Using the Blog Medium: some suggestions

The blog assignment provides you with a medium, a middle ground between journal and formal essay, for shaping your response to reading toward your writing projects. Here are some tips, offered in response to your initial posts, for ways to develop a stronger response and to experiment with future postings.

We can think of the blog as the place where we are making a trial, experimenting, as Montaigne does. [On that score, consider “What Bloggers Owe Montaigne”]

  • Provide a  focus for your response–both in terms of summary (what the reading says, what the project is) and analysis (what you say, your critical thinking in response to the reading–what’s working, what else you notice in the reading). In our terms of essay writing, this focus works toward the resonance or recognition or argument that every good essay needs. Some simple ways to develop that focus:
    • title: at the end, or while writing the blog (I suggest you save or publish the blog before finishing, and then update it once or twice while writing), use this to ask yourself: what am I getting at? what’s my project?
      • at the very least, don’t title it “blog #1”; start experimenting with some creative thinking–you will need a good title for your essays.
    • summary (what you hear the reading say–the initial reading): think 2-4 sentences, an initial paragraph that summarizes in a way that will allow you to later dig in to a key point and elaborate further. In the case of multiple essays from the week, you can still work on putting them into a brief conversation in 3-4 sentences. Practice using keywords and phrases from each text that you think best summarize the idea of the essay. Remember this blog serves in part as a quiz on your reading from the week. You need to demonstrate in the first part that you have read thoroughly; the summary should point to all the reading from the week (whereas the close reading can focus on just one text or essay, if you choose). Quotation and basic paraphrase is useful here.
    • elaboration (what you notice; what you want to say about the reading–what’s working in the rhetoric and poetics of the essays): dig in by providing a  quotation; use the quotation tool (in toolbar) to highlight this, and then respond to the text with your interpretation and analysis. You should also use specific words (and keywords) that we are learning about the essay–and its philosophy, rhetoric, and poetics–to go further in your closer reading.
    • basic paragraphing: though the posting need not be fully edited or as formally organized as an essay, consider some basic paragraph breaks to move from summary to analysis, to distinguish different main points; this will also allow you to do some practice with transitions.
    • tags: after finishing the draft, the tag function invites some reflection on what the focus has been, what some key ideas and keywords are; tags can also be effective later when working on an essay and looking for material–to remember or be surprised by some associations (two different posts that turn out to be related by a tag); tags can sometimes lead to interesting associations to other blogs. Some of the WordPress formats will actually suggest automatically other blogs out there that might relate to your post.
  • Advance your focus by making a (literal and figurative) link
    • the basic links we will use (and mainly use in writing) are quotations and citations.
    • link to keywords introduced in discussion, in our reading, on the Keywords page.
    • consider digital quotation: a link to a site that offers definition or explanation or example for your focus.
      • use the link function in the toolbar
    • consider linking/inserting an image or other media, if relevant and effective for your focus
    • link back to previous texts we have read, or out to other texts you know that we haven’t read
  • Look ahead: to discussion in class, to the next section of the reading, to your next posting. What’s next?
    • one way to conclude effectively (wrap up, but not entirely–since a blog by definition is not a finished product, should have more to say): ask a question. In addition, you can also ask yourself: if I were to write an essay of the sort that Montaigne or Woolf or Emerson writes, what might I do, and why?

I invite you to browse through what your peers are doing. There is not one way to do this blog, so it helps to explore other approaches, then (just as we are doing with the essays we read) experiment.

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