Keeping a Class Journal

From Gerald R. Lucas

Joan Didion, in her essay “On Keeping a Notebook,” clarifies two important reasons for keeping a journal,[1] reasons that may be applied to your blog: “We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget;” and “Keeping in touch is what [journals] are all about.”

One reason we read literature is to learn about ourselves as humans; in an effort to clarify that position between the text and ourselves, we must write down our responses before our imperfect, soft machine looses the wisdom we wanted to keep. A place to record thoughts and observations, a journal can be a good source of ideas for writing. It is a place to record your reactions to class activities, assignments, readings, projects, and any other aspects related to the course. A class journal provides practice for the writing process and promotes critical reading and thinking.

A class journal, or web log (“blog”), is not a personal diary; therefore, you must be selective in the kind of material and the quality of the comments included. You may add clippings, photocopies, pictures, cartoons, and even tapes and videos to your journal portfolio as a way of expanding the traditional written expression. You may use your blog entries as a source for project topics and other writing assignments. A reading journal entry is an effective way to interact with a text, and a place to develop and store your reflections on what you read, such as an answer to a question you may have posed in the margin of a text or a response to something discussed in class.

You may, for instance, want to reflect on why your opinion is so different from that of another student, or you may even make an entry in the form of a letter to an author or from one character to another. Blog entries are a good place to pose a series of questions about the text you are reading using the techniques of brainstorming (the discovery technique of listing ideas or questions without editing), focused freewriting (concentrating on a single topic issue), and writing nonstop for a set amount of time without editing. The journal entry provides the opportunity to explore your critical, analytical, and creative interpretations of a text. It will allow you to articulate questions for literary analysis on plot, characters, point of view, tone, imagery, symbolism, setting, form, theme, appeal, person, etc. It will help you to conceive a thesis idea about a literary text and offer the opportunity to initiate drafting a statement of that thesis and the development of details to support it. The class journal is an excellent way to advance your reading, thinking, and writing skills, to enhance your academic performance, and to promote your personal development.

Note

  1. I use the words “journal” and “blog” interchangeably throughout this article.