Guidelines for Readings


* Students should read 100-150 pages over the semester.

Any fewer, and it will be tough to generate enough ideas to sustain student writing; any more, and reading will start to overwhelm writing.
* As often as possible, readings should serve as models for writing.

Use readings that produce academic arguments (that is, which employ problem statements and the parts of argument). In this way, readings will not only further the class conversation about theme, but about writing. Every reading need not produce a perfect, prototypical argument--in fact, it's helpful to talk about how and why particular authors and genres omit or rearrange the prototype.
* Vary the field and genre of readings.

Just as we want students to learn to write academic arguments in a variety of fields, they should read arguments from a variety of fields. If your theme is film noir, include some history and economics pieces alongside film criticism and reviews; if your theme is the stock market, include a piece on Oliver Stone's Wall Street or Martha Stewart's rise and fall. Similarly, try to include a variety of sources: not just academic journals and book excerpts, but web writing, 'zines, magazines, and newspapers.
* Excerpt and summarize readings, especially difficult texts.

You can incorporate new ideas without adding pages of readings if you photocopy a paragraph or two from an article, or make a list of provocative claims (and ask students to come up with reasons and evidence to support them), or even rewrite a difficult passage so that it's more accessible to your students.

This works especially well with challenging texts. Remember that you are not teaching a graduate seminar (or even an undergraduate seminar) in the theme; chapters of Foucault and Freud are likely to be so abstruse that untangling their meaning will take up most of the class' time.
* Rely on student research.

You need not gather all of the readings yourself. As the semester goes on, rely on students to identify areas of interest, find articles, and share them with/summarize them for the class.