Arizona: Living Through Literature
By Moses Glidden
English 118 is a two-credit literature-based course with a minimum of 3,500 words of written text throughout the 10-week, 3-hours-per-class course.
Each week, for 8 of the 10 weeks, students write two 150-minimum word journals: one in response to an assigned portion of a novel and one in response to a short story. Each journal contains an anecdote from the student's life and a comparison to that week's assigned reading. Each journal includes quotes, summaries, and paraphrases from the reading - with the appropriate parenthetical citations - showing a direct relationship between the two texts, the author's and the student's.
Halfway through the course, each student starts work on an Exit Paper. The Exit Paper is typed and a minimum of 1,000 words, with quotes, paraphrases, summaries, parenthetical citations, a works cited page, all according to MLA (Modern Language Association) format. The student prepares two rough drafts before writing the final paper.
The Exit Paper addresses a FROM WHAT / THROUGH WHAT / TO WHAT motif in the student's life (i.e., a subject/motif like alcohol or drug abuse, criminal activity, abusive relationships, employment problems, authority problems, personal insecurity). For instance, through a series of personal anecdotes, the student traces the development of a problem in her/his life, from when it started through a series of stages to its present condition. The student also briefly predicts where it will go in the immediate future. From the beginning to the end of the paper, the student makes comparisons between her/his life and the assigned readings.
Some Ideas, Purposes, and Benefits:
1. Each semester, there are approximately four regular college students who sign up for the class, along with the fifteen plus students referred by the courts. This helps those referred by the courts to accept the course as legitimate. Everyone who completes the course gets two college credits. It is also an education for both kinds of students: the students who choose to take the course get firsthand appreciation for the humanity of individuals caught up in litigation and crime. On the other hand, the court-referred students get to rub elbows with students who are making clear, positive choices in their lives. (Except for the exit paper, all writing is public to the class, so the students really get to know each other.)
2. To warm up students to writing and each other, all students write a short anecdote from earlier in their day. This anecdote is one time (twenty minutes or less) and one place. The student is expected to give pinpoint information in 3-D (details, description, and dialogue). Then each person reads aloud her/his anecdote, and classmates give feedback how it might have been more effective (i.e., what is missing, vague).
3. A major purpose of class is recognizing that our daily lives as. made up of little stories. By recognizing the types of choices, attitudes, and conclusions that occur in these stories, students should be able to better recognize and develop their own character. By writing comparisons between literary stories and their own life stories, there is an extra bonus of authoritative examples to follow or reject.
4. After a few weeks, students become aware that their personal anecdotes at the beginning of class are developing patterns, patterns that the other students usually notice first. This dynamic feeds directly into the overriding theme of the course: WHO am I; WHERE am I going; and, WHY. We come back to this each week.. This is the payoff my choices make my life and by recognizing and altering my choices, I. can move in the direction that I choose. If I go to jail, jail is my choice. If I am successful, success is my choice.