Analytical Thinking and Writing
English 110C: First-Year English Composition
Summer 2000, M/W: 9:30 - 11:18 AM, Denney Hall 312
Reading Journal and Essay Prompts
Reading Journal Entries
These informal responses encourage you to actively engage the texts at hand. Further, they will help you generate ideas for the formal essays. [typed, single-spaced, at least 250 words each]
These formal essays encourage you to develop ideas
(from the reading journals) into a cohesive, coherent, and sustained argumentative
analysis. [typed, double spaced, between 1000 and 1500 words;
must conform to MLA format as exemplified in
the MLA handout I've provided]
Reading Journal 1
in class: Compare and contrast
your family dynamic to that portrayed by your favorite family situation
comedy on television now or in the past. Some questions to consider
in your analysis: What kind of model does the program evoke? In what
ways does your family live up to the myth? Does your family actively
or intuitively strive to be like the characters on television? And
what motivates that desire anyway? How do you feel if your family
doesn't conform to the stereotype?
Reading Journal 2
outside of class: What
would de Tocqueville say about the equality of the sexes in your country
if he visited there today? First, explain de Tocqueville’s understanding
of gender roles and relations in nineteenth-century America; and then apply
his understanding to your culture in the present.
Reading Journal 3
in class: How do you relate
to your (ethnic or gendered) body? Respond to and build upon
the ideas advanced by Cofer, Katz, or Nelson by discussing your
experience of your body based upon how your family, peers, local community, or media culture made you feel about your color or gender.
Due to our 20 minute time constraint, please limit your response to one
issue (ethnicity or gender) and one influence (family or peers or so forth).
Who are you? What do you believe,
and why do you believe this way? For the first essay, choose
one of your core values (preferrably related to family or gender) and place
it under interrogation. Where and from whom or what did you learn
it? Family, peers, school, media, religion? How do you enact
that value? Do you practice what you believe? How is that value
tested and challenged? Family, peers, school, media, religion?
Don't pick a value that you take for granted; rather, select one of which
you have significant, reasonable doubts which you would like to work through.
Possible values include but are not limited to: parental roles or distribution
of parental duties between the sexes or partners; the reason for and results
of sexual difference; how one should treat the opposite sex or one's own
sex; conceptions of what are proper masculine or feminine traits, behavior,
and duties in the areas of career or sexuality; body image in terms of
gendered racial and cultural standards. Possible questions to ask
to get you started: What kind of man or woman are you? What kind
of parent are you or would you like to become? How do you feel about
your body? How do you feel about sexuality? How do you feel
about the relationship between the sexes? How do you relate to others
of your gender? Feel free to use the essays we've read as a springboard
for your thoughts, but don't feel compelled to quote their arguments (we'll
work on using sources in later essays). The goal of this essay is
self-reflection, self-analysis. Analyzing your life experience and
using reasonable logic, examine your assumptions about a particular issue:
argue the reasons why you believe the way you believe while at the same
time taking into account the effect of opposing values and reasoning on
your belief system.
Reading Journal 4
in class: Discuss either 1) your personal experience with the class issue: How did you come to know
class difference? How do you experience class conflict today? or 2) the logic that governs class distinction: How do big business, the government,
and the media justify such enormous disparities in wealth and income between
classes? If you don't believe their argument, explain why.
Reading Journal 5
outside of class: Generation
X creates a working definition of the twenty-something generation in
the early nineties. Do you feel that you are a part of a generation?
If so, what are some of the general characteristics of your generation?
Describe your generation's outlook on life. Now compare and contrast
those core traits and that basic outlook with your parent's generation.
The first essay asked you to describe
what made you you through personal reflection and personal experience.
In this essay, analyze a social experience, preferrably related to either
class or generation. Reflect upon and respond to an issue covered
in the readings or class discussion. You may pick an issue of importance
to a particular class or generation of society—for example, but certainly
not limited to, division of labor, division of wealth, consumerism and
the attainment of material goods. Or you may choose to define
the characteristics of and then interrogate the situation of a particular
class or generation of society. What are its attitudes toward life,
labor, love? Another approach to this essay would be to compare and
contrast classes. Some classes or generations to work with in your
paper include but are not limited to the upper class, middle, or lower
class; blue collar or white collar workers, the working class or the working
poor; the professional business class or corporate culture; Generation
X, the baby boomer generation, or your own generation. Make sure
that your essay has a focused thesis, coherent organization, and effective
evidence as we've been practicing in class. As with the first essay,
I encourage you to respond to, or even include as evidence, relevant readings
we've covered in class, but it's a suggestion for successful focus and
is not mandatory.
Reading Journal 6
in class: Pretend you’re writing a paper on Coupland’s Generation
X. You’ve already written an introduction that states your thesis
as “Douglas Coupland’s Generation X criticizes middle class desire.”
For this journal, write a supporting paragraph dealing with either Andy’s reflections
upon his family during his Christmas visit or the definitions in the sidebars
that abound in most chapters of the novel.
Reading Journal 7
in class: What's your relationship
with and attitude toward technology? Do you love it? Do you
hate it? Do you need it? Do you fear it? Why?
Reading Journal 8
in class: Select a character
from American Beauty and draw a character sketch of him or her.
What does she want? What does she fear? How does she act?
How does others think of her? How does she end up?
Reading Journal 9
outside of class: In Don DeLillo's White Noise, how
does the family in as a whole react to the airborne toxic event? What
part does the media play in the family’s actions?
Using at least two outside sources (at least one must be in print),
analyze one of the texts we’ve read in the past few weeks. If the text
you choose to analyze is an argumentative article (for instance, about the media
in Solomon, the news in Rapping, technology in Thomas and Kelly), then your
essay should participate in arguing the issue or debate. If the text you
choose to analyze is a work of fiction (for instance, American Beauty or White Noise), then your essay should interpret a major character or
Reading Journal 10
in class: The major theme of White
Noise is death. What do you think the novel is ultimately arguing
about humanity's relationship with or attitude toward death? In composing
your thoughts, draw from such specific examples as the various SIMUVAC incidents,
Oreste the snakesitter, consumer goods and advertising, the family's desire
for real-life catastrophe on television, Murray's thoughts on technology, Winnie
Richard's argument about our need for death, Jack and Babette's fears, Wilder's
fearlessness, and the concluding (apocalyptic) image of the family watching
the chemical sunset.