(pdf of this assignment here)
HUM 103-104 paper 1 assignment, the difficulty-engagement paper Sept – Oct 2019
Consider your uncertainty as signal for work to be done.
In this assignment, the first formal paper in our course, you will further the work you have done already in your posts in two ways. We ask that you return to the problem of reading and explaining and connecting a difficult passage. While you will work through the same steps of reading and re-reading, asking questions, looking up terms, making notes, and talking with your fellow Humesters and the Fellows as you draft your paper, this time you’ll make that sort of process work less visible, less explicit, to your readers. And also in this paper, you will use another specific passage, from another author, to engage with the passage from your first author’s text and help explain that difficult passage. Think Freud and Augustine, for example, but in detail and grounded in close work with the two texts. Professor Quillen’s unit is rich with exciting possibilities for using one text to help us understand another. So, you have what we can call a difficulty text and another we can call an engagement text. The latter helps you to understand something interesting (!) or answer a question (?) for you and your readers about the former. They need not follow chronologically. Locke might help you provide insights into (thus help you engage with) some difficult aspect of Fanon, just as Morrison might provide insights into Marx. Metaphors might be helpful as you think about your paper: A lock and a key? A game and a player? A house and a tool? A tissue sample and a staining agent? Use only texts from authors we’ve read in the course. You may (if you’d like) choose to write about a text you’ve already used in one of your posts, but use one text you have not written about yet—either as the difficult text, or as the engagement text.
- When choosing your difficult passage, look to your own notes and marginalia for expressions of frustration, confusion, or questions. Consider Salvatori and Donahue’s advice from The Elements (and Pleasures) of Difficulty: “When you encounter moments in a text that seem strange, unanticipated, unpredictable, surprising, or counterintuitive – that is a promising place to begin. Trust that response. Consider your uncertainty as signal for work to be done.”
- Re-read or view your selection after taking a break, with fresh eyes, with different assumptions. Question your own first ideas or preconceptions and make notes about words or images or references you don’t understand, assumptions about the reader’s background that don’t match yours, punctuation, cuts, register, tone: basically, anything that causes you to pause even for a moment in frustration or puzzlement.
- Then find a lens, a stance, attitude, focal point, orientation—some position from another author’s work—that, by engaging with the first text, helps illuminate (enlighten maybe?) this difficult passage you’ve chosen, for you now and later, as you write, for your readers.
An excellent difficulty-engagement paper:
- considers a genuinely difficult passage which is significant to the text as a whole;
- helps your reader understand that passage by bringing it into conversation or confrontation with the work of another author;
- develops a specific observation, claim, or argument supported by adequate textual evidence, rather than floating along the surface of ideas with vague or unsubstantiated claims;
- illuminates your process of discovery for the reader;
- presents your ideas with clarity and grace, and thus avoids verbal clutter, clichés, typos, awkward syntax, and overly colloquial phrases;
- acknowledges the work and ideas of others;
- follows perfectly The Chicago Manual of Style for punctuation and citation;
- has a cover page with a title and a bibliography (works cited) page; the pages are numbered;
- is 1000 – 1200 words long, that is, four to five pages, double spaced, in Times New Roman font;
- is delivered on time to your teachers, fellows, and peer review partners in the dropbox in the proper folder, with the correct filename protocol.
We will spend about three weeks on this first paper: about ten days for the first draft, then a week of revision, then a second draft with a final week for peer review and revision. Put your drafts in the proper dropbox folder, with the following filename convention. (This protocol will be the same for all your papers in the course this year.)
LastnameFirstnamepaper1draft1.docx (or pdf or pages)
Don’t print out your drafts or papers for faculty unless they ask you to, but do bring two printed copies (always double-sided) of your drafts to your peer review session and your one-on-one writing tutor sessions with our fellows. Those will begin the week of September 23 and run for two weeks.
September 20, 5:00 pm. Draft 1 of paper 1 due.
- Monday September 23 – Thursday September 26: then meet one-on-one with a Fellow in a half-hour writing tutor session. Scheduling for your writing tutor sessions begins on Saturday September 21 for meetings Monday through Thursday that week. You must use the writing center scheduler here to book those meetings. Each fellow will conduct ten half-hour sessions. Pick any fellow based on times they have open. But once a fellow has ten appointments, they can’t do any more that week.
- Only after you have met with a fellow, meet with your section faculty member; they will organize how you sign up for meetings times with them. Those will normally be 15-minute meetings.
- So . . . for example, you book a fellow session for Monday and a faculty session for Wednesday.
- There are no AT meetings this week.
September 27, 5:00 pm. Draft 2 of paper 1 due.
- Monday September 30 – Thursday October 3: meet one-on-one with your peer review partner and meet again one-on-one with a Fellow in a writing tutor session. You must use the writing center scheduler here to book those meetings.
- There are no AT meetings this week.
- Friday, October 4, 5:00 pm. Paper 1 due.
- Monday – Friday October 7-11, required paper 1 assessment meetings with faculty. Again, 15 minutes each.
Note that you can see everyone’s work in this class. That’s a good thing. We want you to be able to learn from your peers, to share your work easily and transparently, and to be accountable to your coursemates. We encourage you to read your peers’ work. Let them know what you learned. Give them a tip or advice or a compliment. Ask them a question.
Finally, note that while you are working on your first paper, we
will still have posts, due, as usual, on Sundays. The metaphor here might be
that of a juggler adding a fourth ball. Readings, posts, discussions, and now,
a formal analytical paper—and all at once. It’s beautiful to watch others and exhilarating
to do for yourself. Enjoy!
 Mariolina Rizzi Salvatori and Patricia Donahue, The Elements (and Pleasures) of Difficulty (White Plains, NY: Longman, 2004), 7.
 I would like to thank Professor Amanda Ewington for the original concept of the difficulty paper, and for providing much of the original format and wording used in this assignment. —Scott Denham
 See the writing and domain resources page—go here often—under the resources tab on our course pages for information on what we refer to as Chicago style.