Assignments


Weekly Response Posts | 15% | Mondays by 3pm

Weight: 15% of final grade
What: Blog responses to the reading
When: weekly, Mondays by 3pm

About
Each week, prior to Monday’s class, you will post to our class site a 200-300 word response to the week’s materials on our class forum. There are a number of ways to approach these responses: to consider the week’s material in relation to its historical or theoretical context; to write about an aspect of the week’s material that you don’t agree with or don’t understand; to formulate an insightful question or two about the material and then attempt to answer your own question(s); or another line of inquiry of your own choice. It’s as compelling to have discussions around things we “get” as things we don’t, so consider the value in walking us carefully through that which you may not understand.

These responses need not be formal in organization or construction, although they should follow guidelines of standard written English and sentence mechanics.

This semester we’ll be doing blog-style writing in the forums. All writing—even academic writing—is being reshaped by online modes of publication. Many academics maintain personal research blogs in which they try out their ideas and get feedback before developing articles or even books. Outside of academia, public, online writing plays an increasing and essential role in many fields.

Blogs give you the opportunity to experiment with your writing through hyperlinking secondary content and sources, embedding images, video, etc., and pushing on strict linear forms of composition. Blogging allows for a broader spectrum of participation in the class. Even more reserved students can contribute to a course blog.
Blog posts give you the chance to learn from each other. You’ll read your peers’ writing and, hopefully, learn from it or be challenged by it.

Public blogging allows us to connect to outside audiences and expanded bodies of knowledge outside the non-digital classroom. Who knows? Perhaps the author of an article you blog about will respond directly…

You can earn up to 3 points for each well-developed blog entry.

A “3” is reserved for especially thorough and thoughtful work. It is an insightful, well-articulated response that moves us to consider questions and ideas beyond class discussion

A “2” is a thoughtful and complete response

A “1” is underdeveloped or does not fully engage with the reading

A “0” is no blog submitted

Note that you do not have to write a response for the week that you are assigned to be class facilitation leader (see below). Therefore, in total, you should have 12 blog posts for the term.

You must be logged into our website to post topics to the forums. To get started:

  1. In your Loyola email, you will be sent an invitation to join our course website. Look for an email with the subject [elizabeth hopwood Sites] Activate.
  2. Follow the link to activate, and do so immediately, because the link will expire a few days after it has been sent.
  3. Note the automatically generated username and password WordPress will give you. Write it down somewhere—you can change your password later
  4. Now you can proceed directly to our website homepage: elizabethhopwood.us/fall16foodways or directly to the forums page: http://elizabethhopwood.us/fall16foodways/forums/. You’ll see a log-in at the top. To reset your password, click “lost password” and follow instructions.
  5. Click on the appropriate week “Week One” and simply create a new topic. Be sure to give it a title. I recommend composing in another text editor (TextEdit, Word, Google Doc) and then copying and pasting (and checking for formatting issues) in the forum space.

What to Write About.
Ideally you will engage directly with the text(s) we are reading, offering your own questions or insights, or drawing connections between them. Not sure how to frame the conversation? Try one or both of the following methods:

Engage directly with text in one of the following ways:
Disagreeing, with Reasons

•“X is mistaken because he overlooks…”
•“X’s claim that ______ rests upon the questionable assumption that ______.”
•“By focusing on _______, X overlooks the deeper problem of _______.”

Agreeing, but with a Difference
•“X’s theory of _______ is extremely useful because it sheds light on the difficult problem of _______.”
•“I agree that______, a point that needs emphasizing since so many people still believe _______.”
•“If group X is right that_______, as I think they are, then we need to reassess the popular assumption that_________.”

Agree and Disagree Simultaneously
•“Though I concede that_______, I still insist that_____.”
•“X is right that _____, but she seems on more dubious ground when she claims that ______.”
•“Whereas X provides ample evidence that _____, Y and Z’s research on ______ and _____ convinces me that ________ instead.”
•“I’m of two minds about X’s claim that ______. On the one hand, I agree that ______. On the other hand, I’m not sure if ______.”
•“My feelings on the issue are mixed. I do support X’s position that ________, but I find Y’s argument about _______ and Z’s research on _______ to be equally persuasive.”

Close Reading
This can be done with either text, and involves engaging carefully with a small portion of the text, which you should type out first (<150 words) First, determine the general meaning: What’s going on and how do I know? How does the author use language? Imagery? References? Sentence structure? Rhetoric? Thematic meanings and connections: what does this text allow me to think about? [/su_spoiler] [su_spoiler title="Discussion Facilitation Leader | 5% | twice this term"] Weight: 5% What: You will be required to lead two discussions When: Twice this term (sign-ups during the first week) About You will need to sign up for days to complete both parts of this assignment (you may not complete both parts of the assignment on the same day). Part One
Once a semester you will be responsible for facilitating our Monday discussion of the readings. As a discussion facilitation leader, you might kick off our discussion by:

  • Offering a comprehensive summary of salient points of the readings
  • Highlighting key moments of the texts that were interesting/confusing/problematic
  • Generating a short list of discussion questions for the group to consider
  • Offering some additional contextual or background information (another primary or secondary source or related media context)

You can accomplish this through a large class discussion, small group work, asking students to do a short in-class writing, showing/distributing additional media or texts, etc. That is to say, it is up to you as to how you want to structure your time.

Note that this is not a formal presentation of the materials that has you at the front of the room and the rest of us sitting and listening; rather, it is a way for you to engage your fellow classmates in a discussion of what you found interesting, challenging, or informative about the readings.

Again, please note that you are NOT responsible for writing a weekly blog post on the week that you are assigned as discussion facilitation leader.

Part Two
At another point in the semester, you will also be responsible for bringing to class a contemporary text (newspaper article, website, magazine article) that speaks to the themes of that week’s readings. By “contemporary” I mean something you discovered in the news within the past month or so. For instance, on the week that we explore the history of sugarcane plantation slavery, you might locate a recent news story or study about the perils of too much sugar in American diets.

The point of the show-and-tell is to allow you to search for and discuss the contemporary resonances of the historical moments that we are studying. In class, you will take about 5-10 minutes to discuss your finding and how it relates to our readings (please bring a handout or link for us to see). This will also serve as a complement to that week’s discussion facilitation leader discussion.

Please note that you are responsible for writing a weekly blog post on the week that you are assigned to bring in your item.

For both roles, you will be assessed on a scale of 1-3.

A “3” is reserved for especially thorough and thoughtful work. It is an insightful, well-planned discussion that moves us to consider questions and ideas and generates conversation. A “3” will include the incorporation of background or outside material that helps us more deeply consider the day’s readings.

A “2” is a thoughtful and complete engagement with the text.

A “1” is underdeveloped or does not fully engage with the themes we are exploring the week you present

Consider This: An Instagram Activity | 15% | Tuesdays 8pm

Weight: 15% of final grade
What: 1 post to your Instagram account with a context comment of ~150 words
When: weekly, Tuesdays 8pm

About
“Consider This” is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your practices in critical thinking occurring outside the immediate work of the classroom. Each week, you will compose visually based (re)considerations of a key concept, question, text, theme, etc., from the course readings and discussions using the social media app, Instagram. This activity is intended to model the value in challenging familiar, given culturally situated knowledges, values, and practices. For instance, in his essay, David Foster Wallace combines historical and cultural narratives in an attempt to challenge us to think differently about our treatment and consumption of lobster. Your feed—a visually oriented collection of images and text—will be your way to “consider” and re-consider everyday occurrences through the lens of historical foodways, and to see how your fellow classmates are doing so as well.

This weekly activity invites you to situate your intellectual engagement in this course in the context of the everyday, the common, the familiar, and, in so doing, demonstrate ways that your engagement with the critical work of the course affords you opportunities to see such things anew. Your goal here is to teach your peers and myself the way you conceive of the world around you as in immediate conversation with the histories you are considering through this course. The connections between may be not always be obvious, easy or clear. This activity requires you to think carefully and creatively.

What do I need to do for this activity?
We’ll get started together in class. Recommended: an Instagram account.* This is easiest to do via smartphone.

**Caveat: This activity is less about using one particular technology and more about what that technology enables us to do. For those without smart phones or access to one, this activity can be completed in any of the following ways:

Borrowing a camera, tablet, laptop from the library’s Digital Media Services. A tablet can be used to post directly to an Instagram account. Or you may use a camera, upload photos, and start a Flickr account. Prefer a Polaroid camera or printing out photos? Great! Take and bring in a book of photos and their write-ups. Have another solution? Come talk to me about it!**

Some of you may already have an Instagram account, but for this assignment you will need to create a new (perhaps temporary!) one. We will exchange usernames and follow one another. You can start by following me at elizabeth.hopwood. Please note that you are NOT required to make the account public or to provide your real name (as long as your classmates and I know that it’s you). You are under no obligation to share your name, Instagram presence, or photos with anyone outside this class. Please choose a username carefully, and with these considerations in mind.

Take a photo of something related to our course content: a meal, an object, an advertisement, a sign, a menu, even a meme…something that speaks to you, that calls on you to reconsider something, to look more closely at something. The photo can be in direct conversation with the week’s topic, but does not have to be, as long as it’s related to themes and ideas of our course.

Post the picture and, in the caption, you’ll write a mini Instagram-essay (roughly 100-150 words) to situate us to the object/image you’re presenting. Identify what it is and why you took it and what it means to you, as well as the connections you see to course readings and discussions. Pose a question or two for the group, and engage your fellow classmates’ accounts as well by adding comments and answering their questions.

By end of semester you’ll have a visual journal of your interests and the contemporary resonances of the histories that food has written.

On Wednesdays we will use your Instagram accounts to start our class, so be prepared to share, explain, and use yours and others’ photos as a jumping-off point for discussion!

{Warning! Food photography is not as easy as it may appear! }

Practices in Digital Scholarship: Foodways Exhibit | 25% | November 1

Weight: 25% of final grade
What: A digital collection and analysis of primary source historical documents
When: November 1

About
A primary goal of this course is to think carefully about how histories are written. Our readings show the different frameworks, filters, and modes that history has been written through, and we’ve discussed how such mediums change (and sometimes challenge) our understanding of what history means and how it gets written. Another goal of this course is to consider how the digital affords us multimodal ways of composing that go beyond a static essay. For this project, you will create a collection of materials (including primary sources, visual representations, metadata, and narrative) related to a foodways-related theme that you will choose. You may choose to focus on a single food or ingredient (cake, for instance, or candy, or salt) or you may choose a more thematic topic (such as domesticity, gender, and food; maritime and shipping; Civil War and food, etc.).

You might think of your collection as a way to curate materials that are interesting to you, and to teach others something about them and how they connect together. That is to say, you will think about both the individual significance of the item as well as the larger story they tell when we view them together.

In class we will discuss how to locate primary sources. Using http://omeka.org/, a platform for building digital collections, we will work together to build our collections and create exhibits.

Your exhibit will include:
10 historical primary source documents related to your theme. These may be periodicals, excerpts of novels or narratives, maps, images, recipes, etc.
Rich metadata for each item, including a description of what each source is and how you’d like viewers to read it as part of the larger exhibit
An introductory headnote that not only situates viewers to your exhibit but explains its context and offers a scholarly argument about the meaning and meaningfulness of the collection

Note that we will work together on our Omeka collections in our Wednesday labs, although you will also be expected to work on it (including locating primary sources and writing the analysis) on your own.

Go here for our “Getting Started with Omeka” lab materials: http://elizabethhopwood.us/fall16foodways/omeka/

Research Guide: http://libguides.luc.edu/foodways

Historic Cooking Project | 15% | November 21

Weight: 15% of final grade
What: a hands-on take-home cooking lab
When: Proof of cooking and written analysis is due in class on November 16

About
This semester, we will have examined a range of texts in the context of foodways scholarship, both to understand the significance of food and eating in America, and to understand how history has been written through food and eating. We will also have examined a range of historical documents and cookbooks and analyzed them in the context of contemporaneous events and cultural issues, and in the context of scholarship about how cookbooks and recipes make meaning. This assignment is to cook a historical recipe, and then provide a written analysis that explains what you did and its meaning and meaningfulness. Your project should include the following:

Proof of having cooked a historical recipe. You will select, cook, and document the cooking process. This documentation is crucial, so be sure all photos and videos are backed up!
A 3-4 page (equivalent of at least 750-1000 words) analysis of the experience. The description of your process need not be longer than a page, which means that the analysis should constitute the majority of the paper. Your analysis should indicate an in-depth engagement with the themes and/or issues you choose to explore. Here are some topics and questions to consider:

Context. Why did you choose this recipe? Where did it come from, and what contextual background information were you able to find about the author, the text, and its publication history? What seems to be the motivations for the recipe and cookbook at large (i.e., does the preface indicate a particular mission or intention?)

Sensation/Taste. What were the physical sensations of cooking/eating the recipe? How did this expand your sense of the significance of the recipe? How might you relate it to other readings from the course that dealt with ideas about taste and taste-making? What did the food taste like? How does it speak to/depart from our current understanding of “good taste”?

Experience. How did the experience of cooking (and eating) the recipe differ from the experience of reading it? How might you relate your experience to other readings from the course that dealt with the difference between knowledge production and lived experiences?

Audience. Who does this recipe seem to be written for? What knowledges/skill sets might they have? Is the same audience meant to cook the meal as well as consume it? What is assumed that they know? What, if any, gaps exist between your own knowledge and skill sets and those assumed from the recipe?

Culture/History. What aspects of the recipe were clearly culturally or historically marked? What did they tell you about cooking, eating, and/or culture more generally in that time? Are there other texts that we’ve read that help you unpack (or extend) that cultural/historical significance?

Form. What was the form / structure of the recipe? How might you interpret it in the context of the cookbook’s introduction/preface? Is there meaning to be gained from such a formal analysis? Were the instructions precise or general, and how did that affect your ability to follow the instructions? Were there substitutions that needed to be made due to inaccessible items or technologies? How did that affect the experience cooking and the product that was produced?

Concepts and theories. How does your recipe confirm a concept or theory about food that we’ve discussed in the course? How does it challenge it? Extend it?

Comparative contexts. How did your experience cooking the recipe differ from what you imagine the experience might have been in the era in which the cookbook was written? Are there readings from the course that describe experiences of cooking and/or eating that you can use to bolster your claims?

These topics and themes are meant to get you started thinking (rather than answered one by one). Please be creative and thoughtful in your analysis, rather than, for instance, writing one sentence per prompt. Please come talk to me if this task seems daunting.

Note about assessment: An “A” paper is focused and clearly written, with a strong and cohesive argument that encompasses the sub-claims/responses to the questions posed above. Your discussion should integrate explicit references to the recipe with quotations from the cookbook and any relevant course texts. You should also, of course, provide analyses of any passages that you cite. When marshaling your own cooking experience as evidence, you should similarly provide detailed descriptions. As a general rule, be specific. This paper should reflect the culmination of your thinking about the issues addressed in this course, and will be evaluated accordingly.

All papers and accompanying visuals/media will be posted on our course site.

*This assignment is adapted from one designed by Lauren Klein.

Final Assignment: The Unessay | 25% | December 12

Weight: 25% of final grade
What: A consideration of the work you’ve done this semester
When: December 12, 9pm

About

This assignment is based on one created by Daniel Paul O’Donnell (http://people.uleth.ca/~daniel.odonnell/Teaching/the-unessay/) and adapted by Ryan Cordell (http://f14tot.ryancordell.org/assignments/unessays/) —my thanks to them both.

The essay is a wonderful and flexible tool for engaging with a topic intellectually. It is a very free format that can be turned to discuss any topic—works of literature, of course, but also autobiography, science, entertainment, history, and government, politics, and so on. There is often something provisional about the essay (its name comes from French essai, meaning a trial), and almost always something personal.

Unfortunately, however, as the Wikipedia notes,

In some countries (e.g., the United States and Canada), essays have become a major part of formal education. Secondary students are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills, and admission essays are often used by universities in selecting applicants and, in the humanities and social sciences, as a way of assessing the performance of students during final exams.

One result of this is that the essay form, which should be extremely free and flexible, is instead often presented as a static and rule-bound monster that students must master in order not to lose marks (for a vigorous defence of the flexible essay, see software developer Paul Graham’s blog). Far from an opportunity to explore intellectual passions and interests in a personal style, the essay is transformed into a formulaic method for discussing set topics in five paragraphs: the compulsory figures of academia.

By contrast, the unessay is an assignment that attempts to undo the damage done by this approach to teaching writing. It works by throwing out all the rules you have learned about essay writing in the course of your primary, secondary, and post secondary education and asks you to focus instead solely on your intellectual interests and passions. In an unessay you choose your own topic, present it any way you please, and are evaluated on how compelling and effective you are. Here are the basic guidelines:

  1. You choose your own topic.
    The unessay allows you to write about anything you want provided you are able to associate your topic with the subject matter of the course and unit we are working on. You can take any approach; you can use as few or as many resources or course readings as you wish; you can even cite Wikipedia. The only requirements are that your treatment of the topic be compelling: that is to say presented in a way that leaves the reader thinking that you are being accurate, interesting, and as complete and/or convincing as your subject allows. In short, show me how you’re considering the topic at hand in an interesting way. Your topic might evolve from your Omeka project, a course readings, something we didn’t get to in our reading, something from our Instagram assignment, something that came up during your cooking project, or maybe some sort of cumulation of the aforementioned. Your topic can be as expansive or narrow as you choose.
  2. You can present it any way you please.
    There are also no formal requirements. Your essay can be written in five paragraphs, or three, or twenty-six. If you decide you need to cite something, you can do that any way you want. If you want to use lists, use lists. If you want to write in the first person, write in the first person. If you prefer to present the whole thing as a video, present it as a video. Use slang. Or don’t. Write in sentence fragments if you think that would be effective. Make an infographic. Build something with your hands, or something digital. In other words, in an unessay you have complete freedom of form: you can use whatever style of writing, presentation, citation,… even media you want. Creativity will be highly valued! What is important is that the format and presentation you do use helps rather than hinders your explanation of the topic.
  3. Be evaluated on how compelling and effective you are
    If unessays can be about anything and there are no restrictions on format and presentation, how are they graded?
    The main criteria is how well it all fits together. That is to say, how compelling and effective your work is.

    An unessay is compelling when it shows some combination of the following:

    • it is as interesting as its topic and approach allows
    • it is as complete as its topic and approach allows (it doesn’t leave the audience thinking that important points are being skipped over or ignored)
    • it is truthful (any questions, evidence, conclusions, or arguments you raise are honestly and accurately presented)

    In terms of presentation, an unessay is effective when it shows some combination of these attributes:

    • it is readable/watchable/listenable (i.e. the production values are appropriately high and the audience is not distracted by avoidable lapses in presentation)
    • it is appropriate (i.e. it uses a format and medium that suits its topic and approach)
    • it is attractive (i.e. it is presented in a way that leads the audience to trust the author and his or her arguments, examples, and conclusions).

Why unessays are not a waste of your time

The unessay may be quite different from what you are used to doing in a writing class. If so, a reasonable question might be whether I am wasting your time by assigning them. If you can write whatever you want and present it any way you wish, is this not going to be a lot easier to do than an actual essay? And is it not leaving you unprepared for subsequent instructors who want you to right the real kind of essays?

The answer to both these questions is no. Unessays are not going to be easier than “real” essays. There have fewer rules to remember and worry about violating (actually there are none). But unessays are more challenging in that you need to make your own decisions about what you are going to discuss and how you are going to discuss it.
And you are not going to be left unprepared for instructors who assign “real” essays. Questions like how to format your page or prepare a works-cited list are actually quite trivial and easily learned. You can look them up when you need to know them and, increasingly, can get your software to handle these things for you anyway.

But even more importantly, the things you will be doing in an unessay will help improve your “real” ones: excellent “real” essays also match form to topic and are about things you are interested in; if you learn how to write compelling and effective unessays, you’ll find it a lot easier to do well in your “real” essays as well.