Thursday, January 26, 2012


In a recent email, Dr. John Luukkonen, Acting Provost and Dean of the Division of Arts and Sciences at TCI, announced that the Spring 2012 Faculty Convocation will be held on Wednesday, 1 February 2012, at noon and at half past five (there are two sessions, so that day and evening faculty can both attend).  Consequently, it is likely that office hours on that day will be curtailed, so as to allow sufficient time to transit to another campus.

Office hours will be held in my regular office, 940 8th Avenue, Room 4001A, however long they are held on 1 February.  No appointment is necessary, but if you are later in the hour, I might have already had to head out.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sample Summary

Students, please find below another sample of how to carry out the kind of summary required for ENG 099, as discussed here.

On 23 January 2012, Stanley Fish's "Mind Your P's and B's: The Digital Humanities and Interpretation" appeared in the online New York Times.  In the article, Fish complains that the tools being developed and employed by digital humanities scholars are changing methods of study for the worse by eliminating the possibility and need for critical interpretation.  He opens by carrying out a mock-reading of Milton's Areopagitica, using it as an exemplar of the kind of work that digital humanities facilitates, pointing out the inadequacy of such work by asserting that the simple existence of a pattern does not suffice to support a given interpretation of that pattern.  Fish moves on to assert that the simple identification of patterns is the focus of digital humanities research, a paradigm diametrically opposed to the methods by which literary criticism has been carried out for nearly a century.  He assails digital humanities work because it does not, in his view, offer closure and meaning, but rather rejects the certainty of meaning that he presents as the end-point of his own critical analysis.  Unfortunately, the article fails to convince for several reasons: he indulges in reductio ad absurdum arguments based on supposition errors (such as a tacit assertion that digital humanities research never approaches a text with an idea of critical approach already in hand, that researchers wholly hand over their agency to the machines), over-simplification, and, in his last paragraph, an excessive degree of smirking sarcasm.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sample Definition Paper

Below appears an example of the definition paper, as discussed here, suited to the Spring 2012 term theme.  Be advised that it is of acceptable length for the assignment when formatted appropriately for submission as a paper, and that it is merely an example of how the definition paper is to be carried out.

It is a commonplace among educators in the United States that one of the major purposes of education is to suit students to become good citizens.  Often unexamined, however, is what it means to be a "good citizen," and there is markedly little consensus on that score.  A number of examples of good citizenry are able to be identified, however, and their common features offer a possible model for good citizenship as participation in the structures of public order coupled with the willingness and ability to question and resist those structures in the interest of improving them .  The model emerges from examination of such mainstream fictional characters as Captain America from The Ultimates and B.J. Hunnicutt from M*A*S*H.

The character Captain America is one embedded in the dominant popular culture of the United States through a movie released early in the second decade of the twenty-first century and a long term of appearance in comic books.  In one series of those comics, The Ultimates, he is portrayed as having volunteered to take part in the World War II Super Soldier program (Millar, Gods).  Having entered the United States military to fight against Nazi Germany marks him as having participated in the support of public structures in a significant way; it is not without cause that those who served in World War II are referred to as the "Greatest Generation," and in the comics, Captain America is touted as the foremost among them.  He is not, however, wholly and mindlessly obedient to the commands of the hierarchy in which he participates; he does at times take actions which his superiors condemn but which accord with his own personal code of ethics.  For example, he at one point falsifies reports of having permission to go off base and requisition military equipment to pursue a personal vendetta, not because someone has wronged him, personally, but because he takes exception to an action he learns has occurred (Millar, Homeland).  Although the action, an act of domestic abuse, is one that deserves execration, Captain America violates standard protocol and the rule of law to punish it on his own initiative.  The action, though, goes unpunished, tacitly approving it.  The approval suggests that it is a good thing for even so prominent a citizen as Captain America is in The Ultimates to, from time to time, act outside of the strictures to which good citizenship such as Captain America's normally adheres.

On the long-running television series M*A*S*H, B.J. Hunnicutt is a doctor from the San Francisco, California, area who is drafted into the United States Army during the Korean Conflict.  While in service, he is assigned as a surgeon at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, the MASH that gives the series its name.  There, he performs admirably, saving the lives of a number of American and United Nations servicemen, Korean civilians, and even at times in the series, enemy troops who have been captured or who have surrendered.  He does largely conform to the structures of the army into which he is drafted; he follows the orders of his commanding officer, accords that officer the displays of respect expected by the situation, wears appropriate uniform attire when on duty, and remains at his post at the assigned times.  Hunnicutt is presented as an everyman character; he is competent, even skillful, but not superlative in his abilities, and his concerns reflect the ideals often presented as those of the "mainstream" white middle class--a population regarded (problematically) as unmarked and therefore a standard from which to judge deviation.  His adherence to standards is therefore likened with model citizenship.  At the same time, he is willing to set aside the rules and regulations of the army when doing so will serve the greater good.  For example, in the episode "The Korean Surgeon," Hunnicutt joins his fellow doctor, Hawkeye Pierce, in aiding an enemy physician impersonate an allied doctor, an action which results in the saving of several lives before being uncovered and punished as an execution of several criminal acts.  That Hunnicutt undertakes such an action, one which flagrantly violates a number of the regular rules of the military specifically and society generally, placing the benefits above the potential penalties, suggests that such model citizens as Hunnicutt is likened to will do the same.  The suggestion is reinforced by the fact that Hunnicutt is not punished for his participation in the act; the very structures against which he rebels, structures which he normally adheres to, tacitly approve his violation of them for cause.  Citizenship is thus presented as a nuanced thing, one that allows for criticism of the structures it normally upholds.

There are certainly other examples that can be pointed out of fictional good citizens, and recourse to them will no doubt allow for an enhanced understanding of what good citizenship is.  Good citizenship is a cornerstone of civilization itself, and so anything that aids in understanding it works to the betterment of society.

Works Cited
"The Korean Surgeon." M*A*S*H. 20th Century Fox, 2006. DVD.
Millar, Mark. The Ultimates, Volume 2: Homeland Security. New York: Marvel, 2004. Print.
---. The Ultimates 2, Volume 1: Gods & Monsters. New York: Marvel, 2005. Print.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Students, please be advised of the following:

On 18 and 25 January 2012, my office hours will be held at the 40th Street campus, room PA-310, due to regularly scheduled advising.  The time, 11am, is unchanged.

Syllabi are going up on the website.  Those for ENG 099, ENG 101, and HUM 110 exhibit some slight changes from those distributed in hard copy during class time.  The changes reflect expressions of preferred policy from the dean and coordinators under whose jurisdictions the classes fall.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sample Summary

What appears below is excerpted and slightly adapted from another blog I maintain.

Michael-John DePalma's "Re-envisioning Religious Discourses as Rhetorical Resources in Composition Teaching: A Pragmatic Response to the Challenge of Belief" appears in the December 2011 issue of CCC.  In the article, DePalma argues that the pragmatism outlined by William James obliges composition teachers to allow the use of religious discourse by students of faith as a means to negotiate the tasks of composition and to perform the acts of knowledge production that are often encouraged in first-year writing.  In doing so, DePalma articulates the commonly-held dichotomy between religious and academic understandings, citing a fair amount of scholarship to assert that the view is widely held before applying James's pragmatism to undermining the view.  He also provides an extended case study of a former student's writing, using it as an exemplar of successful classroom performance by a student who is very much a person of faith.  DePalma is careful to point out the difficulties attendant upon opening mainstream composition teaching to the use of religious resources, but he argues that the benefits to teachers and students justify enduring the challenges thereof.  The article is an effective outline of a pedagogical approach, one well-grounded in theory and speaking to common sense.