Critical Reading Portfolio

In introduction to literature courses, I assign blogs that students later revise into an academic portfolio. I hope to accomplish 2 main goals:

  1. Show students the way that literary critics read--figuratively, intertextually, historically, and critically. The individual prompts below expand on these features in A Farewell to Arms.

  2. Encourage students to consider the rhetorical context of their writing and to craft their argument based on a particular audience and genre. Composition research shows that working with various genres and analyzing their rhetorical features helps students transfer writing skills from one context to another.

The assignment makes the writing process more interactive for students. They receive feedback from me and we do some of the work together in class. We discuss the poems and scholarship before they apply those insights on their own. We practice analyzing a rain scene to prepare them to analyze archetypes. Overall, it helped me model the process of writing about literature more clearly.


Assignment

While we are reading A Farewell to Arms, you will compose 4 blogs on guided topics. By the end of our unit, you will then select your strongest 3 blogs to revise into an academic portfolio. Revision will be key as you rework your ideas for a new format, audience, and context. 

As we will discuss, blogs will be informal and follow the conventions of web writing, which may include abbreviations, unconventional punctuation and spelling, and emoticons. Making texts readable on the web often means forgoing traditional paragraphs for images, bulleted lists, or short points. 

The final Critical Reading portfolio will follow the conventions of academic writing, which include MLA formatting, traditional paragraph structures, and conventional grammar and usage. Support your interpretation through a thesis statement that encapsulates your central argument, cite specific textual quotes, and develop detailed analysis. 

  1. Reading Figuratively: Archetypes in A Farewell to Arms. In Blog 1, you will choose one of the archetypes that Thomas C. Foster describes in How to Read Literature Like a Professor and analyze how it creates meaning in the novel. Choices for the archetype include: Geography, Season, Eating, and Weather (except Rain because we will review that in class). Analyze a specific passage from the novel that includes one of these choices and demonstrate how it affects your interpretation of a major theme or point of the novel. 


  2. Reading Intertextually: Poetic Intertexts in A Farewell to Arms. In Blog 2, you will choose one of the poems that the novel alludes to and analyze how it creates meaning in the novel. Choices for the poem include: Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” George Peele’s “A Farewell to Arms (to Queen Elizabeth)” and Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Sweet and Low.” Analyze the specific passage from the novel in which the allusion to the poem appears and demonstrate how it affects your interpretation of a major theme or point of the novel.


  3. Reading Historically: Historical Contexts Informing A Farewell to Arms. In Blog 3, you will choose a specific historical idea/event/development from any of our historical context group presentations and analyze how that context influences your reading of the novel. Analyze specific passage(s) that are informed by the historical context and demonstrate how it affects your interpretation of a major theme or point of the novel.


  4. Reading Critically: Feminist Debates on A Farewell to Arms. In Blog 4, you will take a position in the feminist debate surrounding the novel. Essentially you will be answering the question: Is Catherine a strong female character in the novel or not, and why? Signal who you agree and disagree with and explain why. Analyze specific passages from the novel that support your argument.

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