Category Archives: Method

Spring and All

I’m grateful for your dedication to exploring the materials we have been studying together since late January. I am feeling the need to recount exactly what you are responsible for at the midterm break. And I am going to share some of my thoughts on reentry as we are going to hit the ground running when we gather again on Tuesday, March 21.

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We know that it takes forty gallons of sap to render one gallon of sweet maple syrup. Might this process be a useful way for us to think about our work?

Most of you will have already completed most everything below. If not, here is everything I have asked for

  • Aspect Metacommentary First a clarification. . . . Send me your final edited version by email. An attachment is best but you can also just paste your work into the body of the email:
  • Move your draft version on the blog to a “drafts” or “process” or “thinking” or “ephemera” page on your blog. You might put DRAFT at the top of the page.
  • Below is an example from Savannah’s commentary that does an exemplary job with a descriptive accounting of each piece of writing with a concise description of the pieces. This is a good model:

This issue contains poetry from M. T. Buckley, Christine Smith, Jeffrey Katz, Barbara A. Holland, Sterling Kelly Webb, Andrew Darlington, Doris Wight, Joan Colby, Dennis Nicholas Hoppin, Karen Solstad, and Rick Smith.  It contains art work from Jean Segaloff, Marjorie Masel, Roger Camp, and one anonymous piece that was with permission from the Manchester Central Library.  This piece is a photograph taken by a freelance photographer in Manchester, England.

This issue has two essays, the first is titled “Corliss, Master of Power” by Frank J. Jones.  This brief piece offers a point of view into mechanical engineer, George H. Corliss’ power and public influence due to his invention, the steam engine in the mid-1800s.  The next essay, “Winning in the Sierras by Robie Darche,” is a bit longer.  It discusses the position of women in casinos as changegirls and cocktail waitresses, with discussion of keymen as well.  Another version of this piece is also found in Canadian Woman’s magazine, BRANCHING OUT.

A description and method of treating ­­­­­­“Sore Nipples” from Dr. Willich’s Domeftic Encyclopedia is found, as well as a place to order Edcentric Magazine.  Another advertisement for a monthly newsletter named Recon is included on the back page.

Some brief works of fiction are included including “Paradise,” by Gudanowska and “Karla in the Dark,” by Bettina Barrett.  Politics include Bureaucracy, Reform, and Intervention in Czechoslovakia. This is by George Shaw Wheeler, Lawrence Hill & Co, and focuses on events during 1968, including the goals of Czechoslovakian reformers and economics.

Still some sentence-level copy editing needed here. But a fine example of a balance between the specific and the general.

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This is where we will be in April
  1. Blogs You have at a minimum six blog posts
  • Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
  • Walt Whitman “Democratic Vistas”
  • Commencements (Emerson, Rich, Williams)
  • Adrienne Rich essays and Atlas of the Difficult World
  • Aspect (a research installment)
  • A final blog post on something that captures your learning arc in the first half of the course

You have been invited to curate all of your writing. Write in your voice, show your intelligence. Get away from general and flat words like “response” in your titles. “Know what you are doing and do it well.” (Remember, too, that the hypothes.is annotations you did/are doing on your peers’ blogs are designed to give audience feedback but also for you to look at other blogs and writing and to “resee” what you are doing in relation to others.)

On Tuesday I will read your blogs and assign each member of the class a midterm grade.

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Looking Ahead On Tuesday March 21 we will do the first of two classes designed to help you write out a project statement. Our class will be dedicated to sorting ideas and fielding questions about the final project. We will draft a project description and a schedule and our outcomes for the project. Before we meet, make sure you read the Blog Entry “Education for Socially Engaged Art” by Pablo Helguera, the Interview with Pablo Helguera, and look over the materials on Art and Citizenship at PracticalArts.

On Thursday March 23 we will do the second project statement workshop. Read Doris Sommer, Prologue, “Welcome Back,” 1-13, and Chapter One: “From the Top: Government-Sponsored Creativity,” 15-48, in the book you purchased for the course, The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities (2014). With the Helguera, and the readings you did before break on government arts programs and sponsorship, this writing will give you a theoretical vocabulary and practical ideas for your work.

While brainstorming session yesterday Savannah raised the challenge of working without an assignment. That is, she suggested the need for some structure. That will be our work the week we return. We have some fabulous ideas (that kept a few of us talking for 30 minutes after class!) My goal for us at the end of our first week back is to have a very clear set of objectives for the seven weeks we will be working on the final project.

For now, my response to Savannah’s question: In general, our project will celebrate, and investigate, examples of cultural production in which art and interpretation are flourishing in the open space of democracy. Each of you will be working with an object (or collection of objects) or a project or performance or social interaction of some kind. Our work is to build a language through which we can represent, celebrate, and consider the place of this work.

Enjoy spring break!

 

The Little Magazine

Among the resources for students of the literary and cultural history of the United States are primary documents. These documents are most often collected in university archives. Increasingly one can find digital archives. As it happens, we will be working together to build out a digital archive for Aspect magazine. As we begin this work, I want to share a few thoughts about resources and methods for students in American and cultural studies.

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For students of poetry and poetics in the United States it does not get any better than The Poetry Collection at the University of Buffalo. The Buffalo collection includes first editions, broadsides, reference books, and audio files. The Collection also includes over 9,000 titles of past and current little magazines, literary journals, university reviews, newspapers and other poetry periodicals. These documents provide a finer-grained insight into the formation of literary communities and the intellectual exchanges in print networks, as the Buffalo collection explains:

Throughout the 20th century, “little magazines”—magazines usually noncommercial in nature and often committed to certain literary ideals—have been a primary organ for the dissemination of poetry and for the formation of literary communities across the aesthetic and political spectra. Consequently, they offer a rich and largely unexplored resource for researching the material and social networks in which poetry takes shape as well as the genetic evolution of individual poems.

The practice of democratic culture is alive and well, as anyone studying these materials will tell you. If you are continuing your study of poetry and democracy, for example, you might explore PennSound, an ongoing project, committed to producing new audio recordings and preserving existing audio archives. In fact, there is an audio archive of hundreds of Adrienne Rich’s Readings—available in the public domain as full readings, or by individual poems. For an overview of PennSound—including a discussion of the project’s pedagogical implications —listen to the PennSound podcast #6.

img_1290To learn a bit more about Aspect, read Doug Holder’s Essay on Essay on Aspect Magazine. To think a bit more about the little magazine as a genre, have a look at Steve Evans’s lively 2006 essay The Little Magazine A Hundred Years On: A Reader’s Report. Evans includes a list for further reading if this is a subject that interests you.

Who knew? We are both studying and practicing what we have been calling democratic culture. What is more, your work on Aspect magazine will give you first-hand experience creating an archive that will be available for use be students, teachers, and scholars.

Two Jobs of Work

You have two jobs of work to complete before spring break: curating your blog and working on the Aspect Magazine project.

Curating Your Blog It is imperative that you are working on your writing. The schedule for this work is up to you. But you need to keep in mind that between class on Thursday March 2 and class on Tuesday March 7 we will all be annotating your blog with our thoughts and suggestions.

We have had a late February thaw, and the rivers in New England are at flood stage. Yet a few of you appear to be caught in an eddy. You need to get back out into the flow. Please read the most recent posts, “Linguists and Contenders” and “Feeling Thinking Doing.” These posts are offering some organizing commentary and metacommentary on our intellectual work. We have read a lot of material, and there are stories to tell about those materials. As you go back over your writing, makes notes on what you wrote and how you can now see what you have written differently. You have read a lot. You have been thinking. And we have talked about your writing–in class and in our conferences.

To borrow a formulation from the poet Ezra Pound: You have broken wood. Now it is time for carving.

Your reflection (reading over what you have completed) and shaping, or curating, the writing on your blog will prepare us for 1) reading all the course blogs and annotating them using “Open Space of Democracy” group on Hypothes.is and then 2) participating in a “Blog Charrette” where we will exchange ideas, play with options, and further refine your writing.

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Working on Aspect Magazine On Friday I met with the College Archivist, Rodney Obien, who is looking forward to welcoming you to the Keene State College Archives. On Tuesday Rodney is going to talk about his work as an archivist and talk about cultural work of archives. And he will introduce you to some of the materials in the Social Justice collection. (Remember, class will meet in the Mason Library Archive.)

We will also turn our attention to Aspect Magazine. We will make the paper copies of the journal available for browsing on Tuesday and Thursday. You will also receive a digital copy of two issues of the journal. We will then introduce you to a method of abstracting information from a document in an archive.Using a template I will provide, you will be responsible for creating “metadata” for two issues of the journal. The document you produce for each journal will be published with the digital copy of the journal. Your work will be available for anyone, including graduate students, professors, and independent scholars, doing research in the archive. And you will receive credit as a Contributing Editor on the web site.

Before Tuesday have a look at the Description of the Aspect Magazine project on the Projects Page. Reading the materials on the Aspect Magazine Project site before we meet will give you additional context for your work. In brief, Aspect magazine (1969-1980) was the creation of Edward J. Hogan, of Somerville, Massachusetts. Hogan was a history major at Northeastern University in March of 1969 when he launched a magazine featuring social and political commentary by a small group of university students. Hogan subsequently expanded that magazine to include poetry, fiction, graphic design, and literary news and reviews. Aspect published many writers, poets, and artists that represented the “Boston Scene” of the late 1960s and 1970s.

For Thursday I have assigned some reading that will further your understanding of the intellectual and creative collective of people involved in Aspect, Leora Zeitlin’s compilation of materials in “Remembering Ed Hogan” (1998)

Linguists and Contenders

Closer yet I approach you
. . .
We understand then do we not?
What I promis’d without mentioning it, have you not accepted?
What the study could not teach—what the preaching could not accomplish is accomplished, is it not?

—Walt Whitman, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”

On Tuesday I planned to debrief the individual conferences—sharing some of the conversations about the thinking and writing you are doing in this course. When I arrived in class Mitchell and Kerrin were talking about the challenges of wrestling with the archive of documents assembled for the course, on the one hand, and composing a well-put-together short-form essay that will engage a reader, on the other hand.

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It was a productive place to begin. What followed was a question. I asked, “What useful information about thinking and writing did you take away from our first conference last week?” What I recall bringing to the table was Savannah’s note to self. She told me in our conference that she has read one of blog posts in the category “Method,” titled Habits of Mind. In that post I talk about the kind of intellectual habits that can lead to productive work:

Success in this class begins with an interest in what you are doing. Once you get interested you will be ready to think about what and how you are learning in school.

I go on to say that “effective writing is a product of interest and engaged learning and below you will find five areas of work for you to consider as you write.” These areas of work include curiosity, creativity, openness, and persistence. Approaching learning in these ways, Savannah reminded herself, can make all the difference.

Such an approach is not unfamiliar to us, linguists and contenders, as you will remember:

Books are to be call’d for, and supplied, on the assumption that the process of reading is not a half-sleep, but, in highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast’s struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay—the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or frame-work. Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does. That were to make a nation of supple and athletic minds, well-train’d, intuitive, used to depend on themselves, and not on a few coteries of writers.

This passage from the end of “Democratic Vistas” is a touchstone for your work this semester. The work of meaningful reading, thinking, and writing calls for students with “supple and athletic minds, well-train’d, intuitive, used to depend on themselves.” Meaningful work is engaged work, and engagement leads to agency.

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What I attempted to explain in response to Kerrin and Mitchell is that the tension between process and product, between learning and sharing what you have learned, is inevitable and productive. That is, the challenge of writing weekly blog posts is the challenge of integrating your process of discovery—the quickening of mind when you make a personal connection, the thrill of immersion in thought—with the satisfaction of finding a form for your thinking.

My challenge to you as thinkers and writers in an upper-level college course is to build on what you have learned as writers in school. The opportunity for you now is to build from a more responsive or reactive mode of intellectual engagement (say, responding to an assignment prompt that I create) to identifying your own assignment, task, or purpose.

***

This is a blog post about method-a way of doing intellectual work. It is a blog post about taking seriously this kind of work and that makes visible the constraints both students and teachers face when trying to do this work in classrooms and institutions. And it is an emerging essay that in inspired by one of the touchstones of our work together, Walt Whitman, in this case from Section 4 of the poem “Song of Myself”:

Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and city I live in, or the nation,
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events;
These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself.

Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am, Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,
Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,
Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,
Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.
Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with linguists and contenders,
I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.

-Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

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Your blog is a powerful tool not because it is technology or even because it is a kind of bridge between your thinking and your readers. It is a passage where you will meet head on your challenge of claiming thinking and writing as your own.

But to release the potential of this idea suggests an additional step. One way to take this step is to begin with a series of questions. What would a writing class look like without assignments? That is, is it possible to imagine a college-level class with no assignments? How would you keep your mind humming? How would you move your mind and motivate your writing? Your role as student would surely look different. Might we be imagining the “the difference between acting and being acted upon” Adrienne Rich elaborated in her commencement at Douglass College in 1977, “Claiming an Education”? Might we be making the connection back to Emerson’s song of self-trust, or between your responsiveness and your ability? Here is Rich again:

Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.

And might these reflections shift my role as teacher? Well, they do. And they have. This is why I was motivated on Tuesday to go back over the weekly writing schedule I set up for us this semester:

  • On Tuesday you are responsible for writing about what you are reading. However I have challenged you to do much more than “respond” to the reading. Instead you are finding and pursuing a question or questions that you have identified in the readings, or as a result of the course readings; and you are attempting to establish yourself in the ongoing conversation about the experiences of living in a society ostensibly organized around democratic ideals and norms
  • In the luxurious span of time between Tuesday afternoon and Sunday evening you are in conversation, with yourself, with others. You have space to engage in your own conversation with yourself as you reflect on what you have written, and allow your thinking to develop—clarifying your thought and its significance (for you and others who might read what you have to say), contextualizing your thinking (in the text, across texts, in social and cultural and historical contexts), and building confidence (authority) for what you have to say. You also have our conversations in class to situate, inform, and complicate your emerging stake in the conversation
  • And by Sunday you should have come closer to getting it right. The “it” here is your thinking as well as the form of your thought in writing: to challenge yourself to make a contribution to (and not incidentally to enact) the ongoing conversation about democratic culture

Yet the schedule includes one more step, a step we talked about in class on Tuesday: building your sequence of short-form essays into a body of work—a sequence, collection, or anthology of writing that has consistency and integrity.

For this reason, over the final two weeks before spring break, your work will involve reflection (reading over what you have completed) and shaping, or curating, the writing on your blog. And to this end, before we meet on Tuesday March 7 we will read all the course blogs and annotate them using “Open Space of Democracy” group on Hypothes.is. The Tuesday class will be a “Blog Charrette” where we can exchange ideas, play with options, and work toward your own integrated intellectual digital space.

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First and foremost this work is designed to sharpen your tools, or passing along tools you might not have been fully aware are in your workshop: reading, thinking, writing, collaboration, and so on. We are using the blogs to enact an extended conversation about protocols of study, or methods of doing work with texts and cultural contexts. We are reading documents and probing the intellectual and cultural history of the United States, making connections, “upbuilding” to borrow a word from Ralph Waldo Emerson.

You are also, finally, participating in a course that begins with a less familiar idea: that a course in College is an ongoing intellectual project. This is why the course is organized around more than a list of texts, questions, ideas, and histories, as all good humanities courses are. It is organized around your contributions to an ongoing cultural project of understanding and making meaning.

Another way of saying this is that we are doing the work of democracy-“Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.”

We are in Thought

When minds close, democracy begins to close. Fear creeps in; silence overtakes speech”

-Terry Tempest Williams, “The Open Space of Democracy”

One of the things that happened to me today when I was moved to include an epigraph for what I am writing here was that there were too many options to choose from. I took this to be a good sign.

I spent some time this morning reading through your blog posts. Each of you is thinking through, and with, the readings that have preoccupied us these past Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. I appreciate our efforts as we struggle to find words to express what is most often glimpsed and rarely expressed. We are demonstrating, at least to my mind, that thinking is something that we do together—that thought is not so much in our heads but that we are quite literally in thought. Might this be Emerson’s intimation in his riffs on “the mind of the Past”?

Let me begin this survey of your blogging by calling out Miles and Savannah for their exemplary use of tags. In “Fulfilling the Ideal,” Miles writes his way into Williams’ commencement speech “The Open Space of Democracy.” He calls attention to qualities of democratic life, including insecurity and vulnerability, mentioned by Williams, the messy and chaotic space of democratic life. But the post is really driving at the relationship of the terms Miles uses as tags: democracy, knowledge, empathy. Might this be a beginning, perhaps a new start? Miles quotes Williams: “Empathy is vital to a properly functioning democracy.” This is, indeed, the core of what Williams is asking her audience to consider. “I came to understand through an education in the humanities that knowledge is another form of democracy, the freedom of expression that leads to empathy,” she says.

Or consider Savannah’s post “The Man Thinking” and the tags “Commencement,” “democracy,” “Ralph Waldo Emerson,” and “Scholars.” This piece of writing begins with two paragraphs about the occasion and genre of the commencement or convocation (as we talked about in class). The essay then shifts to Emerson’s “The American Scholar.” I’m left wondering, though, what is it at stake here? One place to begin may be the quotation from Emerson about books. “Each age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next succeeding. The books of an older period will not fit this.” This might offer a way into talking about claiming (not receiving) an education and/or the interesting relationship between open minds and open hearts.

Another place to begin is with confusion. We are grateful to Ben for saying precisely this in his “Commencement Speech Response” (a title that might be on its way to another). He quotes Williams, “I have always believed democracy is best practiced through its construction, not its completion.” He then offers a reading that clarifies the conclusion. Perhaps a closer and more extended reading of this idea—construction, building, making as opposed to a fixed structure, completion, made? What does it mean to define democracy as a process and not something achieved? Did not Emerson and Whitman say much the same thing. . . ? And Patrick, in “Emerson Again: Beware the Emotional Response in Politics,” artfully selects a sentence vibrating with implications both past and present: “In the degenerate state, when (a man is) the victim of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or, still worse, the parrot of another men’s thinking.” And Stephanie, in a delightfully titled post “Make us uncomfortable. Make us think. Make us feel” explores the meaning and implications of what Williams calls “Responsive citizenship.” There is a thread that might be an organizing feature of this blog post: the continuity between Whitman and Emerson’s call for thinking and feeling and response.

These are some of the examples we can learn from and build on as you continue reading, thinking, and writing.

 

 

 

Thinking and Making

Here are a few general notes of advice for writers that may prove useful to you as we move into individual conferences and in-class writing workshops:

Context
Write in a recognizable intellectual context (disciplinary, critical, historical, theoretical)

Write for a real person, someone who is engaged in the subject and interested in what you have to say (be honest, be genuine)

Purpose
Write beyond the assignment: challenge yourself, use the essay to improve as a writer

Be motivated (you should have a reason why you are doing one thing and not another)

Articulate your main idea, purpose, argument, claim (the main idea should be clear and distinct)

Be confident. Write with courage, conviction, originality (say “it is” rather “it seems”)

Embrace complexity (go beyond first thoughts, commonplaces and clichés, don’t reduce complexity)

Writing with Sources
Make connections: embed your discussion in other intellectual contexts and make use of intertextual thinking. Follow writers to their sources, read those sources, and use those sources to think with the writer

Build Credibility/Authority (primary and secondary, quoted in vs. quoted from)

Use appropriate/Relevant Evidence (evidence chosen that makes you more persuasive)

Set up (lead in to suggest how to read) and follow up (discuss/analyze fully each quotation)

Design
Use organization and structure thoughtfully (sections, paragraphs)

Be logical (your sequence of thoughts, what Steven Pinker calls “arcs of coherence”)

Build sentences and work on your repertoire of sentence structures (use of phrases, apposition, semi-colons and dashes, etc.)

Precision and Presentation
Focus (idea), not generalizing, be specific, choose words, clarity (cut irrelevant words/sentences)

Be professional (if your writing is careless you will not be taken seriously)

Document (consistently and accurately, if you have a question ask the professor)

Control grammar, spelling, punctuation (learn your problems and solve them, never make the same mistake twice)

Write with fluency, grace, style (read aloud, leave time in process to work on sentences)

Habits of Mind

Success in this class begins with an interest in what you are doing. Once you get interested you will be ready to think about what and how you are learning in school. Effective writing is a product of interest and engaged learning and below you will find five areas of work for you to consider as you write.

Intellectual Habits Consider first the intellectual habits that are most often at work in any process of learning:

  • Curiosity – the desire to know more about the world.
  • Openness – the willingness to consider new ways of being and thinking in the world.
  • Engagement – a sense of investment and involvement in learning.
  • Creativity – the ability to use novel approaches for generating, investigating, and representing ideas.
  • Persistence – the ability to sustain interest in and attention to short- and long-term projects.
  • Responsibility – the ability to take ownership of one’s actions and understand the consequences of those actions for oneself and others.
  • Flexibility – the ability to adapt to situations, expectations, or demands.
  • Metacognition – the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking as well as on the individual and cultural processes used to structure knowledge.

These “habits of mind” will help you as you work to formulate and share your understanding through the thinking, reading, and writing in this course:

  • Rhetorical knowledge – the ability to analyze and act on understandings of audiences, purposes, and contexts in creating and comprehending texts;
  • Critical thinking – the ability to analyze a situation or text and make thoughtful decisions based on that analysis, through writing, reading, and research;
  • Writing processes – multiple strategies to approach and undertake writing and research;
  • Knowledge of conventions – the formal and informal guidelines that define what is considered to be correct and appropriate, or incorrect and inappropriate, in a piece of writing; and
  • Abilities to compose in multiple environments – from using traditional pen and paper to electronic technologies.

These intellectual habits, ways of knowing, and ways of writing were developed by the Council of Writing Program Administrators, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the National Writing Project. For a more detailed account of the habits of mind and experiences read the complete “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing.”

The Idea of Culture

“We find ourselves abruptly in close quarters with the enemy. This word Culture, or what it has come to represent, involves, by contrast, our whole theme, and has been, indeed, the spur, urging us to engagement”

—Walt Whitman, “Democratic Vistas”

“My utmost pretension is probably but to offset that old claim of the exclusively curative power of first-class individual men, as leaders and rulers, by the claims and general movement and result of ideas. Something of the latter kind seems to me to be the distinctive theory of America, of democracy, and of the modern—or rather, I should say, it is democracy, and is the modern.”

—Walt Whitman, “Carlyle from American Points of View” (1881)

In On Democracy Robert A. Dahl makes a distinction between the ideal and the actuality of democracy. He explains that his book addresses the form of actual democracy that took shape in the twentieth century. In the first two parts of his book he explores a series of questions. What is democracy? What does democracy mean? Put another way, what standards should we use to determine whether, and to what extent, a government is democratic?

These questions are useful, if not necessary, for a productive consideration of the questions we are thinking through with Emerson and Whitman. What is democratic culture? What would a democratic culture look like? This is why I am asking you to read Part One and Part Two (1-80) of Dahl’s book as a background for our continued study of the emergence of the idea of a democratic culture in nineteenth-century America.

Your work this coming week is to read, think, and write about Whitman’s 1871 essay “Democratic Vistas.” To prepare for your discussions of this text you need to do three things:

  • Read the essay: You might want to not read the essay in one sitting. Your reading should begin with the assumption Whitman himself calls for late in the essay, that “the process of reading is not a half sleep, but, in highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast’s struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay — the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or frame-work. Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does”
  • Annotate the essay: you will be working as a part of the “Open Space of Democracy” group in hypothes.is. Read the blog post on annotation so that your commentary is resourceful and useful and not merely “marginal” notes
  • Write a blog post: Due Tuesday at 10. Your essay on Whitman’s essay will features quotes from the essay that together account for Whitman’s emergent thinking about democratic culture. Consider the essay as a report on the discovery of something significant and worth knowing about Whitman’s thinking, what he calls a “programme or theory.” Writing is in an important way an act of rereading the essay. I encourage you to read through the annotations of your classmates as you prepare for our class on Tuesday dedicated to thinking together about “Democratic Vistas”

You can read the essay that in part incited Whitman to compose his response, Thomas Carlyle’s “Shooting Niagara—And After?” (1867). I have also provided relevant excerpts on the term and idea of culture from Emerson and Whitman’s writing on the Ephemera page of this blog

Annotation Inc. (etc.)

Because we will be working with web-based materials this semester and one of the tools we will be using to discuss, collaborate, and organize our thinking about what we are reading is an annotation tool called Hypothes.is. Most of you registered for hypothes.is in class on Tuesday. If you have not, to get started, you need to

  • Create an Account: The Quick Start Guide will guide you through the steps. All you will need is an email address and a user nam
  • Open Hypothes.is and add an extension (if you are using Chrome browser, which is the optimal browser for the application) or make a bookmark
  • Annotate: navigate to web pages and activate the Chrome extension through the icon in the right side of your browser window

You will be annotating as part of the group “Open Space of Democracy.” I have sent you an invitation to the page and the URL will be the space where we can gather documents and annotate them as members of a common group.

Do you have questions about the annotation tool Hypothes.is? The tutorial Annotating with Groups should answer most of your questions.

A quick note on reading and making notes on a text

The activity of reading is a complex process. Making meaning involves the formation of and testing of inferences about the internal relations of the work and about the external relations between the work and the world. And much of the activity of reading remains tacit; that is, we do it for the most part without being conscious of what we are doing.

Reading as a Writer most often involves putting the process of reading to work in writing. The process can include a number of strategies: comprehension (summary), analysis (recognition and use of features of text), interpretation (construction of meaning from a text and recognize ways of reading), and evaluation (identifying and analyzing assumptions and judgments). Consider the following heuristic to help you think about the things you (can) do as a reader of texts:

Summary: a reader formulates a brief restatement that omits concrete details, in the case of a narrative, in order to isolate the significant actions and formal divisions in the work. We summarize a text so that we have a sufficient understanding of the character(s) and action(s) of the work.

e.g. (exempli gratia or for example) here is a schematic summary of Hart Crane’s The Bridge (a seventy-six page poem): The poem begins with an introductory proem and then is divided into eight parts. In the poem, a young man awakens at dawn, gazes out over the harbour and city, and then spends the day wandering in the metropolis, gradually becoming involved in its corruption, and, after agonizing disillusionment and drunkenness—a kind of spiritual descent into Hades—comes, in the final part of the poem, to an apparently illuminating vision of order or transcendence.

Marginalia: the reader is focused on her response to the work—what springs to mind and into body in the course of your reading. Its purpose is to register your feelings and thoughts as you read to examine, deepen and perhaps change them. We respond to texts in the mode of marginalia when we draw on our own emotions, life experience and intellectual competencies

Annotation: the reader brings to the work factual information from an external source. Its purpose is to clarify apparent ambiguities, obscurities and references. We annotate—or at least we should—when a term or reference in the text slows us down, confuses us or presents an interpretive problem

Explication: the reader proceeds word-by-word, phrase-by-phrase, line-by-line, with the intent of describing the work’s formal features—the lexical, grammatical, syntactic and sequential choices of an author. Its purpose is to generate awareness of the formal features of a work so as to be more accountable to how the work is put together.

We explicate to make explicit the immediate indices of our attention—the lexical, grammatical, syntactic choices of an author; we analyze, relying on all the previous modes—marginalia, annotation and explication—to communicate to your reader something interesting and significant about the passage(s) under discussion

Analysis: the reader isolates one or more elements of the work for closer attention. We use analysis to separate the work into parts, or into cause and effect relations, in order to probe different relations, to generate questions, and more fully understand the whole.

Interpretation: the reader sets forth one or more meanings of a work according to a programmatic set of assumptions or ideological beliefs. We interpret in order to make a persuasive case for a meaning of the work.