Introduction to Literature

Reading in the Digital Age

Literary Experience #4

For your final assignment of the semester, write a micro-essay of no more than 300 words that answers the following question:

Why does literature matter in the digital age?

During weeks eleven and twelve you wrote a Twitter essay addressing why literature matters. This micro-essay will move extend the thinking you did when composing that tweet and speak specifically to the place of literature in the digital world. You can approach the assignment from any direction you would like, but I’ve got two stipulations:

  1. The essay must be titled. Think of something that captures what you’re saying in the composition.
  2. You must take the essay through at least two drafts. I won’t ask you to submit both drafts, but I’d like this to be more polished than a freewriting exercise.

The finished essay is due by midnight, 12/19. Post it to the Literary Experience 3 & 4 G+ Page.

Literary Experience #3

This course was designed to help you learn to actively and critically read, analyze, and interpret diverse works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama written by authors from diverse cultures and traditions. During our time together, I’ve tried to provide you with an environment in which you could begin to understand and practice diverse ways of responding to these texts. As we approach the end of the term, I’d like you to look back on what you’ve learned and measure that against the objectives of the course, which you’ll find under the Learning Outcomes heading on the course syllabus (here’s a link to that section).

For Literary Experience #3, pick at least three of these objectives and consider how your course experience has influenced your abilities in each area. You should write at least 100 words per objective (so that’s at least 300 words total). Post your response to the Literary Experience 3 & 4 G+ page by midnight, Tuesday 12/9 and post replies of at least 50 words to at least three of your peers by midnight, Friday 12/12.

Literary Experience #2

Now that you’ve chosen and reflected on your favorite text from the course and posted your freewrites in response to Literary Experience #1, I’d like you to create a word cloud using the paragraphs you posted in response to the course text. You’ll do this using the word cloud generator at The descriptive text for the Wordle service says that “Wordle is a toy for generating ‘word clouds’ from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.” You may have seen these floating around the web before (Wordle is a fairly popular service); now you’ll get to create a Wordle for yourself and share it with the class.

To begin, review this tutorial on “how to make and save a word cloud”:

Then make a Wordle for yourself using the text you posted in the Literary Experience #1 forum. As you do so, be sure not to include in your word cloud the headings you’ve used to distinguish your freewrites from each other.

Once you’ve created and saved your word cloud (per the tutorial instructions), share it with the class by posting a link to the image or by attaching the image to your post. With your image include a brief (200 word) analysis of your word cloud. To help you complete this analysis, consider the following questions:

  • What decisions did you make when choosing the design for your cloud?
  • What is the most prominent word (or are the most prominent words) in your cloud? Did this word’s appearance surprise you?
  • What do you think the prominence of this word/these words in your freewrites says about your interaction with the literary text* you chose? In other words, why might you have repeated that word so often as you discussed why the text was your favorite?
  • What might this word/these words suggest about the theme of your chosen literary text?
  • What other words in your cloud stand out to you and what might these words suggest about your interaction with the literary text?

Post your word cloud and your word cloud analysis to the Literary Experience 1 & 2 G+ page by midnight Thursday, 12/4. Then, by midnight Sunday, 12/7, comment on at least three of your peers’ posts (with replies of at least 75 words), discussing any patterns and/or prominent features you may notice in/about their word clouds and what these patterns and/or prominent features suggest to you about their interaction with the literary text.


*”Literary text” refers to the story/essay/poem you wrote about in your freewrites for Literary Experience #1, not to the Wordle. Just to clarify…

Literary Experience #1

Review the texts we’ve read this semester and pick one with which you resonated (the one that most deeply touched you). This can be a poem, a short story (fiction), an essay (nonfiction), or a play.

Once you’ve selected your text, don’t reread it (yet). Rather, grab a pen/pencil and some paper or open your trusty word-processing software on your computer and freewrite for at least five minutes (without stopping or self-editing along the way) in response to the following question:

**Why do you think you resonated with this narrative when you first read it?**

After you’ve completed this freewrite, reread the poem/story/essay/play you’ve chosen to refresh your sense of the narrative. Then freewrite for at least another five minutes (without stopping or self-editing along the way) in response to these questions:

**How did you experience the narrative differently as you reread it? For example, did anything new stand out to you? Did you realize anything different about the narrative’s form or content—i.e., about how it was written or what happens in the narrative? Did you learn anything new about yourself or about the world?**

Post both freewrites to the Literary Experience 1 & 2 page on G+ by midnight, Wednesday 12/3.

The Work for Semester’s End

Unit Theme: The Literary Experience

Revisiting Your Course Experience of/with Literary Texts

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore your course experience with literature by engaging in some literary experiences. These assignments are listed below. Review each assignment, then get started. Due dates are included in each post.

The Work for Week 13

You’ve got just two things to do this week:

Finish your book review. These should be at least 500 words long. If you have questions on the review format, check out the outline listed under the Writing the Book Review heading on this page.

Design a book poster to accompany your book review. This can look however you would like it to and can contain as little or as much information about the book as you would like it to, but it needs to include either a quotation from the book that you feel encapsulates the book’s theme or an image that encapsulates the book’s theme. For cool examples of the latter, see this Little House on the Prairie poster and these Postertext images. If you need some inspiration, Google images has many other examples you can scan through.

By midnight 11/22: Upload your book review to or compose your book review in Google Docs and submit the file and your book poster via the Book Reviews page on G+.

Treating Innocence and Experience

Respond to one of the following prompts with an initial post of at least 150 words:

Option A: Which poems in this section of LHE depend largely on irony for their force? Why do you think irony is a useful device in literature that portrays innocence and experience? Be sure to use specific details from the texts you choose in your response.

Option B: Some authors treat the passage from innocence to experience as comedy, while others treat it more seriously. Which text(s) from your reading for this week treat it as comedy and which treat it as something else? Elaborate on how each of your choices does so (in at least 50 words per text). Once you’ve done that answer this question in at least 50 words: Do you find one or the other treatment more satisfying? Explain.

Post your initial response to the Treating Innocence & Experience page on G+ Once you’ve made your initial post, comment on and/or ask questions about the experience described by at least three of your peers. Your responses should be at least 50 words long.

Defining Innocence and Experience

In LHE, Abcarian and Klotz observe that “that terms innocence and experience range widely in meaning, and that [this] range is reflected” in the texts they chose for inclusion in the Innocence and Experience section of their book. They further suggest that innocence can be biological, social, emotional, or mental (78). Pick at least one text from your reading for the week and discuss how the text(s) portray innocence in an initial response of at least 150 words. Consider:

  1. Is it biological, social, emotional, mental? Something else?
  2. What forces (if any) act upon the narrative’s character(s)/speaker(s) and influence them to become more or less innocent?
  3. What type of experience does the character/speaker gain (if any) in the narrative?
  4. And so on…

Post your initial response to the Defining Innocence & Experience page on G+ Once you’ve made your initial post, comment on and/or ask questions about the experience described by at least three of your peers. Your responses should be at least 50 words long.

Why Literature Matters Twitter Essay

Twitter escultura de arena by Rosaura Ochoa on Flickr (BY)

Twitter escultura de arena by Rosaura Ochoa on Flickr (BY)

Step 1: Write what Jesse Stommel calls a “Twitter Essay.”

Over the next several weeks, we’ll focus on some of the overarching questions of the course, so let’s use this activity as a way to begin formulating our thinking about why literature matters in the 21st Century. Here are the instructions:

Why does #literature matter? Answer in a Twitter essay of 140 characters using #twitteressay. Play, innovate, incite—don’t waste a character

(The instructions above are exactly 140 characters, so this gives you a sense for how much space you have to work with.)

Post your essay on Twitter (by midnight 11/9). The only rule is that you must include the hashtags “#twitteressay” and “#literature” somewhere in your Tweet. You can add additional hashtags or links, but you can only write one Tweet and it must be exactly 140 characters. Feel free to address any aspect of literature as explored in this course. (No need to use our course hashtag unless it makes specific sense for you to include it.) Spend time carefully composing, making sure every character of your tweet is necessary and meaningful. As you work, think also about the components of a traditional essay: a hook, an argument, supporting evidence, etc. While you can take creative license in how you interpret the word “essay,” you should at least be able to make an argument (if pressed) for how your Tweet functions as an essay.

Step 2: Now, peer review.

By midnight 11/16: Search the #literature tweets from your classmates. Respond to (and, perhaps, retweet) at least three of the ones you find. In your response, analyze the choices the author made and/or offer additional thoughts. Include the author’s handle somewhere in your tweet. So, for example, if I were peer reviewing my own instructions:

@KingTawhiao’s use of “incite” in the #TwitterEssay is unusual juxtaposed with “play.” Incite often has negative connotations.

(Note that the peer review tweet does not have to be exactly 140 characters.)

Adapted from “The Twitter Essay” by Jesse Stommel.

The Work for Weeks 11 &12

Unit Theme: Innocence and Experience

Weeks 11-12 Focus: Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry




(Terms to Know: point of view and allusion)

This Week’s Reading


  • Required:
  • Thus far in the semester, I’ve allowed you to choose a portion of the unit reading, but for this section of the course, I’m allowing you to create your own reading list, per the following guidelines:

    • (Fiction): Pick three (3) stories from the fiction section in “Innocence and Experience” (LHE 80-128). This could include Hua’s “Appendix” (LHE 299-304) and Xue’s “Hut on the Mountain” (LHE 304-7).
    • (Nonfiction): Pick two (2) essays from the essays section in “Innocence and Experience” (LHE 280-97).
    • (Poetry): Pick eight (8) poems from the poetry section in “Innocence and Experience” (LHE 129-59). This could include Lim’s “Father from Asia” (LHE 308).
  • Supplemental
    • Review the items added to the class’s supplemental texts spreadsheet.

Other Preparation Activities

  • Record two entries in your Reading Notebook.
  • Search the internet for an online resource that supplements one of the texts from this week’s reading (see my list of supplemental texts for examples of what you might find). Once you’ve found your resource, paste a link in this shared Google spreadsheet. Be sure to fill in all the information asked for in the sheet.



*Unless otherwise noted, assignments are due by midnight of the date posted.


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