Clouding the Horizon: Nationalism and Queer Utopias in Michael Chabon’s Kavalier & Clay by Everett Cheng (15-16)

Clouding the Horizon: Nationalism and Queer Utopias in Michael Chabon’s Kavalier & Clay

Michael Chabon’s novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay takes place around the era of World War II, a time when instilling American national unity was a greater priority than ever before. The novel, with its careful exploration and imagination of a queer relationship between Sammy Clay and Tracy Bacon, has much to say regarding queerness, its status in the future realm, and the timeless nature of its struggle for normalization.

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“The Limits of Applying Ethical Theories to Literary Analysis” by Joanne Kim (13-14)

The Limits of Applying Ethical Theories to Literary Analysis

While philosophy and literary studies are two entirely different academic disciplines under the humanities, ethical theories can be extremely useful in justifying the stance we take in moral issues brought up in literary texts. Ethics mainly works towards evaluating the moral permissibility of actions in nonfictional scenarios; however, the treatment of the fictitious characters and plot in literary texts as having verifiable existence allows us to use the ideas of philosophers in interpreting complex issues presented in novels.

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“A Defense of the Legalization of Homosexuality in China” by Junmeng Zhu (12-13)

A Defense of the Legalization of Homosexuality in China

Homosexuality was accepted in Chinese history and major Chinese literature. However, there has never been a time like now when this complex issue is exposed to the society directly, igniting controversial debate. Since there were considerable and various historic, social, governmental, cultural causes, the issue is now becoming really complex.

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“Does What You Like Define Who You Are” by Malie Fujii (12-13)

Does What You Like Define Who You Are?

The reliability of one’s popular culture preferences as true indicators of his or her identity is a matter that relies heavily on perspective.  Some view an individual’s cultural interests as insignificant factors in determining identity, pointing instead to innate elements of character as the traditionally dominant mediums of personal definition and asserting that common interests among groups do not always signal a universally definable identity.

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2011-2012 i.e. Winner: “The impact of tangible evidence” by Rebecca Eskildsen

The impact of tangible evidence

“What greater superstition is there than the mumbo-jumbo of believing in reality?” –The Lady’s Not for Burning, Christopher Fry

“What man of us has never felt, walking through the twilight or writing down a date from his past, that he has lost something infinite?” –Paradiso, XXXI, 108, Jorge Luis Borges


Seeing is believing.  Most people consider that cliché to be true.  In a scientific world, empirical reasoning is often more convincing than theoretical or magical reasoning and even psychological disorders are understood only if they come from a clear succession of events or interactions.  Gabriel García Márquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” and Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Aleph,” both exhibit various degrees of tangible magical evidence.  Although great influence on a character is generally considered the result of a tangible occurrence, I argue that when dealing with magical realism, intangible aspects in a character’s life have a more powerful impact than tangible ones.

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2011-2012 Winner: “A Virtual Exchange of Basketball Culture” by Ameen Tabatabai

A Virtual Exchange of Basketball Culture

 In Arts of the Contact Zone, Marry Louise-Pratt reveals the concept of contact zones through several examples she discusses. According to her, a contact zone involves “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other; often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today” (Pratt 591).  Pratt claims that traditionally, contact zones have consisted of negative cultural collisions, but by evolving the idea into an art, this theory can become a productive way to enhance and summon learning. As a result, her theory is applicable to many modern-day situations. Recent advancements in technology have allowed video games to produce contact zones between a game’s identity and the players’ values and interests.

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Read-Around Groups

Read-Around Groups

Guest post by Jessica Campbell

Over three years of teaching 100-level composition, I’ve held peer review about five different ways. No method is perfect, but this one has been largely successful. This peer review happens a day or two before a “final” draft of a paper is due to me; students bring in their rough drafts. I have done this with the major papers in all classes and also with shorter assignments in 109/110.

Here are the directions I give the students:

1. Get in groups of 3.

2. I will collect everyone’s rough draft and then redistribute the drafts to other groups.

3. Each person individually and silently reads one paper, marking the paper with questions, comments, and edits.

4. After 5 minutes, pass the paper to the group member on your right. At this point, everyone reads a second paper. In marking a paper for the second time, insert your own questions, comments, and edits, but also respond to those that the first reader made.

5. Again, take 5 minutes, and then repeat the process a third time.

6. When all group members have read all 3 essays, begin to discuss them as a group. Your group will fill out one Peer Response Sheet for each paper. That means that the three of you need to reach agreement about the paper’s strengths and weaknesses. Remember that this response sheet will go to the writer of the paper and will help him/her in identifying further revisions to make for the final draft.

The Peer Response Sheet mentioned in these directions is the product of a discussion held in class the previous day, during which we all look at the prompt and determine what would be the most useful questions to ask about the rough drafts. These questions vary depending on the assignment, but a generic example is below:

R.A.G.s Peer Response Sheet
Readers’ Names _______________________________________________________________
Paper Written By ______________________________________________________________

1. What are the strengths of this paper? What works?

2. What are the weaknesses of this paper? What does not work?

3. Does the paper have a complex claim? To what extent does it reflect the body of the argument?

4. Does the paper use quotations effectively? Does the writer provide sufficient analysis of the quotations to show how they contribute to the main point of the paragraph and the paper as a whole?

5. (Writer of paper: insert your own question here)

To me, this method has two major advantages. (1) The students participate a great deal in producing the questions that they and their peers will pose during the peer review. They therefore get practice in evaluating and editing their own work. (2) All the students, as part of reviewing groups of three, participate in discussions about writing. I have been amazed at the high level of discussion I have overheard from students in their conversations about each other’s papers. Since the writer of the paper is not part of the reviewing group, students feel more liberated in their constructive criticism.

One pitfall of this method is that reviewers sometimes give very short, unhelpful written answers to the questions on the Peer Response Sheet. It may be helpful to require full sentences and/or remind students that they need to be detailed and to give the writer guidance as to how to address an issue, rather than simply pointing the issue out.

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Rhetorical Peer Review

(e.g. will be offering periodic posts on a teaching topic throughout the quarter.  To kick off this new series, Lilly Campbell discusses a peer review activity she has used in classroom.)

Rhetorical Peer Review

Guest post by Lilly Campbell

In this activity, I have students bring in a paper from my class or another class that they are planning to rhetorically analyze for their next assignment. This is usually a short paper (3-5 pages). Prior to this activity, we’ve built up a rhetorical vocabulary to work with (each student has written and shared an extended definition of a rhetorical concept) and we’ve also read “How to Recognize a Poem when you See One,” and discussed the idea of tacit knowledge.

I set this activity up, then, with the goal of helping students to recognize the rhetorical strategies they used in writing a paper that might not have been obvious to them because of their tacit knowledge of writing strategies. What’s useful about a rhetorical peer review, then, is getting an opportunity to hear from another student how their writing has an effect prior to doing a rhetorical analysis of their own work.

We start off class with a discussion of how rhetorical peer review will be different from the other peer reviews we’ve done so far and the goals of this review. Then, I divide students up into pairs and give them 15 minutes to read their peer’s draft and answer questions on the attached worksheet. After that, they have 10 minutes to share their reading experience with their peer. Finally, we end class by going around and each sharing one thing that surprised us about a peer’s experience of our writing – something we were doing without necessarily realizing it. This helps students to hear from their peers about a range of tacit knowledge that affects their writing approaches.

Overall, this activity prepares students to critique their own writing by offering an outsider’s view of their work and also fosters meta-cognition about the rhetorical effects of the writing they produce.

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2010-11 i.e. Winner: “That’s So Ghetto!” by Pat Origenes

“That’s So Ghetto!” by Pat Origenes PDF

Earlier this year, I was hanging around after one of my classes ended for the day.  Few, if any, of us had regularly scheduled meetings afterwards and were often prone to aimlessness after the bell had rung, like so many bits of tapioca suspended in the room, waiting to be consumed by conversation or group impetus towards the door.  My friend Lisa and I were eavesdropping on a conversation among some classmates when the oft-used phrase, “That’s so ghetto!”, was tossed out.  Lisa, ever the champion of the oppressed, immediately objected.  “That’s inappropriate,” she admonished.  “You shouldn’t use that word.”  I accepted observer status as the looks of confusion turned to understanding and then to protests.  Our peers claimed that no racist line had been crossed; the word was not being used in relation to an ethnic group – it was only being used in reference to something of low quality.  Later, I looked up the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online and was somewhat caught off-guard.  I don’t know exactly what I had been expecting, but I had never considered how old the word was or its origin.  I fall into the same league as my fellow students; within the last few years, I have told people, “I used to live on the ghetto side of Greenlake.”  I’m pretty sure that the Greenlake demographic is mostly Caucasian and not particularly poor; I was only conveying a sense of poverty (that is, in relation to the other side of the lake).  What is happening here?  Why does it evoke such emotion from some people while others say it without a second thought?  A single word, yet many meanings and disparate reactions.

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2010-11 Winner: “Literal and Metaphorical: Racial Themes in Harry Potter” by Kayhan Nejad

“Literal and Metaphorical: Racial Themes in Harry Potter” by Kayhan Nejad PDF

Ostensibly, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series creates a world oblivious to race, one in which those of any background can rise according to their abilities alone. However, beneath the surface, Harry Potter encompasses deep-seated racial themes and constructs a complex and highly stratified racial hierarchy. Although the novels depict certain antiquated racial logics, they also ask “questions about cultural, national, and ethnic bias” as well as highlight the “horrors perpetuated by those who pursue [racial purity],” offering a multilayered criticism of the very racial stratification that the series upholds (Whited 8,1). Harry Potter preserves traditional racial attitudes through its narrow emphasis on the White and the Anglo-Saxon, but turns around to challenge these same themes through its depiction of an entirely new, metaphorical racial hierarchy of magical creatures.

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