High Impact Practices Assignment: Reading and Writing the Brooklyn Bridge

Reading and Writing the Brooklyn Bridge
ENG2000: Introduction to Literature
Professor Johannah Rodgers
Final Project


To engage students in a site-specific collaborative research project related to interpreting texts and responding to texts creatively and critically


We have spent the semester reading texts about Brooklyn in a variety of genres.  We are now going to respond to one of the texts that we have read and respond to the Brooklyn Bridge as “text” by:

1/ Studying the Brooklyn Bridge and what it represents in its current cultural context through collaborative on-site primary research (note-taking, interviewing, journaling, photographing, etc.)

2/ Creating a representation in a medium of your choice reflective of what the bridge represents for you now in its current urban context (writing (creative or expository in genre of your choice), painting, drawing, photography, video, sound, sculpture)

3/ Comparing this representation to other representations of the Brooklyn Bridge that we have read about to consider how our current representations confirm, extend, comment on, erase, or otherwise alter prior representations of the bridge


  1. Documentation of your on-site group research
  2. Presentation of findings and observations from group research
  3. A concrete, concise representation of the bridge that reflects its current cultural status, meaning and context in the medium of your choice (length/size requirements by medium and genre will be forthcoming)
  4. A 3-4 page written essay comparing and contrasting your findings about the Bridge with what the bridge represents and how it is represented in ONE of the works that we have read


TBD:  This assignment will take place over several weeks and drafts of creative and critical projects (#3 and #4 deliverables) will be due one to two weeks prior to final project due dates


Grading rubrics will be distributed for each one of the four deliverables for the project.


•            Retrieve, evaluate, and interpret information from a variety of sources and points of view.
•            Evaluate evidence and arguments critically.
•            Produce well-reasoned written or oral arguments using evidence to support conclusions.
•            Identify and apply the fundamental concepts and research methods of a discipline or interdisciplinary field exploring creative expression, including, but not limited to, communications, creative writing, media arts, music, and theater.
•            Analyze how arts of the past serve as a foundation for those of the present
•            Articulate how meaning is created in the arts or communications and how experience is interpreted and conveyed.
•            Use appropriate technologies to conduct research and to communicate

“A Map of a Cat?”: Interdisciplinarity and Asking Questions

I was particularly struck by the section in the Feynman book entitled “A Map of a Cat?” in which he discusses his transition to and his time at Princeton.  This chapter seemed particularly relevant to us in a gen ed seminar and possibly to our students at City Tech.  First of all, I found his depiction of his visit to the philosophy seminar really funny.  It is, I think, objectively funny, though I’m sure it made me laugh because of my own involvement in the discourse of philosophy and in the study of philosophy.  But the gist of what is being discussed in that short passage recurs in the chapter as a whole.  For instance, when he first arrives at Princeton and is asked if he would like tea with lemon or cream, and he replies, “both,” as well as at the library when he asks the reference librarian for “a map of a cat,” and the reference librarian really has no idea what he is talking about.  The chapter as a whole seems to be about disciplinary boundaries and terminology/cultural terminology, and how important these things are to being seen as an insider or outsider.

I really liked that Feynman was so willing and eager to actually participate in seminars outside of his discipline and to ask questions that in some cases were not relevant, but in some cases very relevant, and, for the most part, be taken seriously.  To me, this chapter is really about how important it is to invite questioning from disciplines other than your own and to take it seriously, even though the terminology/linguistic etiquette is not perfect.  My own research has to do with what allows people to have the authority to ask questions and I find often at City Tech, as many other faculty members do, that our students have very good questions to ask but often do not feel authorized to ask them because of their perceived or actual distance/sense of exclusion from institutions/processes of cultural authorization.

On a separate note, though still on the subject of interdisciplinary coincidences, I was reading an article by David Olson over the break on the subject of literacy history and sociology, and he actually quotes Feynman in his article.  The quote is not from _Surely, You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman_, but elsewhere.  Nevertheless, I found the quote very interesting.  Olson writes, “Revision is ‘work on paper’ in the sense that it is interacting with the written form somewhat independently of the intentions of the writer. Clark (2008) cites an exchange between Nobel- prize winning physicist Richard Feynman and the historian of science Charles Weiner. Weiner had come upon some of Feynman’s original notes that he characterized as Feynman’s ‘record of day-to-day work’. Feynman contested the description saying ‘I actually did the work on the paper … It’s not a record, not really. It’s working. You have to work on paper and this is the paper. Okay?’ (Gleick, 1993, p. 409).”