English 481: Popular Then/Classic Now: Advanced Study in American Authors, 1865-1940

Weblog Option

A weblog (or blog) is a way for you to keep an informal online journal recording your thoughts on the readings. It is your space to write down your thoughts, insights, and opinions about the literature. You can discuss what interests you most about the work we've read, connect the work to something in contemporary culture, analyze a theme or image, write alternative dialogues for the characters, ask questions, and so on. Your weblog posts can serve as an idea board for your paper.

What if I don’t know how to make web pages ?

You do not need to have any knowledge about creating web pages to choose this option; the beauty of a weblog is that all the technical work is done for you. You simply type in your comments and click on the "publish" button.

Does it cost anything?

Many free blogging sites are available. Creating an account and setting up your weblog on any of the free sites will take about five minutes. You should try to choose a site that allows the creation of an RSS feed and permits comments, as Blogger does (and as most sites do). Blogger: www.blogger.com. You could also try Wordpress (www.wordpress.com) or another service.

What should I write?

Here are some suggestions for weblog posts (though you're not required to use any of them):

  1. Short passage . Choose a passage that intrigued you, infuriated you, puzzled you, or otherwise provoked you to think about its meaning. Write a post in which you discuss the passage, its meaning, and your reaction.
  2. Three words . Choose any three words that are especially significant in the text, and explain why they are so significant. Alternately, you can challenge or "tag" another class member to write on three words of your choosing.
  3. Thoughts about the book. Post your thoughts about some aspect of the story or novel.
  4. Thoughts about your paper . Try out some ideas for your paper. What important theme, symbol, or feature of the text particularly interests you?
  5. "The Word" on a speech. Take a passage of dialogue that is especially significant in the text, and after each character's words, write what he or she is REALLY thinking or trying to prove. This could be written as a serious analysis, or it could be written in an ironic form like that used in The Colbert Report's feature "The Word."
  6. Stop, fool! Is there a point in the text when a character acts in a way that is so self-destructive or ridiculous that you'd like to stop him or her? Is there any character in the text who might actually have a chance of stopping the character? Write a dialogue (in character) in which you try to dissuade the character from the self-destructive action.
  7. Call me Ishmael. Write your blog post for the week as if you were one of the characters in the story. Comment on the action you've observed or been engaged in, using the style and personality of the character.
  8. Blog carnival . A blog "carnival" is a collection of annotated links on a particular topic. Try to find blogs that address a topic relevant to the literature we're discussing (technorati.com may be helpful in finding links) and host your own "carnival" on your blog.
  9. Classics need editors, too. Be the editor that the author needed. If you could change something (omit a chapter or passage, add an explanation, create a new character, etc.) in the story or novel you're reading, what would you change and why? Could Whitman or Dickinson improve their work with a little help from your editing genius? This could be written in the form of a letter to the author explaining how those changes will improve the work.
  10. Better ending. Write an alternate ending for the story, and explain the reasons why your ending is better than the one the author chose.
  11. Parody. Write a parody of the novel or a chapter in the novel.
  12. Right story, wrong form . Rewrite the work or a section of the work in another form. For example, what would “The Open Boat” look like if it were a song lyric? a limerick? a sonnet? What would The Damnation of Theron Ware look like if it were turned into a play? How could The Country of the Pointed Firs or “The Storm” work as a reality tv show?
  13. Right story, wrong author . Rewrite an episode from the story or novel in the style of a different author. For example, how would Mark Twain rewrite “Daisy Miller” ? What would Edith Wharton's “Roman Fever” sound like if it were written in the form of "chick lit" like Bridget Jones's Diary?
  14. A current event . If something we're reading is relevant to the cultural, social, or political scene today, write a post in which you connect the reading with the current phenomenon.

Requirements for the Weblog Option

1. Write 10 entries of approximately 300 words each. If you choose the weblog option, you'll write at least one entry each week, for a total of ten entries in all. These posts can be long entries (a few paragraphs, or about 300 words per entry) or a series of shorter entries. To allow for exams, holidays, and papers, some weeks have no weblog post due.

2. Post your entry to your weblog by the Thursday due date at 9 p.m. You do not need to wait for Thursday. You can post at any time during the week, but 9 p.m. on Thursday is the due date each week; after that, your post will count for the next week. You can miss a few posts and still receive credit, but your grade would be reduced.

3. Respond to at least one of your classmates’ posts each week. You don’t have to respond to the same blog each time, and you can write a brief response or an extensive one. You may need to get a username (free) on a different blogging site in order to leave a comment. Comments for one week’s posts are due the next week on Thursday by 9 p.m.

You must sign up for this option at the beginning of the semester. Posting all the entries or all the comments in the last week of class won't be acceptable.

Although your weblog posts aren't due until Thursdays at 9, don't wait until the last minute to post your messages. The sites sometimes go down or are offline for maintenance, and you may miss a deadline if you wait until the last minute.

The weblog will be graded primarily on your satisfactory completion of the above criteria (75%), although the quality of your posts (25%) will also be a factor. Each week you'll earn 3 points (2 points for your post and 1 point for responding to another person's post,, for a total of 30 points (3 x 10 posts.

2 points

Substantial post by the deadline (this is the norm)

1 point

Insubstantial post

0 points

Missing post

1 point

Respond to one or more posts on another blog