english 201

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Nonfiction & Inquiry

LARGER SOCIAL ISSUES &
DWDFWD (Doing what DFW did)

GOALS & DELIVERABLES:
This module culminates in a student-produced essay that focuses on a local event the student attends, but also "opens up" to discuss a larger social issue.

Wallace attends the Maine Losbster Fest to report on the Maine Lobster Fest (his actual assignment), but also manages to take us on a journey of self-discovery about food production in the US.

We work through this module in sections (noted in your weekly agendas).

The deliverable:

A 4-5 page essay length (900-1100 words) (at least).

Sources cited.

1" Margins. Double-spaced. Footnotes encouraged.


"DWDFWD"

 

SECTION 1

Research & Writing
Doing What DFW Did

This module takes us through mid-term.

To begin, you will read and then analyze "Consider the Lobster" by David Foster Wallace.

I want you to begin by studying it. Then we'll talk about it in a discussion board. Then you will attend an event. Then you will produce your own essays.

The exact day we do the things listed here will depend on how we progress through the sequence. In other words, we may need to do more discussion or we might need more time to do the fieldwork. We will adjust times as we need to. This does, though, give a general breakdown of what we do and the order we do it in.



INVENTION & EXPLORATION

It may be easiest for you to print out Consider the Lobster

Print it out. Read it. Straight through. Take breaks if you need to. Feel free to read it a second time.

It's lengthy. Hang in there. It’s worth it. Suspend your disbelief. Take some notes about whatever strikes you to note.

Read it a second time.

 

SECTION 2

ANALYSIS

Highlight these things with different colors:

    • Highlight when you feel DFW looked something up
    • Highlight when you feel DFW asked someone something
    • Highlight when DFW drew on his own experiences/knowledge
    • Highlight when you feel DFW observed something

We will discuss these things in an upcoming discussion board.


SECTION 3

IMMERSION

Using local resources (newspapers, radio stations, twitter feeds, calendars of events, etc) find a local event YOU can attend.

We will compile a list of things to do in your area in a discussion board.

Plan to be at your event for several hours---carrying a notebook, taking notes, observing people, reading signs, watching the event---taking detailed notes. Asking questions. Even jotting down your own feelings.

Your school has a calendar as do your local chambers of commerce. I suggest you google "Events (your city)" to get started. More details on this will be in an upcoming agenda.


ATTENDING EVENTS & OBSERVING

GET FIELDNOTE WORKSHEET HERE

Read the FIELDNOTE WORKSHEET to prepare you to attend your event. Read through the entire worksheet.

Once at your event, write down (observe) as much as possible. Write down your feelings. Write down what you see. Write down what you hear. Write down what you smell. Think in terms of the 5 senses and note your observations and your reactions.

Then, see if there is someone you can interview --- either about the event directly or about a subject tangent to the event. Try to interview more than one person. Your interview can be just 3 or 4 questions.

Listen to people. Write down what they say. Write down other things you notice (the weather, their clothes, a description of your locale, etc).

The more little details, the better.

Write things down that capture your interest, even if they seem unrelated to the event!

AFTER THE EVENT

After the event, do computer and/or database research related to your event. Look up the event (newspaper articles from previous years, sponsors, event planners, etc.). Was there a press release? Was there advertising? Who was the audience for the event? Why? What else do you know about this event? Write that down too.

The night after the event or the next morning, try to organize your notes and thoughts. You might  try using bubl.us to help organize your thoughts.

 

LARGER SOCIAL ISSUES

"Consider the Implications:" DWDFWD

Previous students have successfully written about Lutefish, classical music, plasma donations, and a museum on the shores of Lake Michigan. They have questioned vanishing cultures, the costs of blood transfusions, and "where" art is among other things.

OUTSTANDING STUDENT EXAMPLE 1

OUTSTANDING STUDENT EXAMPLE 2

OUTSTANDING STUDENT EXAMPLE 3

OUTSTANDING STUDENT EXAMPLE 4

NOTE: These four examples are rough in spots. They need some revision. They may have grammatical errors. They are the initial draft the student submitted to me. The student received comments. I removed most of those comments for confidentiality and for readability.

Still, all four of these papers "Do" what David Foster Wallace did. They cover an "event" and then move to the "larger social issue." These are exemplary work because, just like Wallace, they take you somewhere, then they take you somewhere else, but both stories are related and it's all plausible and makes us "consider the implications."

 

TEACHER'S EXAMPLES ON "LARGER SOCIAL ISSUES":

I love muscle cars and would like to attend car shows. At a car show, I could easily cover the event for an essay, but then discuss issues related to 1) the use of oil-based engines at a time when the price of oil is through the roof. Or, I could cover the fall of "the Big3" and the implications for the state of Michigan. I could easily cover "Whatever happened to America's love affair with their cars?" These are larger social issues that interest me.

I'm a football fanatic. I used to go to Spartan games and if assigned this assignment, I'd consider going to a game, and taking notes and observations but then discussing this change that's happened in my lifetime where now it's OK to "Boo." Growing up that was never "allowed" (people just did not do it). I'd love to write an essay that addressed this fundamental change in audience behavior.

I hope my two examples help you think about an event (any event) and larger social issues that are attached to them.

SECTION 4

WRITING

Begin a rough draft of an essay or article (an “argument”). Plan your essay to be about 900-1100 words in length, but begin writing – based on your field notes, interview scripts, and archival research – and just write. Make lists. Write paragraphs. Just write. See where the writing (and your mind) take you. Do not limit yourself. Write for at least 30 minutes non stop to see what develops.

Read back through what you’ve written. See if there are patterns to some of the things you’ve noted. Pick out the threads of your writing that seem to make the most sense to you. Combine, arrange, question. This is the beginning of your rough draft.

 

REFLECTING

DFW—What does his essay look like? What does it do?

Continue writing your rought draft.

 

Complete the rough draft.

 

SECTION 5

PEER REVIEWING

 

SECTION 6

TURNING IN YOUR WORK

 

NOTE: You may choose to use this essay for your research project (P4)!