Outside Reading/Lecture Reactions
last updated 10/12/11

For my classes students are required to attend 2-4 outside lectures, readings, or performances (see your syllabus/calendar for your specific assignment--English 1010 students attend events in the humanities; creative writing students attend live fiction and poetry readings and plays). This assignment helps you observe and engage with the discourse communities/artists/writers you will often encounter in college. When you attend the event, you'll take notes, and then you will write an intelligent reaction to this event (see below, and see your).

When you attend, you should listen with the kind of mind that allows you to wallow in complexity and see the possibilities (and problems) of what is being presented, but also how it is being presented.  Or listen with a mind that is open but critical about why something like a poem or story or play is working, or why it isn't (obviously there are no set answers, but we try to discuss how to talk "intelligently" about writing and the arts in class all my classes).

Here are some questions you can try to work with in your 600 word Outside Reactions:

Again, you should take good notes when you attend so you can quote and/or summarize specific things you want to analyze or critique--always use textual evidence to back up your ideas and opinions.

After you attend, you are required to do a 2 page (600 word), double-spaced reaction based on the above questions or other criteria from class (a reaction is not a formal essay, but it is also not a messy freewrite). This should NOT be a mere summary of what you heard. Professors often want to see you wallowing in complexity about the topic or style/craft issues, analyzing the presenter's rhetorical and/or artistic choices.  You can argue with what you heard, or write about the problematic qualities of the subject (subject-matter focus), or write about how well or how poorly the topic or problem was presented (rhetorical focus), or give your interpretations of meaning, or the ideas you began to think about as you listened, or writing and reading techniques that made you envious or repulsed.  In other words, practice the things we are learning in class.  You could argue against the presenter's use of fallacious logic.  You could critique them for their audience choices.  You could critique them for their nasty use of clichés, or for their overuse of on-the-nose dialogue.  Just be sure to show quick, specific, concrete examples from the event to back up the points you want to make about it.

Click here for an opened-form lecture/performance write-up sample.

I might tell you about upcoming lectures during class or via email.   You can also ask me if other lectures you hear about would qualify for this assignment.   If you absolutely cannot attend a lecture or reading, there are video options.

English 1010 students can watch an interesting/complex humanities or science documentary on PBS (or check out a video from our our library--do a media search on the home page).  Go to www.PBS.org for program listings.  I recommend documentaries found like Frontline, American Experience, American Masters, Great Performances, Now, POV, and Nova.  Of course shows on channels like The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel or The Independent Film Channel or The History Channel can also work well for this assignment (but ask me first).

Creative writing students can find library video documentaries and readings from the Lannan Foundation Poetry or Voices and Visions projects. There are also hundreds of Youtube.com videos of authors giving readings, and of plays. Playwrights will find many plays in our library as well, like the classic The Glass Menagerie or even Hamlet (with Laurence Olivier), or absurdist words like Ionesco's Rhinoceros, or Becket's Waiting for Godot.