. Before you comment, give your partner’s domain a “test drive,” looking out for potential problems.

Technology note: All of the computers in Emory Libraries have built-in webcams and microphones. You can also check out a laptop, iPad, or headset from the Music & Media Library on the fourth floor.

Feb. 4 Blog: Keyword

A keyword is a word that creates connections and causes trouble. Some examples of keywords in “Uncreative Writing” are literature, newness, boredom, genius, responsibility, modernism, experiment, digital, and reproduction. In “Madness after Virginia Tech,” keywords include madness, creativity, eugenics, stigma, surveillance, voice, risk, and vulnerability.

For your next blog post, choose a keyword: that is, a word that will allow you to connect some of the themes of our class with your own interests. In an entry of 200-500 words, introduce that word to us. Who uses it? Why does it excite (or confuse or irritate) you? And why should it be of interest to anyone who wants to understand contemporary culture(s)? Embed a YouTube video or meme that captures the way you feel about the keyword. Make sure that videos have been posted legally and that images are licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.

This entry is not a dictionary definition. It represents the way you hear it now. Nonetheless, your claims should be backed up with evidence and examples. Those might include usages recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary or Urban Dictionary; any song, scene from a movie, or political event; or problems of translation.

A good keyword is multifaceted. It should create disagreement–preferably over its very definition, or whether it should be used at all. It should imply different things to different people, and different academic disciplines (literature scholars, economists, geneticists) have competing stakes in the topic. For more ideas, check out Raymond Williams’s Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (available as an e-book through Emory’s libraries), Keywords for American Cultural Studies (which we’ll be looking at on Monday), or Google Trends, or Slate‘s Lexicon Valley blog. I will not choose your keyword for you.

Blog post for 1/28

For your second blog post (and the first on your domain), I’d like you to respond to one of these prompts in 250-500 words. Think of your post as an op-ed in The Emory Wheel or The Atlantic. In other words, aim to engage people who have not read the course material and don’t know why they should care about it. You don’t need to address my questions word for word.

  1. Does “mad” mean the same thing in “The Tell-Tale Heart” that it does for Benjamin Reiss? What do we learn–or not–when we decide Poe’s narrator is mad? What are the consequences of Reiss choosing “madness” over a more clinical word, such as “mental illness”?
  2. Describe another incident when a document (piece of writing, picture, tweet, etc.) had an impact that was mostly unrelated to its literal content, or was taken more seriously than the creator intended. How might the arguments of Kenneth Goldsmith and/or Reiss be relevant?
  3. Under US law, a confession of guilt is valid only if it has been given voluntarily. (Look up the Fifth Amendment or Miranda v. Arizona if you’re interested.) How do “The Tell-Tale Heart” and/or “Madness after Virginia Tech” make us rethink our assumptions about confessions, in legal and other contexts?

For tips on blogging with WordPress, see the Domain documentation. If you’re having serious technical difficulties, just submit your writing via Blackboard.