Reading Journals

Over the years I’ve tried a number of different writing assignments in my undergrad and grad classes: blog posts, short response essays, in-class writing, write-ups of annotated bibliographies or special collection visits, as well as final research essays.

For this class, I’m trying out the reading journal, because I am convinced, like this instructor, “that brief but regular sessions of thought will allow students to become more invested in their own, independent thinking; and it will help them to achieve richer insights.” And because having students spend some of this time reading and reflecting on their reading might help them develop better insights, better habits of sustained thought, and a more integrated understanding of how this material might operate in the present moment.

Better yet, this practice falls in line with the course’s sustained focus on the processes of reading and writing that are documented and reflected in this era’s fiction as well as Austen’s own history, and it helps us become more aware of our own interlinked processes of reading and writing as we make our way through this material.

A few general principles:

  1. For in-class and out-of-class writing, use either a single notebook, or a single, scrollable document kept apart from your regular note-taking.  This will become the source for the semester’s sharing, posting, excerpting, etc., and will ultimately go into the end of semester portfolio as a single collection.
  2. Individual entries should be dated and have some kind of header (for the purpose of recovering stuff later), and can take on any aspect of the course’s reading or assignments that catch your interest. You may also talk about your history of reading, or your physical circumstances, if you’re interested in seeing how these affect your current reading.
  3. Quotation, common-placing, or other forms of selection of texts are fine as entries, though you should always ask why you’ve chosen the passages you have. Better syntheses, reflections, connections across your reading are the desired result for this kind of work.
  4. Roughly speaking, you should be writing at least 1-2 pp. a week, divided up however you see fit.
  5. I’ll be asking you to share some insights, questions, or examples with one another every week.

I’ll post some examples on the blog of possible approaches to entries, which you can take up and imitate or develop your own.  Let me know if any of this is unclear to you.

See you Thursday,