Touching Brains (On Epileptic and Saturday)

I’ve posted a short article about both Epileptic and Saturday on my own blog, californica. Take a look if you’re interested.

From David B’s graphic autobiography Epileptic (Pantheon 2005).

From David B’s graphic autobiography Epileptic (Pantheon 2005).

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Databases and E-Journals

Hi everybody. As you start looking for sources for your projects,  you’ll want to use at least two of the library’s resources.

The first is the library’s Electronic Databases, which are specialized search engines designed to help you find scholarly publications in various fields. Three databases will be especially helpful for your projects: The MLA International Bibliography (which will help you find articles about literature), PsychInfo (which will help you find articles about psychology), and EBSCO (a general database that encompasses many fields of study).

The second is the library’s collection of Electronic Journals. Project MUSE and JSTOR will be especially helpful, but you might also find PsycArticles and Psychology Collection useful.

Of course, you should also use the library’s online catalog to search for books. Don’t be afraid to go to the actual library and check out books that may help you with your topic!

We’ll discuss all this in class, but it’s a good idea to get started early and try some searching on  your own.

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uc-book

Scott McCloud’s book Understanding Comics (New York: William Morrow Paperbacks 1994) is an ingenious work of literary criticism, using the form of the comic to analyze the genre. McCloud offers a history of the genre and its sub-genres, including the so-called “graphic novel.” He also examines the range of formal technique employed by artists in the medium, paying particular attention to the relationships between text and image.

McCloud also has a great website. You should check it out if you think your research project will involve graphic narratives.

epileptic cover

Techically, David B.’s Epileptic is graphic autobiography, though people often use the term “graphic novel” to describe it. Either way, McCloud’s ideas are helpful in figuring out how to read and analyze this dense and fascinating book. We’ll discuss some of McCloud’s strategies in class.

 

 

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New Writing Groups

Hi everybody. These are your new writing groups. The vote was very close (and not everybody voted). Also, our numbers have changed a little since I assigned the first writing groups, so some changes made sense to balance out the groups.

Adrian , Chris, Jennifer

Charlene,  Shahana, Danielle

Ariel,  Nishant, Sadia

Robert, Shannon, Tracy

Anthony, Sam, Debra, Hong

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Research Proposal

You will submit a research proposal that guides your seminar essay and your web project . In four paragraphs,

1. Present a text or set of texts to examine and a research question about these texts or about an idea or concept they raise.

2. Examine the motives for your research and how you will contributes to a scholarly or intellectual conversation about the relationship between literature and the human brain or mind. (See Kerry Walk’s “motivating moves” and Mark Gaipa’s “8 Ways to Engage Sources”–both on our “Documents” page).

3. Consider an angle or method for approaching the subject. (See my suggestions for “angles” or “methods” in the assignment guidelines.)

4. Identify possible sources that you would need to explore the topic.

Important dates:

Note: We’ll treat this process as if you are submitting your project for publication or for grant funding.You will keep revising until you’ve convinced me that you have a viable proposal that outlines a solid and manageable plan for your project. Once you have a solid proposal, writing the essay will be much easier than it would have been without it. You may find that I am somewhat relentless during this process, but I hope it will be helpful for you ultimately.

March 21: Project proposal workshop (in class)

April 4: Send a draft of your project proposal to your writing group.

April 5: Send feedback on your peers’ proposals, using the feedback guidelines I’ll provide.

April 6: Post your project proposal to your blog. I’ll respond with feedback–and probably suggestions for revision. You will revise until I give you the go-ahead to proceed with the project.

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Research Projects

Your research projects will involve two related tasks: 1. You’ll write a seminar essay based on course readings and independent research and 2. You’ll adapt this essay into a component of a course web site featuring the work of all students in the seminar.

PART ONE: SEMINAR ESSAY

In your seminar essay, you will make an argument that contributes to a scholarly or intellectual conversation or debate about the the relationship between literature and the human brain or mind.

To do this, you’ll need an angle, or method. Consider some of the following possibilities:

  • An analysis of the representation of the brain in a particular literary text or group of texts.
  • A survey of works of literature in a particular genre that emphasizes the human brain or mind (for example: “brain memoirs,” “neuronovels,” science fiction, or Modernist novels).
  • An examination of a literary text or group of texts through the lens of a prominent theory about the brain or mind (for example: Damasio’s “framework” for understanding consciousness or Freud’s theory of dreams).
  • A survey of a particular brain phenomenon in various works of literature (for example: autism, epilepsy, or Tourette’s syndrome; dreams, hallucinations, or visions; particular qualities or quirks of memory; or particular aspects of consciousness (for example, the relationship between organism and object or the role of the body in the formation of consciousness).
  • A close examination of the ways a single author draws on neuroscience or a particular brain phenomenon to achieve literary aims (for example: the use of a narrator with Tourette’s syndrome in Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn or an autistic child protagonist in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time).

Advice

Choose a topic and a set of texts that fascinate you. Challenge yourself by addressing sources that may seem daunting at first. Let the project evolve as you conduct research and learn from it; don’t be afraid to change your mind or change direction. Start early and write your essay in stages. Revise. Take feedback seriously. Revise again. And again. Think THESIS and MOTIVE. Be sure your SOURCES are reliable and relevant. Choose your EVIDENCE to advance your argument. Think of your audience as all the members of our seminar.

Formatting Guidelines

Your essay should be approximately 2,500 – 3,000 words in length (about 10-12 pages). Use a 12-point font and 1” margins. Include page numbers, a title, and Works Cited list. Use MLA Style. (See link on on this site for Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab guidelines for MLA Style.)

PART TWO: WEB PROJECT

You will adapt your seminar essay for a web format. While much or most of your essay’s content and argument will probably remain central, your adaptation will be aimed at a new audience: any interested readers who may happen upon your project online. The rhetorical demands of writing for the web overlap with those of writing a traditional essay, but they also differ in significant ways. With this in mind, you’ll want to do the following:

  • Structure your project for the web, creating an introductory page and a set of readable sub-pages easily navigated using a menu. See UMASS-Dartmouth suggestions for “chunking” when writing for the web.
  • Adapt the style and tone of your writing to appeal to an audience who may be unfamiliar with the texts or ideas you’re writing about.
  • Be sure you have a title that is both explanatory and catchy.
  • Include images, videos, or sound files wherever they are relevant.
  • Indicate sources using live, embedded links whenever possible.
  • Include a short “about” page introducing yourself as author.

Writing for Multimedia 

We’ll use a WordPress template to create a collective website representing your work for the seminar. We’ll give it a name, and we’ll include an introductory page explaining what readers can expect to find when they navigate the site. We’ll decide on menu topics, and we’ll arrange your various projects according to these topics. We’ll consider how particular design elements send rhetorical messages. In addition to all this, we will work on finding ways to use multimedia elements–video, images, charts, maps, graphs, sound files, etc.–as more than windowdressing. Sometimes an image or video may simply offer readers a visual example to accompany a detail in your wriitng (an author photo, for example), but you should also strive to use multimedia elements to help develop and drive your argument, as texts that offer evidence or new ways of thinking about the questions you explore. The University of Massachussetts at Dartmouth offers some good advice for Writing for the Web.

Proceess

You’ll complete your research project in stages (see calendar):

  • April 9: Proposal
  • April 16: Analysis of a passage
  • April 23: Annotated bibliography
  • April 28: Draft of seminar essay
  • May 6: Revised seminar essay
  • May 14: Introductory page for your web project  
  • May 16: Draft of web project
  • May 23: Revised web project

 These stages are designed to help you make steady progress on your projects, with opportunity for reflection, feedback, revision at each stage.

Cover Letters
Submit a cover letter with each draft or revision of your essay. Use the cover letter to orient your readers—explaining what you set out to accomplish, what you still need to work on, and what kind of help you would like. Be specific. You might even include a list.

 

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English Department Writing Prizes

Every year, the English Department gives a number of awards for outstanding writing by students. I want to encourage you all to consider submitting something. The guidelines are below. Let me know if you have any questions–or need any help with the process. The deadline is April 19.

2013 QUEENS COLLEGE UNDERGRAD WRITING PRIZES

Guidelines for Submission

All currently matriculated QC undergrads, as well as those undergrads who finished in December 2012 but are graduating in June 2013, are eligible for prizes awarded in Fiction, Non-fiction, Drama, Poetry, Translation; and in work in any genre done in Composition courses, English 95, 110, and SEEK English 110 and 120.  Students may submit work in any or all categories; work done as a class assignment is eligible.  The Composition Prizes are limited to students whose work for English 95, 110, and SEEK 110 and 120 was done in either Fall 2012 or Spring 2013.  Page limits: for Non-fiction and Fiction, 20 pages; for Poetry, 10 pages; for Drama, two one-act plays or one full-length play.  All entries must be formatted according to MLA guidelines for English papers; students unsure of these guidelines may consult the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) at the following address:

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/

ENTRIES NOT FORMATTED IN MLA STYLE WILL NOT BE READ.
Entries are due in the Eng. Dept. Office, Klapper Hall 607, noon Friday, April 19th.

Follow this procedure in submitting work:

Students may submit work in any or all categories. If you are submitting work for a specific non-fiction prize (The David B. Feinberg Prize, The Renaissance Prize, etc.) please indicate in your cover sheet.

All entries must be typed on 8 1/2 by 11-inch paper, plain font, 12 pitch, the pages numbered. Put two copies of your entry in a manila envelope labeled with a pseudonym, rather than the student’s real name, and the genre of your submission or specific non-fiction category (e.g., Fiction, Poetry, The Gilmore D. Clark Prize, etc.), and deposit it in the available box in the English Dept.  Students must submit a separate entry for each genre.  If you are submitting in three genres, you will submit three separate manila envelopes. Each entry must contain one cover sheet with the following information:

Pseudonym
Real Name and SS#
Genre of your submission
Specific non-fiction category (if necessary)
Address, Phone Number, Email Address

If you are submitting work in translation for the GREGORY RABASSA PRIZE IN LITERARY TRANSLATION, guidelines are available on a separate handout.

Here is a list of specified non-fiction prizes; all prizes carry monetary awards in the range of $50 to $500, but the amounts vary from year to year:

COMPOSITION PRIZE FOR WORK DONE IN ENGLISH 95

COMPOSITION PRIZE FOR WORK DONE IN ENGLISH 110

COMPOSITION PRIZE FOR WORK DONE IN SEEK 110 AND 120

THE GILMORE D. CLARK PRIZE FOR AN ESSAY DONE IN ENGLISH 165W

CLINTON OLIVER PRIZE FOR WORK IN BLACK AMERICAN STUDIES

LEO STATSKY PRIZE FOR AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL WORK ON ENCOUNTERS WITH AMERICAN LIFE

THE CATHY DAVIDSON PRIZE FOR SCHOLARSHIP ON AMERICAN LITERATURE PRE-1865

THE FACULTY PRIZE FOR AN ESSAY ON EARLY MODERN BRITISH LITERATURE

THE EDMUND L. EPSTEIN MEMORIAL PRIZE FOR AN OUTSTANDING ESSAY ON TWENTIETH CENTURY BRITISH LITERATURE

DAVID B. FEINBERG PRIZE FOR AN ESSAY ON GENDER AND SEXUALITY

QC ALUMNI PRIZE FOR AN ESSAY ON LATINO/LATINA STUDIES

QC ALUMNI PRIZE FOR AN ESSAY ON ASIAN AMERICAN STUDIES

Prize winners will be contacted by Friday, May 3rd.
The Writing Prizes’ Ceremony will take place during the second week of May. Exact time and location to be announced.

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Diagramming Freud’s Irma Dream

Anthony, Debra, Shannon, Charlene

photo

Jennifer, Hong, Ariel

photo

Tracy, Chris, Adrian, Arefa

 

 

Freud Dream - Writing Group - Adrian, Arefa, Chris, Tracy 

 

Robert, Sadia, Sam

 

2013-02-28_13-32-03_217 

 Nishant, Shannon, Shahanna

Web

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zunshineLisa Zunshine is Bush-Holbrook Professor of English at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, where she teaches courses in Restoration and eighteenth-century British literature and culture. She is the author or editor of eleven books, including Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel (2006) Getting Inside Your Head: What Cognitive Science Can Tell Us about Popular Culture (2012). She is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship (2007) for her work in what she calls “cognitive cultural studies.” She is an influential advocate of cognitive approaches to literature–using insights from the cognitive sciences to help us understand literature and using insights from literary studies to inject new ways of thinking into the cognitive sciences. Some critics argue that she makes sweeping claims based on evidence that’s far from definitive, but she is pretty frank about the fact that most of what we know about the mind is theoretical at this point. In this sense, her writing can be a useful model for how to discuss hypothetical scientific knowledge to illuminate literary texts.

lehrerJonah Lehrer is a science writer who got his start in journalism, after working in the lab of Nobel-prize winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel. He is the author of several books, including Proust Was a Neuroscientist (2008) and Imagine: How Creativity Works (2012). He became a controversial figure last year, when a critic discovered that he had fabricated quotes he attributed to Bob Dylan for his book Imagine. He was fired from his position as staff writer at The New Yorker after the revelation. He has recently started to talk publicly about his mistakes. If you’re interested, you can read more in this article from the NY Times Arts Beat blog. Music journalist Ann Powers wrote a pretty great piece comparing Lehrer’s fabrications to those of his “victim,” Bob Dylan, himself a notorious “fabulist” (or teller of tall tales). Dylan’s autobiography, she points out, is full of fabricated facts. It’s too soon to know how the scandal will affect Lehrer’s career in the long run, but it has caused many to doubt the integrity of his work, including his use of science, which sometimes oversimplifies or fails to mention crucial sources. On the other hand, he’s a very good writer and his insights about writers like Woolf and Proust are genuine. If you decide to use Lehrer as a source, though, you’d inevitably have to address the controversy, at least in a small way.

 

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Applying Harvey’s Elements

In Gordon Harvey’s Gordon Harvey’s “Elements of the Academic Essay,” he names and defines thirteen elements common to nonfiction writing. For Tuesday’s class, read Harvey’s definitions of these elements.

Then, take a look at your assigned element below and think about how Jonah Lehrer and Lisa Zunshine employ that element in the essays we’re reading for Tuesday. Be prepared to explain how one of the writers uses the element, giving an example from the essay to illustrate your point. Finally, how might you or other students in the class follow the example of this writer and use the strategy you’ve identified? In other words, what can you learn by thinking about this writer as a role model for your own writing?

Adrian (thesis),  Arefa (thesis), Chris (motive), Tracy (motive)

Debra (evidence), Charlene (evidence),  Anthony (analysis), Danielle (analysis)

Ariel (keyterms),  Hong (structure),  Jennifer (stitching)

Robert (sources), Sadia (reflecting), Sam (reflecting)

Shahana (orienting),  Shannon (stance), Nishant (stance)

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