Throughout the course of this semester, you will interrogate aspects of monsters or the monstrous that you consider worthy of public discussion, study, and research. Blogging is one way that we can begin to figure out which topics meet the criteria for public discourse and to understand how to talk about them in ways that foster engagement from others. Our goal as a class is to investigate the intersection of the fake news era with the presentation of monsters and the monstrous in ancient, medieval, and early modern literature. We understand our own historical moment as one in which we no longer believe in monsters in the same way we might have in earlier historical periods. And yet the 21st century is deeply marked by a tendency to create and label the monstrous — and perhaps even to imagine monsters — and a simultaneous struggle with “fake news.” To what extent do the construction, fear, fascination, and _ of monsters echo from one historical moment to the next, and how has the way we deliver and receive news of the monstrous changed? Do we continue to believe in monsters in the same way we always have, or are there important distinctions to be made about the reasons we believe (or don’t).
I invite you to focus on a specific monster or category of monstrous identity that will help you to consider these initial questions and others that arise from them. In your 6-entry series, you might use tools like timelines, maps, images, videos, or texts ranging from tabloids or literature to journalism or academic research to (de)construct “breaking news” — from the historical periods we study and from our own — to deliver a serial exploration of your argument about the monstrous in literature and art.
While blogging is an imperfect medium and our class is certainly narrower than the general public, this assignment will provide you with the opportunity to practice in a condensed version many of the skills that are necessary to connect your writing and research with the professional, intellectual, and political worlds to which you will become increasingly responsible for contributing. As we have discussed in class, blogging can take a number of formats, and the overlap between blogging and social media is one that we will exploit: learning to blog means learning to engage — in perhaps a longer format — with some of the same discussions happening on social media and in various other digital discussions.
You will therefore be responsible for crafting six blog entries that help you to connect your own ideas, research, and analysis to a wider public, to real world events, and to everyday experiences. This means that you will be using your blogs to test out your ideas, the way you convey them to others, build on/respond to others’ ideas, analyze research for a particular audience, or as a forum to learn, adopt, or innovate conventions of writing and public discourse.
6 blog entries across the semester; posts must be at least one week apart
400-600 words in length with a clearly focused line of thought
Explores one narrow topic per post and features a clear argument
Your argument should unfold through an exploration of at least two pieces of evidence in the form of quotes, visual images or video, or other data. These should ideally include, but also extend outward from our course material. Remember that you are narrating through this evidence your journey to the final project, so you should present to your audience both accessible and rich analysis of a range of materials that show how your thoughts are evolving.
While blogs are informal, readership is immediate and engaged. This means your posts must be well-written, engaging, and clear with no grammatical errors.
Cultivate a distinctive authorial “voice” that contributes from a consistent but flexible perspective
Integrate and remix texts, images, links, quotations, videos, audio files, and other media in order to draw connections between your work and wider discussions.
Tags or hashtags: one vital skill required for engaging with the public in a digital landscape is to locate discussions and to identify your contributions properly. Tagging allows us to categorize posts in ways that allow our contributions to be seen by other authors/speakers in the discussion, while also allowing us to track the evolution of the discussion so we can continue to stay current and contribute over time.
Include in your series at least two of the options for what to blog about, provided below.
What to Blog About
Because this blogging assignment is a way for you to accomplish various writing goals that include, but are not limited to, testing and developing ideas for your research project, there is no fixed content for what you should write about. However, I have listed below some options that range from the traditional to the innovative. Remember that you must include in your series at least two of these options.
Write about an aspect of a class reading or an article/blog/social media post/video/podcast on your topic that you are having trouble understanding because it appears weird, strange, inconsistent, or illogical. Reflect on why that particular aspect confuses you. What can you learn from your confusion?
Compare several encyclopedic or folklore sources on a particular monster.
In reading discussions or research about a monster or series of monsters, consider a text or idea in relation to its historical, political, cultural, or intellectual context. You are free to incorporate outside research so long as it is cited or linked properly.
Look up a date, an event, a person, or a place alluded to in reading you’ve done on your topic. Share what you find with the class and explain how or why it helps us to interpret your topic.
Analyze a specific quote, passage, or event in your reading or research, exploring it through a critical lens. Remember that a lengthy quote does not count toward your word count.
Post something you find relevant from your external reading. It could be an article, an image, video, or podcast, for example.
Embed audio or video you find relevant to the course and reflect on its relevance. What complementary or contradictory ideas does it provoke? Use your blog post to render the connection more explicit for your classmates.
Post an image that speaks with, against, or across your reading and/or research. Images are often a great way to not only “represent” ideas, but to think critically about the ideas in a text. Include a short description or commentary on the image that connects it to the reading or your research.
Share your research in progress. Use a blog post to introduce an idea, controversy, event, or problem that you’re researching.
A current event. If something we’re reading is relevant to the cultural, social, or political scene today, write a post in which you connect the reading with the current phenomenon.
What to Avoid in Your Blogs
In general, most topics and ideas are fair game for blogs, but there are a few things that you should avoid.
Ideas that are too vague or cliche
Entries about your personal feelings only. While it is fine to build an intellectually invested argument from your initial feelings, they shouldn’t be the only source of discussion. Remember that blogs aren’t personal diaries or journals.
Entries that present solely summary of others’ ideas.
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