Saturday, May 20, 2006

Grading: a delay

Because I submitted grades fairly late in the cycle, Prof. Wolfe didn't get a chance to approve them before the deadline expired. This means that he and I will need to enter your grades on paper and turn them in to the registrar, which will take several days.

This is what I get for being the slowest grader in the department =)

If you want to know your grade, please feel free to shoot me an email.

Sorry, all!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Grades are in!

I have submitted your grades to Prof. Wolfe, who will review and (hopefully) accept them. As I understand it, they will then be posted online at midnight tonight -- if you can't wait that long, feel free to email me.

I have always hated grading. Grades tell you almost nothing about your performance and about what you can do to get even better at school. They are somewhat dehumanizing, even: we take away all discussion of your strengths and weaknesses, of how you are different from your peers, and we give you a number that corresponds, superficially, to your -- what? -- value? "I'm a 3.5, so I can be expected to contribute 3.5 times as much to society as a 1.0 would contribute."

Some grades were low. Disappointingly low. If, looking at your grade, you're not entirely sure how you got it, please email me. The #1 factor that led to lower-than-expected grades? Participation. There were also a few disappointing final exams and some fairly weak second essays, but mostly it was that damned participation grade.

Your grade has nothing to do with how I think of you -- I forget your grades the moment I submit them -- so please don't fall into the trap of thinking that these grades somehow measure you as a person; they are measures only of the work you have done.

I hope to hear from you all in the future, and I hope that your summers are kicking off in a rollicking-but-thoughtful sort of way.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The best book written in our lifetime

"Early this year, the Book Review's editor, Sam Tanenhaus, sent out a short letter to a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to please identify 'the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.'"

The winner? Here's a hint: we've all read it.

If you have time to kill here at the beginning of break, you might want to read Margaret Atwood's lovely review of it.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Grading: good news and bad news

Good news: I have finished grading the hebdomadals. If you haven't heard back from me on all your hebdomadals for this semester, let me know immediately so we can figure out what happened.

Bad news: I have scarcely begun grading your essays. (I know, I know.) This is obviously my top priority for the rest of the week, but you might not hear back about your essays until early next week. My apologies! I'm really just a dreadfully slow grader.

And please remember that I will be in my office (Helen C. White 7134) this -- Monday -- evening from 5 to 7 so I can help you review for tomorrow's final.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Today's poll results!

In case you were curious about the results of today's poll of your favorite books, here're the top five in the three important categories:

Favorite texts:
  1. Coetzee (8 votes)
  2. Morrison (7)
  3. Baker (6)
  4. Hemingway (5)
  5. Eliot (3)
Total appearances in the top 3:
  1. Coetzee (19 total votes)
  2. Baker (14)
  3. Morrison (13)
  4. Hemingway (12)
  5. Hacker (11)
Least favorite texts:
  1. Woolf (11 votes)
  2. Boland (9)
  3. Eliot (8)
  4. Baker (7)
  5. Heaney and Hacker (6)
There's a lot to say about this distribution of numbers, but what I'm most excited by is how well-liked were two of the most emotionally painful books -- Disgrace and Beloved. Indeed, many of you specifically commented that not enough time was spent on Beloved, and clearly from your responses the lectures on Beloved were some of the favorite of the semester.

Review Sessions!

There are two review sessions between today and the final exam:
  1. Sunday, 6:30 to 8 pm in Helen C. White 6191, Ray & I will be on hand to answer any questions you have to bring about the final exam!
  2. Then on Monday from 5 to 7 pm, in my office -- Helen C. White 7134 -- I will be happy to meet with you individually or in groups to work through whatever questions you have left.
Notice that both review sessions are focused on your questions. You will get the most out of them if you spend a few hours this weekend looking over the potential final exam questions (available here if you haven't snagged them already). If you get stuck on anything, or just want to make sure that your answers are on target, feel free to bring those questions in to the review sessions!

Odds and ends

  • Natalya (313) asked whether the quotations on which you will write your short essays will be identified. I checked: they will.
  • If you haven't yet grabbed a copy of the possible final exam questions, they are available here.
  • If you felt that I was a reasonably good instructor for you, please remember that I work in the Writing Center every semester and would be ecstatic to see your work in coming semesters. When you call to make an appointment, feel free to ask for me by name (ask for Mikey, by which name the receptionists know me).
  • In my rush to get to the evaluations, I completly forgot to tell section 313 that I urge you to stay in touch with me. Because I keep your hebdomadals and your essays pretty much forever (thanks to Gmail's ridiculously huge quota), I will be able to write letters of recommendation for you with ease for the next year or two.
  • Also, if you have any comments about my teaching that come to you in the next few weeks, please -- for the sake of my future students -- email me sometime after your grades come in. I really do not want to become one of those crusty, apathetic professors who couldn't care less about the work he's doing. You're catching me here at the beginning of my career: any advice you have to give me today could potentially help out my students for three or four decades.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Office hours today (Tuesday 5/2)

I have to push today's office hours back about 30 minutes: I will be at Steep & Brew to discuss Coetzee, the final exam, or anything else from 2 to 4 pm this afternoon. I hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Super Secret Bonus Hebdomadal

(Even those of you who have reached the maximum number of hebdomadals are eligible to write this one.)

The goal for this hebdomadal is to give you a chance to show off your carefully cultivated literary-analytical prowess; pull out all the stops!

As you have probably observed, I am about ten days behind in getting hebdomadals back to you; I should be able to catch up with hebdomadals over the course of this week.

Topic 1: Postmodern pop
Transcribe the lyrics of your favorite song and perform a close reading of it. In what way does this song respond to the problems and theories of postmodernism we have discussed since the midterm? In what way does it resemble the literature we have read this semester? How does popular music respond to the poetic tradition? Should it / could it be taught alongside poetry?
Topic 2: Literature in/of exams
Pick the essay question you feel is likeliest to appear on the exam and develop an outline of how you would answer it. Then write your outline in the style of any of the authors we have read this semester. Imagine: a Hacker sonnet comparing Boland and Baker! A Faulknerian multiperspectival epic contrasting Eliot and Heaney! A Bakerian monologue contemplating the meaningfulness of comparing Morrison and Faulkner.
Topic 3: Self-evaluating
Look back on your first hebdomadal or your first essay. Look back on your notes from the first day of our discussion. What have you learned this semester? How is what you have learned likely to be useful to you? What more do you wish you had had the opportunity to learn in class this semester?

If the things you have learned in English 168 do not look liable to be useful, in what way could the course have more directly spoken to your needs as a student?