My short answer to this question is, I'm not entirely sure. I think it's too easy to say it is "not genre," but consider the novel Station Eleven (the link will take you to the goodreads page for the book). Station Eleven is definitely science fiction/dystopian fiction. But it was a finalist for the National Book Award and was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner, both very prestigious literary prizes.
Something about that text, much like Interior Chinatown, does something more than the the gimmick of a genre (or in the case of Yu's Chinatown, a structure). That's incredibly difficult to pin down, and, in fact, it would seem that it's often the opinion of others that makes something literary and something not. The awards are, after all, the codification of a set of people who have been deemed experts and knowing it when they see it. Basing a texts quality on whether or not it wins an award is about as useful as deciding it is an important text based on sales. Of course both things happen in the actual world.
However, for our ICRN, I'm asking you to treat Interior Chinatown the way you would treat any text you might encounter in any literature class.That is another way to think about what makes a text "literary": what can the reader do with the text? What ideas/motifs/themes/images can a reader dig in to and make mean something? What work does a reader have to do to be able to understand not just plot but purpose in the text?
WHAT TO POST
Thus, post, in 200 to 300 words, a short close reading of some aspect of Interior Chinatown. I'm not asking for reaction. I'm asking for analysis. Make sure I can tell you read the novel.
As we have seen in Interior Chinatown, it can be hard to really pin down what "literary fiction" is because any text can take risks of form and structure. And, also, if what makes something literary fiction is that it deals with big and heavy truths, wrestles with important, sometimes topical, sometimes timeless, human emotions and ideas, well, there again, any text can do that as well.
WHAT TO POST
Sometimes it seems that what makes something literary is that other people, reviewers, publishers, editors, the litterati (whoever they actually are) are the ones who decide. Writers, I think, just write. And yet, it's a category of publishing because there is something different about literary fiction than genre fiction (which we will read later in the semester)--something about a text that can not be reduced to genre like fantasy or science fiction or detective/mystery. It's the something more that others (at least) see as different, as having a certain depth. So the prompt for you to respond to--in 200-300 words--is both sort of simple and sort of not: What is your idea for a piece of "literary" fiction then? It can be a novel-length idea or an idea for a short story.
I know, you didn't sign up for this class to write novels (some of you anyway), and I'm not making you write the actual novel. I'm asking you to play with an idea. Consider the story you'd want to tell, think about your options for how you might tell it, and then try to explain what ideas/theories/philosophies/burning questions of the day your story might try to explore. If it looks like genre fiction on it's outside, what about its inside makes it "something more."
THEN RESPOND TO (AT LEAST) ONE COLLEAGUE
Whose story do you you really love and why? You can respond to more than one if you love more than one. Essentially, whose story do you really wish they'd write because you would want to read it.
You have until next class to post, but, as always, I suggest you get this done in the half hour after our class ends.
ICRN#2: Journalism/news reporting
Today's ICRN prompt: What are the characteristics of this kind of writing? What differences do you see between the various kinds of reporting (sub-genres if you will)? What sort of surprises you about journalism--so what is NOT the movie version of being a reporter.
NOTE: Reading folks posts from last week, please try to get around 200 words down. It can be more, but some folks wrote little more than one sentence. Additionally, please make direct references to what we read/listened to this week. Part of the point of this assignment is to make sure that you are actually doing the reading. Last week, everyone got a "VSR" for Very Strong Reading just for posting. Going forward, if it's not clear to me that you did the reading, you will earn a "BR" or Bad Reading. You can revise, of course, as long as you post today. If you are confused about ICRNs and how they are scored, take a look at the ICRN assignment page for this class.
Once you've posted your response to this post, read and respond to one other person by connecting one of the readings they don't talk about to the characteristics/differences/surprises they do talk about. Again, aim for about 100 words in your response unless you are dying write more.
So you've read a wide-variety of reportage for this week. Hopefully you have a sense of what makes good reporting good. For this week's asynchronous portion of the class, please post roughly 200 words in response to this prompt:
Pitch an article for publication in the BSU Comment. Here are some ground rules:
1) It has to be possible to do. What I mean is, you are not in a position to travel to Syria to cover rebel holdings. You can not go on deep cover in a drug-trafficking ring. These are sort of way out there, and there are a lot of other things that might seem possible, but, if you really think about it--travel, covid, cost, danger, legality--just aren't possible.
2) It can't be a review. The Comment gets lots of folks who want to write movie, TV, or book reviews. I get it. It's fun. You don't have to do any real reporting work. They have too much of that stuff. It ways down the paper.
3) It can't be about sports. Sort of the same reasons as above. The Comment gets a lot of stuff about Boston teams.
4) It needs to be relevant to the local. You can pick something that is about campus. You can pick something about the town of Bridgewater. You can pick something about one of the local high schools that send a lot of kids to BSU (Brockton, B/R, etc).
Essentially, I'm asking you to pitch a story that you could conceivably do and that would exercise the skills required of good reporting. I'm not asking you to do this article, but this can be a way to add to your resume this semester. I will share these article ideas with the faculty adviser of The Comment and see if she/The Comment Staff (several of whom are in our class) would be interested in pursuing them. Once I hear back, you will have the option to write and submit the article. You'll have a week to do it--because part of writing for a newspaper is writing fast and to a deadline.
Having heard from Adam and Marino, let's try our hand at some of this work. Included here is some copy about Covid Vaccine roll out.
Programs are encouraged to contact existing partners to determine if they have the capacity to operate a vaccine clinic or mobile vaccine distribution. If you identify a clinical partner, your agency contact can work with DPH to ensure your clinical partner is allocated vaccine.
Try your hand at making it more precise and easier for readers of any skill level and language ability to understand. Figure out what you need to figure out about what it is actually saying. And consider the audience: who is reading this? Why are they reading it? What state of mind are they in as they read? How much time do they have to read? How much are they willing to figure out? How patient are they?
Other things to keep in mind:
When you are ready, send your copy through this reading-level checker to see what grade level your material (https://www.webfx.com/tools/read-able/check.php) incase the link doesn't work. Include your score in your post. Don't like the score you got? Try again. You are welcome to try as many times as your want.
Ideally, writing for the public should read around the 6th to 8th grade level--that's not easy when you are dealing with big concepts.
Technical & Professional writing jobs are probably one of those career paths that you don't ever think about until you are at a certain place in life--because it's not like being a doctor or lawyer or teacher or fireman. No kid grows up saying, yeah, I want to write directions for a living. But technical and professional writing can be fun--no, I'm serious. It's a kind of nitty-gritty writing that makes change in the world. And that's pretty cool. It's a huge and varied field from the very technical (instructions on how to shut down a nuclear reactor) to the very whimsical (how to keep turkey's from attacking you). My point is, it's something to think about.
FOR TODAY'S ICRN, respond to this question: In what ways is "professional" or "technical" writing different from what I would call "student writing"--or writing for school? In what ways do you see it as similar? Finally, what can you take with you from "school writing" to "professional" settings?
USE THIS SPACE to post questions that you might otherwise email me, particularly questions that you think the entire class would like to know the answer too. You'll have an answer within 24 hours of posting. Certainly continue to email me with questions of a personal nature, but use this page for the kinds of questions folks are typically asking in class.
ADDITIONALLY, use this space this week in particular to ask questions related to the Syllabus Check In assignment, explained on the syllabus, due this week.
It can be helpful to write out what you think you might do for this first major project of the semester, and it is useful for us to do it where everyone in the class can see. Sometimes an idea you have will inspire/remind someone of something from their past writing life. Additionally, it will help me help you--I can respond to everyone and everyone can see what I say to everyone else. Some bit of advice I give to one person can often be good advice for many (well, I hope good--that sounded arrogant; not all my advice is good).
Post: Use this space to talk through one more ideas for your Rethink/Revise. Don't feel like you've got to sound sure or if you have seven ideas. Don't overthink it. Post what you think you might revise and why--and what worries you about revising that thing.
Respond: to classmates with suggestions, reassurance, connections to your own project. As I read, I will offer suggestions and also get a sense of who will be in what small workshop group for the for the first part of the semester.
What should our blog be about
Having read through what folks posted to the discussion board, one thing that almost everyone thought would be a good idea, is to create and manage a blog. This is an easy and manageable project given that we have roughly 15 weeks in a semester and 15 people in the class. Additionally, a post to a blog can count as an ICRN or a Writer's notebook entry and, if needed, can excuse an absence that might otherwise affect your grade.
In order to do this project, we need to have an excellent idea for a short-term blog that a wide range of participants can contribute to. Use this space to pitch your idea for a blog. If you don't have an idea, respond to ideas you see that you think are good ones. Alternatively, you can add to or otherwise modify a suggestion that you think is good but good be better.
Using your participation in this discussion board, we'll decide on a blog project for the class, and students will sign up for a week to post something. From there on out the project will be on you.
NOTE: it could be possible to combine this with other professionalization opportunities. For instance, if this is a blog that other English majors might value, we could link to or in some way connect to the existing social media sponsored for and by the English Department. But we don't have to go that route. I only suggest it as a way to increase your audience and potentially audience interaction with the blog.
Torda and the 489s
We'll use this space for synchronous and asynchronous work this semester. Q&A discussion board is housed in February archives of this blog. I check it weekly.