15. Final Announcment

Hey all,

This Wednesday we will have our final Zoom call in which we will loop back to Gloria Naylor’s text on “A Word’s Meaning…”–the one we read at the beginning of the semester.  This time we’ll be scanning it for tricks it can teach us for writing a better Essay 3.  Please have a look if you can, before the Zoom.  It is quite short.

Also, as mentioned last week, final portfolios are due this week by the end of the day Wednesday.  Let me know if you need an extra day or two of time to finish.  I’ll be looking here for a link to your Google folder containing the below items; please be sure you’ve clicked on that link < and shared your Google Folder with me (otherwise, you run the risk of my thinking you dropped the class).  Here’s the stuff to make sure is in your Google folder:

–Essay 1 (2-3 drafts, meaning 2-3 different files)

–Essay 2 (2 drafts, meaning 2 different files)

–Essay 3 (optional grade boost, but most of you will want this if you’ve missed work)

–3 Revised OpenLab Friday Prompts (this can be one document but be sure to include your original post, my comments, and your revised post)

–Revision Reflection (~1 page: at least 1 paragraph describing the *specific* revisions you made to Essay 1; at least 1 paragraph describing revisions to Essay 2; at least 1 paragraph describing how your writing has changed this semester and/or how you’ve begun to think about writing—and/or reading—differently since the summer)

As always, email me with questions.   Good luck!


14. For Fri 12/11

Mining OED for Multiple Definitions of a Word

Many of us arrive in college thinking that there is only one “right” definition for each word, and that the dictionary provides us with this “proper” definition. This is far from accurate.

Essay 2 asks you to play with multiple ways of defining and understanding the word “virus,” in light of your experiences during the 2019-2020 Covid pandemic. For this assignment I want us to take inspiration from Jesse McCarthy’s essay on the different meanings of the word “trap.” McCarthy turns early on in his text to the Oxford English Dictionary in order to locate interesting and obscure ideas relating to the meaning of his word of interest (“trap”). Similarly, I want us to “mine” (meaning “look for”) different definitions of the term “virus” from the OED

What I want you do is simple:

–Go to the OED (log in using your City Tech info)

–Find and copy in your response below two or more odd definitions related to the word “virus”

–Discuss anything unusual, interesting, funny, or otherwise bizarre that you notice about these different meanings related to “virus”—as well as any questions or points of confusion you experience in reviewing these meanings.

–Lastly, discuss how looking through the different definitions of the term virus has changed the way you think about this word—and, perhaps, the 2019-2020 pandemic.

13. For Friday 12/4

For Friday:
One Last Addition to Essay 2

Recall that Essay 2 asks for you to include a quotation from one article you’ve found on your own and one quotation from a text we’ve read together—and to connect these to your discussion of your Essay 2 song. For Friday I want you to find a text we’ve read together (from the Google Drive folder of readings) that connects to your Essay 2 song or social issue. I want you to do several things with this text, creating a paragraph of your own writing about it as you do:

–Find a quotation from this text that you can connect to your Essay 2

–Write a paragraph: begin by explaining the connection to your song/social issue, then introduce the quotation using the names of the author and title. Finish your quotation with an MLA-formatted in-text citation (see below) and a transitional phrase that leads into your discussion of the quote’s wording and significance (eg This quote shows… / What this passage suggests…). Finish your paragraph by tying back to the connection to your social issue/song that you began with.

–Below your paragraph, use Bibme to create an MLA Works Cited citation entry for your text you’re quoting from. Refer to the MLA Citation Guide I’ve created as well for additional help.

EX: (I did two paragraphs—the first is a transition and recap for context and then my second paragraph is where I quote from a text we’ve read and link it to my demo “Essay 2 song”)

As I’ve been suggesting so far, the theme of deception appears in several different ways in the video and soundtrack of Beyonce’s “Partition.” Not only does Beyonce routinely present herself as a shadowy silhouette in the video, but her suggestion in her lyrics that “I just want to be the girl you like… the girl you like is right here with me” suggests there to be a kind of “twoness” in her which leaves us guessing: who is she really—the woman wanting to be the girl or the girl herself?

While it may seem something of a stretch, this theme of deception in Beyonce’s work can be thought of as a kind of provocateurship that is linkable to the online phenomenon of trolling. As an artist in the age of the internet, Beyonce knows that part of going viral is provoking her audiences in ways that may offend many viewers (see, for instance, my earlier discussion of Bell Hooks and Bill O’Reilly). Beyonce’s willingness to provoke her audience in certain ways is what links her to what might be called “troll culture.” As Noah Berlatsky notes in “Beyonce, Sex Terrorist,” if we observe Beyonce’s work carefully, we notice that “what she says is quite pointed” (Berlatsky). For Berlatsky, Beyonce’s “Partition” is aware of “the pressure to be respectable” coming from critics like Hooks and O’Reilly, and the song actively subverts this pressure. He continues: “the video is a fantasy about steamy married monogamous sex, which works deliberately to make O’Reilly’s conservative values look sexy and illicit. It’s also a re-imagining of black female eroticism as linked to power rather than subservience, which turns hooks’s respectability politics into a self-aware sensual tease” (Berlatsky). As this quote makes clear, Beyonce’s work manifests a kind of critical intelligence even as it may appear to be just one more form of overly sexualized pop media garbage. There is a logic to this garbage, Berlatsky reminds us, and in Beyonce’s unabashedness—not only her exposing of her body and sexuality for the camera but also for the subtler details in her work such as dropping a napkin for a white servant to pick up—there is something of a provocateur, perhaps even something of a troll. Berlatsky’s point is basically that, beyond the play of light and shadow that is part of Beyonce’s Sasha Fierce schtick, she could be thought of as admirably trolling—that is, challenging and critiquing—the demand for women’s “respectability” on both the right and left.

Works Cited

Berlatsky, Noah. “Beyoncé, Sex Terrorist: A Menace for Conservatives and Liberals Alike.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 12 May 2014, www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/05/beyonce-sex-terrorist-a-menace-for-conservatives-and-liberals-alike/362085/.

No Zoom class or New work due this week (Holiday!)

Please use this week to rest, catch up (virtually if need be) with fam, and catch up on work for this class.  You might:

–FInish missing blog posts and comments on OpenLab

–Revise Essay 1

–Revise Essay 2

–Begin Essay 3

I will be in touch in the days after Thanksgiving with info on readings etc. for next week.  Enjoy break!

12. For Friday, 11/20

NOTES: Essay 3 Assignment posted–please read!  No class next week; stay tuned for what to do over Thanksgiving break!

For Friday, 11/20

Re-reading to Re-Write

The following prompt is designed to help you rewrite the beginning of your paragraphs in your Essay 2 so that your points become clearer to your reader.

Re-read a paragraph from your Essay 2 and as you read, think: what is the big picture of what I’m saying here? Based on the various things I’m saying in my paragraph, what is one word, phrase, or sentence that captures most it?

Write the following after reading:

–1 word, phrase, sentence that captures the main ideas:

–1 sentence that will introduce your paragraph to your reader—that is, the “big picture” of what you’re writing about in it. Your purpose in this sentence is to prepare them for what they are about to read (and to get them to want to read your full paragraph).

Last: put the sentence you just wrote at the BEGINNING of your paragraph. This is your TOPIC SENTENCE.

Share all of the work including your rewritten paragraph below.

For Tuesday 11/17

For Tues 11/18

Reading this week is optional:

Bell Hooks, “Madonna: Plantation Mistress or Soul Sister?” (in “Readings” folder)

Instead, I want us to focus on reading and providing feedback on each other’s Essay 2s.

For Tuesday, read two other people’s Essay 2s and share your feedback on these essays as a comment responding to their Essay 2 posts.

In your review of the other person’s Essay 2, I want you to look for and comment on the following:

  1. Has the writer clearly introduced the song title, artist name, and what inspired them to write about this song? If not, point out what additional points of introduction the writer should add.
  2. Has the writer made a clear link between a specific song and a specific social issue? If this is not yet clear, make some notes on what social issues you could see them connecting their song to.
  3. Has the person vividly described the sounds of the song they are writing about—its instrumentation, its rhythms, its repetitions, etc.? If not, where in the essay would you recommend they add details of this sort?
  4. Has the person made a clear connection between their song and a text found through the Research Resources? If not, suggest they do this!
  5. Has the person included a quotation and discussion from the text they’ve found through the Research Resources? If not, ask for a quotation! If so, what additional points might they add to their discussion of this quotation?

11. For Friday 11/13

For Friday 11/13

Watch Zoom 11 if you missed it. It may help you with the below:

Connecting Details (from Song to Research to Song)

Points from Zoom lecture on Sanneh’s text about Jay-Z, pp. 9-11

  • Connecting Jay-Z’s biographical details (research) to his lyrics: the Glock
  • From content to style (connecting Hip Hop website research to the style of Jay-Z’s words. Comparing his style of “everyday speech” to historical lyrical styles in rap.
  • Close reading and walking us through Jay-Z’ “D’evils”

Reading & Writing Assignments:

1. Read one of the articles you found in your research for last Friday’s assignment using one of our Research Resources. Following Sanneh’s example (above, explained in Zoom), write 1-2 paragraphs where you connect a single detail from your Essay 2 song to a single detail in your research source.

2. Beyonce and the Politics of Listening and Interpretation

When we listen to a song, we are already interpreting it. Even if we listen to a track and say “this is totally meaningless”, this is an interpretation. One of the historical problems in the interpretation of popular musics (from rock and roll to rap to hip hop) has been the tendency to interpret such music in a moralizing way (“are the values espoused in this work good or bad?” “will the children listening to this music be negatively affected?”). In my view, this problem continues to get in the way of listeners’ ability to appreciate the full breadth of meanings available in popular musics. The series of texts on Beyonce we’ve read for this week (by Bell Hooks, Bill O’Reilly, and Noah Berlatsky) highlight this problem:

Below I’ve summarized the background of the three Beyonce commentators and the what they’ve claimed about her work. Then, I’ve posed a question asking you to provide more detail. For Part 2 of your response, I want you to choose A, B, or C and respond to the question I’ve provided and use a quotation from the text to support your response (so, for instance, if you choose “A”, you’ll explain WHY Bell Hooks thinks Beyonce is harmful to young girls and find a quote from her text/interview where she talks about this).

A. Bell Hooks is a self-proclaimed radical intersectional feminist (meaning her politics are very far to the left); she finds Beyonce’s work to be harmful to young girls: why?

B. On the other end of the political spectrum is Bill O’Reilly, a far-right former TV show host for Fox news; he too finds Beyonce’s work to be harmful to young girls: why?

C. Noah Berlatsky is a journalist who cares about Beyonce’s work as a form of art; he notices that although Hooks and O’Reilly are on opposing sides of politics that there are similarities in how they interpret Beyonce’s work: what similarities between them does he notice? What alternative, non-moralizing way of interpreting Beyonce does Berlatsky offer us?

For Tue/Wed 11/11

For Wed 11/11

Apologies for sharing this late.  Because of my tardiness, feel free to read and post a Media Share for Wednesday of this week.  See you in Zoom.  Here are our texts for this week:

Beyonce, “Partition” (lyrics)

+ commentaries by

Bell Hooks,

Bill O’Reilly, +

Noah Berlatsky, “Beyonce: Sex Terrorist”

10. For Fri 11/6

Close-reading & Asking Questions about Lyrics, linking to Social Issues…

  1. In the two brief close-readings of songs we read for last week—Reese Okyung Kwon’s “There Must Be More” (an analysis of Christian rock musician David Ruis’ track of the same name) and Jeremy Schmidt’s “The Full Retard” (a dissection of Jaime Meline’s eponymous track)—the writer tunes in quite carefully to something puzzling in the song’s lyrical content, opening up a series of questions about the artist’s lyrics that the writer then tries to answer:

Kwon wonders about Ruis’ awkward use of the word “because” in the chorus of his song: “Why not employ and or as or for or since?” She wonders, adding “any one of which would better suit the song’s metrical requirements” (Kwon).

Meanwhile, Schmidt questions Meline’s use of the phrase “you should pump this shit like they do in the future,” asking: “What does it mean to pump, promote, or even love something right now, knowing that it—the song or the idea or the meme—will be ubiquitous in the future?”

Using these texts as inspiration, return to the lyrics from your song that you shared on 10/23, and read them in search of something baffling, confusing, or otherwise questionable.  Write a series of questions—that is, a paragraph of 3 or more sentences that are questions—about one or more lyrical choices in your Essay 2 song that you find questionable.

  1. Re-read the lyrics and your questions. List 2-3 social issues you notice in the lyrics and/or your questions.
  2. Play around with several of the Research Resources I’ve shared (see link in menu above). List one article or source you’ve found on your song and/or social issue that you might read. Include the author, title, publication and resource in which you found it (e.g. Genius.com, Google Scholar, etc).