Reading for Tuesday

Hi All,

The text we will read for next week is posted in the Resources page. It begins on page 19 and the selection we will discuss in class is pages 19-31. These are not many pages but you may find them challenging and should make time to read them. They reference the humanities in general and some theoretical ideas that have been important to literary criticism since the beginning of the 21st century. Try not to get bogged down in any one section but try, also, to look some things up when you come across material or words that are unfamiliar to you.

One term that comes up is “affect.” Affect is similar to, but very different from, feeling or emotion. The word refers to the sense of intensity that bodies can pick up on, a sense that is “prepersonal.” Here is a link to a more elaborate and specific definition to the way that “affect” written about in the Humanities.

The first half of this reading–the selection we will discuss on Tuesday–is mostly about the field of Animal Studies and the Humanities. It will prepare us to discuss the course theme, posthumanism, from the perspective of animal studies. The references to subjectivity should remind you of the discussion we had a week ago about the concept of a subject as a person who can exert his (historically male, European) will, freely–separate from the wills of others–upon an external environment or situation in order to achieve his own ends. This traditional Humanist concept of the subject has received criticism and developed greater complexity, especially through the 20th century. The term refers to the “individuality” of a person, but that individuality has been questioned by thinkers who notice our conformist tendencies, on the one hand–in which we take social constructs to be personal preferences and, as part of our “uniqueness,” want what everyone else wants–and it has been questioned by thinkers who notice how interconnected we are with medical and digital technologies. A long line of thinkers have criticized the liberal human subject and we will only be able to look at a few of them this semester. For now, I think it just helps to know that the audience to whom Lynn Worsham has written her essay is very familiar with this long history. Even so, it is a very accessible essay for readers who are not her intended audience.

When we delve into the second half, Worsham will establish a vocabulary for thinking about ethics and trauma, and these may be helpful for thinking about our world today as well as the literature we will read this semester.

If you have difficulty following the text, remember to read ACTIVELY. That is, write questions in the margin, write a definition in a margin, try to write what you read in your own words if you feel it is an important part of the writer’s argument, and freewrite a response to a section of the reading to help you prepare a response and questions for class on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, you will be asked in your in-class writing a kind of “quiz” question. I will ask you to explain the following quotation and what the quotation explains in the essay selection:

“Even if any given terminology is a reflection of reality, by its very nature as a terminology it must be a selection of reality; and to this extent it must function as a deflection of reality.”

*link fixed!*Revised Grading Contract

*link fixed!*Revised Grading Contract

Here is the link for the revised grading contract that you will sign via Google Forms. The Google account here is a Queens-specific account, contracted by the college, and will not collect or use information or data about you for commercial purposes.

Here is the link for your print copy of the grading contract. Please print it out and include it in your course documents for reference during the semester and for completion of your portfolio at the semester’s end.

Here is the link for your print copy of the Participation Journal Log. I will request it as a midterm assignment (as part of the informal writing) and at the end as a part of the portfolio.

Here is a link for a Google Sheets version of the Participation Journal Log if you prefer to keep it in this format. Make a copy for yourself of this template to create a version that you can fill out.

Here is the Checklist for Completed Semester Labor. It will help you keep track of your grade.

Reading for Feb. 11 Class

We are reading “The Philosophers and the Animals,” one of the Tanner Lectures of 1997-1998 collected in The Lives of Animals, by J.M. Coetzee. It is available on the resources page and can be accessed, if password-protected, using the password on the course syllabus.

Coetzee’s lectures are in the form of fiction, and they feature a novelist (like Coetzee) giving a lecture in which she recounts a story about an educated ape giving a lecture. This form or genre of fiction, which calls attention to itself as a fiction, is often called “metafiction.” The subject of the lecture is typical of the Tanner Lectures in that it centers on an ethical issue; in this case, it is the treatment of nonhuman animals. The subject is provocative and so are some of the statements or comparisons she makes; and in fact her comparisons with the Nazi persecution of Jews are particularly unsettling and may trigger uncomfortable feelings in people. I am available in my office hours and after class to talk about it beyond the class time for anyone who is interested or concerned.

The Lives of Animals is an increasingly canonical text when it comes to contemporary fiction, and it will come up in future course reading, so it is important to have some familiarity with the story and the way it is told.

Be sure, when you read it, to pay attention to the social norms expressed in the things that the characters say and in the silences that Coetzee narrates. There seem to be an increasing amount of narrated silences during the dinner scene in pages 40-43 and I will be curious to know what you make of them and why they factor in so heavily to the story. I’ll be curious to know, too, what you take to be the story, because, as you may know, what happens and what the story “is” often differ.

On Saturday evening I will post new discussion forum topics. Please check in after that time and post to the forum. The questions will focus on pages 33-35 and pages 40-44.

Essay 1 PreDraft Assignment

Essay 1 PreDraft Assignment

Essay One: Close Reading of a Poem

Essay Goals Overview: In your essay, you will identify an interpretive problem in one of the poems we have examined in class, and you will develop a thesis that addresses that problem. Use one of the literary terms that we covered in class as a key term to analyze the text, supporting your thesis with close reading (3-4 pages).

Pre-draft assignment:

Paragraphs 1-3: Introduce the poem, describe what the poem is about, and quote a short passage from the poem whose meaning and significance is unclear to you. Establish a question that identifies exactly how and where this writer loses you. Refer to the text to show what you mean.

Paragraphs 3-4: Situate the passage by summarizing the poem as a whole and the general meaning or theme upon which the poem seems to reflect.

Paragraphs 4-6: Make at least two reasonable guesses about the meaning of the lines you quote. In which moments do your guesses seem plausible, and what questions remain unclear?

Due: Friday, February 14 at 11:59 p.m. by Dropbox upload using this address:

Include your name [first initial.lastname] and the assignment [E1PreDraft] in the file name.

Discussion Forum: Please Read

Discussion Forum: Please Read

Hi Students,

Some of you might be confused on how to post on the discussion forum. Take a look at the top right corner of this page. There’s a menu icon. When you over or click on it with the mouse, you’ll see a menu of the pages for this site. Toward the bottom is “Forums.” Scroll to the open forums or to the forum topic for the week–this week the topics are Regarding Animals and “Course Expectations.” Sometimes I will post more than one forum question, but you are only required to post one discussion response for credit.


This is the course site for English 130. Please stay tuned while I fill it out with course readings, discussion questions, and posts! Post here when it is your turn to be a discussion leader.

There isn’t much to see here yet, but there will be a discussion question posted after class on Thursday, January 30, and the readings for the next class are posted in the resources page. There has been a change to the scheduled readings and the text for class due Tuesday, February 4th is a selection from Regarding Animals. It’s longer than the other readings that week, also posted on the resources page.

On Tuesday, we will delve into the course theme, posthumanism. In order to make sense of what is called posthumanism it is important to get a sense of some assumptions about language–more specifically, discourse, that have had a foothold in the humanities since roughly the second half of the twentieth century. Many of the texts whose authors ushered in those assumptions are incredibly challenging for college undergrads in their first two years to read. Instead of assigning those, I have found a much more approachable, accessible text outlining one of those main assumptions: that many of the truths that make up the backdrop of our lives are constructs, things whose definitions and boundaries are constructed through the ways in which people see them, talk about them, and behave with them.

Question: The authors describe a few constructs. What are they? Can you think of something in your life that they do not name but might also call a construct?