Tips for English 240 Performance/Presentations
Each student in English 240 will take charge of beginning the day's discussion on two days during the semester with an in-class presentation that involves both performance of some portion(s) of the assigned reading and interpretation of it. You also can ask the class to answer specific questions (e.g., not a general question like "what does this work mean?" but something specific, like "why does Emare's fancy dress drive her father crazy?" or "what would a feminist critic say about the Fair Maid of Astolat's reply to the priest?" or "does the narrator in Chaucer's Troilus have the same kind of unconscious involvement with the plot he narrates as the narrator of his Book of the Duchess?"). You should not expect to control the entire class meeting time, but you should have prepared sufficiently to get our discussion started with perhaps 10 to 15 minutes worth of content. Get right to the point. Do not get lost in general "background" about the author, plot, characters, or action. Assume we have read the assignment with basic competence, including the introductory material provided by the editors.
All presentations will choose some portions of the assigned text to read aloud in order to illustrate points being made, or to launch a question. They also will not get lost in "background" about the author, plot, characters or action, focusing instead on developing insights about specific parts of the text by using basic "close reading" techniques. Either prepare to perform or record at least one passage, in two or more parallel performances, to help the class hear interpretable possibilities in the language's emphases and tone. Also, summarize briefly at least some recent scholarship in a handout containing properly formatted MLA style bibliographic citations. The best presentations also will make connections to other works you have read, concepts and facts about medieval or modern life, interpretive theory applied to the text, and/or other ways of developing insights that are not immediately obvious.
I encourage all presenters to contact me in person, or by phone or email, for help figuring out what to do in their presentations. I'm on your side, and I want all of you to discover something important, which is to say, "something worth a paper" or even "something publishable!" My responses to your presentations will attempt to lead you toward such papers-in-progress arising from original observations you will discover. If you take the presentations seriously and think creatively about what you are reading, they should operate much like a short paper delivered at an academic conference that is intended, through contact with members of its best audience of experts, to attract helpful feedback that would aid the author in developing the talk into a scholarly article.
Click here for the evaluative questions I will ask of each performance and additional tips based on many years of listening to students read and think about Medieval literature.