course Encyclopedia

Course Encyclopedia (50 points): You will keep a record of your reading, observations, questions, and commentary throughout the course, generating approximately 3 pages of writing for each class meeting (roughly 30 pages of double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 point, one-inch-margined text for the semester).  Sometimes, I will supply you with questions or exercises to pursue in your course encyclopedia, but much of the time you will be free to explore your own lines of inquiry.  In either case, your primary task is this: regular and sustained reflection on course materials.  You do not have to discuss every concept or every figure mentioned in our readings and discussions, but you should discuss many of them.  And you should always do so in your own words (see the note below regarding plagiarism).  At a minimum, your course encyclopedia should include the following:

  1. Definitions of key terms mentioned in our readings and discussions (e.g., fantasy, the ego, jouissance, empty speech, the imaginary, the unconscious, and the like).  Your definitions should be anchored in primary sources (e.g., assigned readings) as well as secondary sources (e.g. reputable dictionaries, online encyclopedias, published scholarship, and the like).  And you should always cite your sources, using footnotes in keeping the Chicago Manual of Style:  In addition to defining key terms, you should illustrate all of them with brief yet concrete examples of communicative action (e.g., recent moments in political culture, illustrative film sequences, lyrics from songs you like, ordinary social interactions you’ve witnessed, curious moments in celebrity culture, etc.).  
  2. Biographies of key figures mentioned in our readings and class discussions (e.g., Freud, Heidegger, Lacan, Kristeva, etc.).  Again, be sure to cite your secondary sources, and again please follow the Chicago Manual of Style.  
  3. Synopses of the key arguments, basic attitudes, and/or central issues in our discussions and readings.  For example, how is pleasure related to jouissance, and how are both related to issues of prohibition, in Lacan’s work?  You are also strongly encouraged to record and comment on intersections you see between the concepts and figures we are discussing in class and the ordinary, everyday phenomena you encounter in your daily lives.

Below are a few more tips on how to proceed:

  1. Your encyclopedia should not simply regurgitate materials from lectures and class discussions.  Instead, it should build on these materials, using them as foundations, scaffoldings, launch pads, springboards, etc. for new inquiries—inquiries that stretch course materials in new directions, extending them into new terrains of social, political, and intellectual life. 
  2. You may use one writing style or multiple styles.  And you can organize your encyclopedia several different ways: by date, by text, or even by category, dividing the entire project into several basic headings (e.g., Concepts, Figures, Arguments).  However you decide to proceed, remember that the point of this semester-long assignment is to strengthen your ability to understand and articulate central concepts, figures, and events.
  3. Stay on top of your course encyclopedia, updating it before each class session.  You should also consider bringing an up-to-date copy of your encyclopedia to each class session.  And you’ll definitely want to bring a stapled, hardcopy of your work-in-progress to our encyclopedia workshops, each of which is marked below, in the tentative schedule, as “C.E. Workshop.”

Finally, here is a simple, non-totalizing grading rubric, just to give you a sense of how your course encyclopedias will be evaluated:

  • “A” quality = many strong entries and conceptual syntheses across course content + lots of high-quality scholarly secondary sources to support your arguments (e.g., articles published in peer-reviewed journals, books published by university presses, and the like) + at least one new and profound insight on each page.
  • “B” quality = most but not all of the features mentioned above 
  • “C” quality = your personal reflections + Wikipedia + a few new insights
  • “D” quality = typed-up class notes + a few reflections + mostly shallow insights
  • “F” quality = typed-up class notes