Criteria for Evaluating "Working With" Assignments
My written responses will be the most important feedback you will get for these assignments, and I hope you will take advantage of the time I put into taking your thoughts seriously and responding to you in writing. Nevertheless, the practice of "grading" is so ingrained in American academic practices that most students depend upon grades to determine whether they are mastering what the course is teaching. For that reason, alone, I will grade the "Working With" assignments on a 1-10 scale based on these criteria.
1-4: Either the first half's description of the theory and its method was severely deficient, or the application of the method to the demonstration text failed in some significant way. Read the marginal comments and the end comment for specific advice. If you understood what the "Working With" papers ask for but did not succeed in providing it, you may not have used the terms of art by which practitioners of the theory define what they do and what they are doing it to. There are no synonyms for terms of art--use them and use them correctly. You may have failed to mention the names of the theoreticians who invented those terms of art and the assumptions that guided their thinking. You also probably did not reveal a clear grasp of how the theory's assumptions are related to its methods of interpretation, and why the practitioners of the theory think those assumptions are important. In either case, the prose of your own writing also may have been hard to read because failure to think clearly often produces grammatical and syntactic confusion. You may have been too hasty in producing the writing, neglecting to read the paper aloud to yourself, first, and to discuss your paper with a Writing Center tutor before reading it aloud to her/him. (Keep in mind that all English majors who tutor either have taken this course or are taking it with you this semester!)
If the problem was a fundamental misunderstanding of what kind of thinking and writing I expected from either part of the assignment, please consider my advice seriously before writing the next "WW" paper. If the problem was a weak understanding or a misunderstanding of the theory, or an error in applying it, try to figure out whether it reflects your incompatibility with (or profound disbelief in) the theory's basic assumptions, or just an error that you could correct, leaving you able to use the theory and its method in later writing. In either case, please contact me for further advice, especially if you have trouble reading anything I have written on the paper.
5-8: The description of the theory and its method, and the application of the method to the demonstration text, indicate you have grasped enough basic elements of the theory to practice it without catastrophic errors, and you can explain what you are doing and why you are doing it. You either forgot to discuss an important theoretical assumption, or you forgot a stage in applying the method to the demonstration text. However, you have convinced me that you know the theory well enough to apply it under controlled circumstances with guidance about which works of literature are most appropriate for it. Unlike a 1 to 4 response, your paper usually used the theory's terms of art correctly and you had some grasp of the issues which motivated the theory's founders and practitioners. You also probably wrote English academic prose that was free from errors that would be detected by reading out loud and by discussing the paper in one or more sessions with a Writing Center tutor.
9-10: Your description of the theory and method are lacking no major elements, and your description is clear enough to convince me that you understand not only what the theory says about literary interpretation, but also that you understand why practitioners of the theory care about those issues. You used the terms of art proper to the theory, and you used them with some degree of fine discrimination regarding types or degrees of what is being described. Your interpretation of the demonstration text produced a genuine, non-obvious insight of the sort the theory predicted would be found there, and your evidence from the demonstration text was sufficient to support your claims of conclusiveness (possible, probable, absolute). You wrote with attention to efficient, appropriate, and even elegant prose style, which you polished by reading your paper out loud to yourself, at least, and by talking with the Writing Center tutor who has become your academic comrade-in-arms as you seek to perfect your skills as a literary scholar.