Alex E. Blazer Course Site Syllabus


Analytical Thinking and Writing

English 110C: First-Year English Composition

Summer 2000, M/W: 9:30 - 11:18 AM, Denney Hall 312

Reading Journal and Essay Prompts

Reading Journal Entries

These informal responses encourage you to actively engage the texts at hand. Further, they will help you generate ideas for the formal essays. [typed, single-spaced, at least 250 words each]


These formal essays encourage you to develop ideas (from the reading journals) into a cohesive, coherent, and sustained argumentative analysis. [typed, double spaced, between 1000 and 1500 words; must conform to MLA format as exemplified in the MLA handout I've provided]

Reading Journal 1

in class: Compare and contrast your family dynamic to that portrayed by your favorite family situation comedy on television now or in the past.  Some questions to consider in your analysis: What kind of model does the program evoke?  In what ways does your family live up to the myth?  Does your family actively or intuitively strive to be like the characters on television?  And what motivates that desire anyway?  How do you feel if your family doesn't conform to the stereotype?

Reading Journal 2

outside of class: What would de Tocqueville say about the equality of the sexes in your country if he visited there today?  First, explain de Tocqueville’s understanding of gender roles and relations in nineteenth-century America; and then apply his understanding to your culture in the present.

Reading Journal 3

in class: How do you relate to your (ethnic or gendered) body?  Respond to and build upon the ideas advanced by Cofer, Katz, or Nelson by discussing your experience of your body based upon how your family, peers, local community, or media culture made you feel about your color or gender.   Due to our 20 minute time constraint, please limit your response to one issue (ethnicity or gender) and one influence (family or peers or so forth).

Essay 1

Who are you? What do you believe, and why do you believe this way?  For the first essay, choose one of your core values (preferrably related to family or gender) and place it under interrogation.  Where and from whom or what did you learn it?  Family, peers, school, media, religion?  How do you enact that value?  Do you practice what you believe?  How is that value tested and challenged?  Family, peers, school, media, religion?  Don't pick a value that you take for granted; rather, select one of which you have significant, reasonable doubts which you would like to work through.  Possible values include but are not limited to: parental roles or distribution of parental duties between the sexes or partners; the reason for and results of sexual difference; how one should treat the opposite sex or one's own sex; conceptions of what are proper masculine or feminine traits, behavior, and duties in the areas of career or sexuality; body image in terms of gendered racial and cultural standards.  Possible questions to ask to get you started: What kind of man or woman are you?  What kind of parent are you or would you like to become?  How do you feel about your body?  How do you feel about sexuality?  How do you feel about the relationship between the sexes?  How do you relate to others of your gender?  Feel free to use the essays we've read as a springboard for your thoughts, but don't feel compelled to quote their arguments (we'll work on using sources in later essays).  The goal of this essay is self-reflection, self-analysis.  Analyzing your life experience and using reasonable logic, examine your assumptions about a particular issue: argue the reasons why you believe the way you believe while at the same time taking into account the effect of opposing values and reasoning on your belief system.

Reading Journal 4

in class: Discuss either 1) your personal experience with the class issue: How did you come to know class difference?  How do you experience class conflict today? or 2) the logic that governs class distinction: How do big business, the government, and the media justify such enormous disparities in wealth and income between classes?  If you don't believe their argument, explain why.

Reading Journal 5

outside of class: Generation X creates a working definition of the twenty-something generation in the early nineties.  Do you feel that you are a part of a generation?  If so, what are some of the general characteristics of your generation?  Describe your generation's outlook on life.  Now compare and contrast those core traits and that basic outlook with your parent's generation.

Essay 2

The first essay asked you to describe what made you you through personal reflection and personal experience.  In this essay, analyze a social experience, preferrably related to either class or generation.  Reflect upon and respond to an issue covered in the readings or class discussion.  You may pick an issue of importance to a particular class or generation of society—for example, but certainly not limited to, division of labor, division of wealth, consumerism and the attainment of material goods.   Or you may choose to define the characteristics of and then interrogate the situation of a particular class or generation of society.  What are its attitudes toward life, labor, love?  Another approach to this essay would be to compare and contrast classes.  Some classes or generations to work with in your paper include but are not limited to the upper class, middle, or lower class; blue collar or white collar workers, the working class or the working poor; the professional business class or corporate culture; Generation X, the baby boomer generation, or your own generation.  Make sure that your essay has a focused thesis, coherent organization, and effective evidence as we've been practicing in class.  As with the first essay, I encourage you to respond to, or even include as evidence, relevant readings we've covered in class, but it's a suggestion for successful focus and is not mandatory.

Reading Journal 6

in class: Pretend you’re writing a paper on Coupland’s Generation X.  You’ve already written an introduction that states your thesis as “Douglas Coupland’s Generation X criticizes middle class desire.”  For this journal, write a supporting paragraph dealing with either Andy’s reflections upon his family during his Christmas visit or the definitions in the sidebars that abound in most chapters of the novel.

Reading Journal 7

in class: What's your relationship with and attitude toward technology?  Do you love it?  Do you hate it?  Do you need it?  Do you fear it?  Why?

Reading Journal 8

in class: Select a character from American Beauty and draw a character sketch of him or her.  What does she want?  What does she fear?  How does she act?  How does others think of her?  How does she end up?

Reading Journal 9

outside of class: In Don DeLillo's White Noise, how does the family in as a whole react to the airborne toxic event?  What part does the media play in the family’s actions?

Essay 3

Using at least two outside sources (at least one must be in print), analyze one of the texts we’ve read in the past few weeks.  If the text you choose to analyze is an argumentative article (for instance, about the media in Solomon, the news in Rapping, technology in Thomas and Kelly), then your essay should participate in arguing the issue or debate.  If the text you choose to analyze is a work of fiction (for instance, American Beauty or White Noise), then your essay should interpret a major character or major theme.

Reading Journal 10

in class: The major theme of White Noise is death.  What do you think the novel is ultimately arguing about humanity's relationship with or attitude toward death?  In composing your thoughts, draw from such specific examples as the various SIMUVAC incidents, Oreste the snakesitter, consumer goods and advertising, the family's desire for real-life catastrophe on television, Murray's thoughts on technology, Winnie Richard's argument about our need for death, Jack and Babette's fears, Wilder's fearlessness, and the concluding (apocalyptic) image of the family watching the chemical sunset.