Between Week 3 and Week 12 of this course, I will post 10 discussion threads to the course blog. Each week, you will have the opportunity to post a question or comment to one of these threads, working towards a total of 5 comments over the course of the term. This leaves you with 5 “free” weeks to skip your discussion post, which you may use whenever you wish.
I will also post one “Community” discussion thread during our first week. Though posts to the Community thread will not count towards your total of 5, please feel free to use the thread throughout the term as a space to ask questions, test your account, share links, or talk to your peers.
Of your 5 total posts, AT LEAST 3 of them must start a NEW conversation: they might pose an original interpretation of a formal feature of a course text, observe parallels or notable differences between this course text and previous texts we have read, or otherwise pose a new question for other students to discuss. You are also welcome to begin conversations about steampunk discoveries you’ve made beyond our course syllabus: link us to a video clip, a news story, a material object, or anything else you think might interest your peers, and explain how your discovery adds to the discussion at hand.
UP TO 2 of your 5 posts can function as RESPONSES to your classmates’ posts. Your response posts might offer an answer to a classmate’s question, or present an alternative interpretation to broaden the ideas that others have raised.
While you will only receive credit for 1 comment per week, you are welcome to post more than 1 comment per week, to start more than 3 new conversations, and to make more than 5 comments total.
The most thought-provoking comments will link the text’s form and content in order to pose a productive question about how the text works to create meaning. Try to incorporate the following three elements into your comments:
1. STATE THE PROBLEM: In a sentence, clarify the scope and context of your question (or response), and try to articulate the interpretative problem that you’d like to explore. Which scene or section of the text will your response focus on, and what is this section of the text about? Try to identify a key passage or significant action for further consideration.
- For example:
“The first two chapters of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine are told from the perspective of an unnamed guest at the Time Traveller’s weekly dinner parties. Speaking in the first person, the guest recollects his host’s lecture on the theory of time travel, and reconstructs the debates that unfolded afterwards between the assembled gentlemen.”
2. IDENTIFY A FORMAL FEATURE: Draw our attention to a specific formal feature of the text that you believe warrants further discussion. By “formal feature,” I mean any aspect of the style or structure of the text that you find striking or that seems to shape its content. Think about structural features of the narrative (ie. genre, narrative perspective, focalization, etc.) as well as more specific literary or rhetorical devices (ie. metaphor, allusion, repetition, unusual diction, irony, etc.). Try to provide a specific example of the feature you describe, with a quotation and page number.
- For example:
“However, we soon learn that the unnamed guest’s tale is just a frame narrative, rather than the whole story. Once the Time Traveller returns from the future, the guest tells us, he “began his story as I have set it forth” (16) — and for the next eight chapters, the Time Traveller tells the story of his trip to the future in his own words.”
3. If you are trying to start a new conversation, ASK A QUESTION: pose a clear, concise question for your peers to consider. Ideally, your question will link the formal feature you’ve just described with some aspect of the text’s content, inviting your peers to consider the relationship between the two. You may wish to use the following templates: “Why does the author do ABC when discussing DEF?” or “By doing ABC, does the author suggest DEF?”
If you are responding to a peer’s question, STATE THE RELATIONSHIP: explain the link you’ve noticed between the formal feature you’ve described and the text’s content. You may wish to use the following template: “By doing ABC, the author suggests DEF.”
- For example:
“Why do you think Wells uses the story of the dinner party to frame the Time Traveller’s narrative in this way? How does the guest’s frame narrative ask us to view the Time Traveller, for instance? (Are we encouraged to believe him, or to be skeptical of his story?) What do we learn about the novel’s setting from the frame, and why might these details be important? Lastly, does the frame narrative establish any themes that recur later on in the story — and, if so, which ones?”