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Why Blog? What makes for a good post?

A central feature of this course will be the writing we do on this site. In what follows, I will outline three things:

  • a rationale for why I ask you to blog in the first place, rather than write traditional essays
  • a quick primer on how to create your first post
  • a simple rubric to guide your writing + an example of a good-looking post

First things first: why blog?

  1. Blogging is sharable: rather than have a private circuit between you and me, we have a much more dynamic conversation across the entire class.

  2. Blogging is public, sort of: I like the idea that we are responsible for our ideas in front of broader audiences. In practical terms, I doubt anyone is listening in most of the time, but I think it’s important that we roll up our sleeves and defend our arguments in an open and public forum as often as possible. And of course, you can show your family/friends/pets what we’ve been up to in class. For those who have reservations about privacy, note that a) you can only be identified via firstname+last initial, so you have relative privacy beyond our class; and b) you are free to delete your posts at the end of class. If anyone has serious reservations despite all this, feel free to contact me.

  3. Blogging is sturdy: rather than forget the piece of paper once it’s been handed back, we can link back to prior statements or observations, or to each others’. If you like, you can leave your posts up for future 399ers to see.

  4. Blogging is responsive: rather than only getting comments from me, you’ll comment on and get comments on each other’s work.

So how do you post? Once you get enrolled as an “author” on the site, it’s really easy. Here’s a step-by-step with screen shots from Evan Cordulack at William and Mary. I’ll also note that WordPress gives you several other ways to initiate a post, so feel free to explore the dashboard and find your own best way.

 

What makes for an excellent post? For this class, posts should:

  • contain at least 500 words (use word count in WordPress or your word processor)
  • explain a given text’s argument (for secondary readings) or analyze its form and themes (for primary readings by Melville), using quotations and paraphrases of the text with page numbers in parentheses
  • engage a text critically, noting its limitations, its links to other texts we’ve read, its unstated assumptions, etc.

Here’s a simple rubric, adapted from Mark Sample, that I will use to evaluate your work (see how the academic blogosphere encourages sharing and exchange? I told you so!):

Rating Characteristics
4 Exceptional. The post is focused and coherently integrates examples with explanations or analysis. It moves beyond summary to engage the text critically, articulating weak points or dubious assumptions (for secondary texts) or giving a sharp, original close reading (for primary texts). It makes useful connections to other texts and raises novel questions.
3 Satisfactory. The post is reasonably focused, and explanations or analysis are mostly based on examples or other evidence. It provides a compelling summary of an argument (or dutiful reading of primary text) but fails to engage the argument/text more than glancingly. The entry reflects moderate engagement with the topic and/or rehashes what was said in class.
2 Underdeveloped. The post is restricted to summary, without consideration of alternative perspectives, and may contain misreadings of the argument at one or more points. The entry reflects passing engagement with the topic.
1 Limited. The journal entry is unfocused, or simply rehashes others’ comments; it fails to grasp fundamental aspects of the argument.
0 No Credit. The journal entry is missing or consists of one or two disconnected sentences.

Last but not least, here’s an example of a good-looking post. I’ve linked to it in a Word doc so you can see some marginal comments that explain why it’s good. And remember: it’s not an exercise in cookie-cutting: your results may vary, and there are lots of ways to write an excellent post.

 

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