January 26, 2022

From Gerald R. Lucas

First Unit Feedback covid-19: day 669 | US: GA | info | act

Congratulations on making it through the first lesson! It wasn’t that difficult, right? I wanted to offer some general feedback on your first research/response assignment: r/LitWiki » F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Babylon Revisited". If your grade is not what you wished it to be, don’t worry. We all have to begin somewhere, and I guarantee you’ll get better as the course progresses. There are some insightful thoughts about the story and some equally good writing. That said, here we go.


ENGL 1102 is mainly a research/writing course. The goal is being able to offer strong critical analyses of cultural texts—perhaps the most important skill you will learn in college—and that begins with research.[1] The best way to learn to write is be reading; therefore, the best way to learn to apply a critical eye in analyzing anything is by seeing how the experts do it. Who are the experts? They are scholars and critics who publish books, essays, and reviews of cultural texts—in our case, literary texts, like “Babylon Revisited” this week. That means: research is a crucial and integral part of everything you write in this course. If you are not supporting at least some of your interpretations with evidence from string secondary texts, then you are not doing the response assignments as well as you should be for this class.

Perhaps this was not as clear as it could be in the assignment, but you must get at least one strong secondary source per response you write. This is not Spark Notes or Wikipedia. You must use Galileo to find a book or an article from a scholarly journal as the minimum for your research component.[2] This will not only help you become better readers, but these secondary sources will model how critical analyses should be written. Even if you just summarize your critic’s central argument, you are adding a unique, critical perspective to the discussion. With expert help, your ideas will become deeper and more nuanced. A deep, nuanced analysis is our goal in our responses.

While what we posted was a good start, most did not go much deeper than the surface level of analysis. Most of you sympathized with Charlie (me, too), but never asked why or if he even deserved our sympathy. Can we feel sympathy but use the evidence to conclude that Charlie was not ready to gain custody of Honoria? She was more mature than he! No one discussed the importance of economics in the story when it lies at the center of Marion’s antipathy. This would not be evident without a close reading of the text. Again, scholarly analyses help us to get below the surface of the text.

Did you notice how posts that came later in the discussion did not seem to add anything new or seemed repetitive? Again, research will help with this.

When linking, only link English words; do not just paste in a URL at the bottom of your post. This is not citing, since the reader has no idea what specifically the URL is supposed to be supporting. This practice could also lead to plagiarism—which you certainly do not want. Any information taken verbatim must be quoted and sourced. If you are referencing our textbook, a simple page number in parentheses before the period will suffice. Be sure it’s clear that you are citing Reading and Writing About Literature (RWL), otherwise use something like (Fitzgerald 20).

When citing scholarly articles or books—which you all should be doing, use the parenthetical approach in the body of your post and end with a works cited entry that lists the author and source. You should probably use MLA when composing these just for practice.

You needn’t use the formal aspects of essay writing in these response posts, either. For example, “In 'Babylon Revisited', the main character, Charlie Wales . . . ” All of this is unnecessary as you are posting in a thread about “BR.” We all know this, so skip it. Just get to your post. Also, avoid unnecessary plot summary. Again, we all read the story, so we don’t need an overview of the plot. This is not a book report.

If you edit your post—especially after someone comments on it, you should indicate that somewhere. Best to leave posts alone, and add a new comment/reply to correct errors or clarify. Correcting typos is fine, but you should be sure to do that before you post.

OK, this is getting long. I have covered the important points, so I’ll bring this to a close. Remember to begin these responses early: don’t procrastinate. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to contribute.

Finally, these research/response posts are always worth 10 points. The highest grade you can receive without research is a 7. The highest grade you can get without posting at least twice is a 6. Be sure you follow directions. I was a bit more generous on this response since it’s our first, but I will get more strict as we continue.

I have a bunch of Reddit awards I want to give to good posts. Who will be the first to earn one?

Please post comments or questions on Reddit by clicking on the comment icon, on the right. See you online!

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  1. “Cultural texts” are everything you see, from commercials, to fashion, to politics, to literary texts. In order to become an engaged and responsible citizen, you must be able to analyze and interpret these texts. This is the foundation of the liberal arts education. This process allows us to develop a critical capacity that is essential in examining the complex issues that we encounter daily, but also lets us look at ourselves and our values to see how they affect us and our communities.
  2. This is not to say that there aren’t great online resources; however, I’m requiring you to use library resources to find traditional scholarship in books and scholarly journals.