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Critical Response Essay #1: Assignment Sheet and Rewriting Tips

Assignment: You have several options for your first critical response paper; however, unlike some of your other papers in this course, you will not have the option of making up your own topic or question for this first paper. Choose one of the questions below and answer it, drawing on at least one of the stories we've read thus far in the course (from Leone to Hawthorne):

Format: 2-4 pages (roughly 400-1200 words), with a title and a heading that includes the course number or title, your name, and the date; word-processed; double-spaced; font Times 12 point or similar; preferably laser-printed. [Please be aware that you'll get a better grade if you first develop your ideas fully, without feeling that you have to stop at a certain page or word limit, and then go back and condense, cut, and otherwise revise to be as concise and clear as possible. Don't let the page limit limit your exploration of ideas.]

Due: Monday, 2/8/99, in the envelope outside my office door (Fenton 240) by 7:00 pm.

Texts: Any story or combination of stories by Paul Leone, Charles Chesnutt, Joseph Bruchac, Robert Olen Butler, and Nathaniel Hawthorne that we've read in class thus far.

Stats About Your First Drafts

27 answered question #2, 17 did question #4, 10 did question #1, 9 did question #5, and 1 did question #3.

The grade distribution on first drafts was as follows: A+=0, A=0, A-=3, B+=8, B=10, B-=11, C+=11, C=6, C-=10, D+ and below=5. Remember that if you choose to rewrite, your new grade replaces your grade on your first draft.

Tips for Rewriting

I will accept rewrites up until the day the second critical response essay is due. It is in your best interest to hand in your rewrite as soon as possible, so that you may get more comments from me on your writing before beginning to compose critical response essay #2. I am available during office hours and by appointment to discuss strategies for re-vision and rewriting. Do not turn in your revised paper until you have considered my comments carefully and read the following paragraphs. They contain crucial advice.

First off, you should not rewrite unless you plan to do more than simply fixing typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. (Please note that in my comments on your papers, I do not copy-edit papers [although I point out patterns and suggest some sentence-level revisions]--it is up to you to find and fix these kinds of problems.) Unless you plan on revisiting your main argument, the way you organized your essay, and your use of evidence, what you do will not be a true "re-vision" of your essay at all. Only such re-visions will have a good chance of getting a higher grade.

More important, it is only by going through such a re-vision process that you will truly learn how to write more effectively. It's a cliche--but still true--that you have to treat your mistakes and failed experiments as learning experiences. Think of the last time you had to learn a difficult skill that required of you some persistence and ability to deal with frustrations and obstacles (from, say, learning to drive a stick shift to the last video game you learned to play to the last lab course you took to the last math proof you tried to derive). Learning the craft of writing is no different.

Moreover, no professional writer expects to get a draft perfect the first time--hardly anyone even comes close--and they accept that rewriting is where most of the real work of writing happens. In fact, many prefer the re-vision process to the process of generating ideas and composing a first draft, as crazy as that might sound to you.

So be sure to read my comments on your paper carefully and devote some time to thinking about what you want to change. The following pointers may also be helpful:

The following aspects are less important in some ways but more important in others. The key emphasis in this course is not on the sentence-level of your writing and below--it is much more focused on the conceptual and structural levels of writing. However, in most of your other courses and outside of college you will be judged on more "surface" aspects of your writing. And as your reading experience should show, it is not that an author's ideas float somewhere independent of the words on the page and how they are arranged; rather, in the best writing, every word (even some punctuation marks!) counts. So even though I won't be commenting as much on these aspects of writing in detail on your papers, I still consider them to be quite important:

M A I N * N E W S * T O P I C S * L I N K S * R E S E R V E S

EN 209: Novels and Tales, Spring 1999
Created: 2/16/99, 10:02 am
Last modified: 3/11/99, 8:59 pm