CRITICAL READING PROJECT
As part of your participation in discussion section, you will be paired with another member of your section. Each week, one pair will meet outside of class before the Wednesday meeting and discuss an assigned passage. Their task will be to get inside of the passage critically and discuss their critical responses. They should the following questions:
1. What is the author trying to do in this passage (i.e., What is the author saying and why is he or she saying it)?
2. How is he/she trying to do it (i.e., what argument is being advanced, what line of thought is being pursued, etc.)?
3. What assumptions does the author seem to be making in the passage?
4. How does what the author is trying to do in this passage fit into his or her larger aims in the chapter or work as a whole?
5. What questions of interpretation arise about the author's meaning? What possible interpretations seem most reasonable and why? What difference does it make if the author is interpreted one way or the other?
6. What questions or criticisms occur to you about the author's line of thought?
7. How might the author best respond to your questions and criticisms?
Although you may discuss anything about the passage that interests you, your discussion should have the definite aim of providing answers to each of these seven questions, which you should bring to the following discussion section.
Your out-of-class-conversation will then form the basis for our Wednesday discussions in section. The assigned pair will begin by presenting what they think are the most interesting issues raised by the passage, what they found most intriguing and/or puzzling, and so on. From this point, their object will be to draw the rest of the class into a broader (and deeper) discussion of the passage. The rest of the class will be asked to read the passage carefully also, but the assigned pair will have the reponsibility of meeting outside of class for a probing discussion before section, proposing answers to each of the above seven questions, and initiating and structuring the Wednesday discussion section. Other students should come prepared to ask questions and to enter into the discussion.
Why are we doing this? I have several goals. One is to blur the lines between classroom and the rest of campus life and to get us thinking and talking about course issues outside of the classroom. A second is to create some connections within the discussion section and make us more of a group. A third is to focus our discussions on intensive examinations of philosophical texts. And a fourth is to draw us all into more active participation in the course, both inside and outside of the discussion section.
Assignments will be made each Wednesday for the following Wednesday.