Home > Uncategorized > Final Project for Arabic Novel Seminar: The Writing Experience

Final Project for Arabic Novel Seminar: The Writing Experience

It’s wonderful to be home again, and it’s wonderful to have completed the Arabic Novel seminar.  Thank you, taxpayers, for the privilege of spending 4 weeks in a world of ideas!

The final project for this seminar gave me the best chance I’ve had in years to do some academic writing.  Though it was longer, at 16 pages, than anything I assign to students, it refreshed my sense of their experience.  Wanting to explore newer formats, I did the project as a series of blog posts.  That wasn’t a terribly successful experiment, but it was valuable.

Why wasn’t it successful?  Well, my thinking didn’t really evolve beyond the linear form that I’m accustomed to using.  My textual analysis didn’t lend itself to images, embedded video, or links.  Furthermore my analysis had a conventional structure with a definite beginning, middle, and end.  It was a problem to have to complete and publish early sections before writing later ones.  That fed my tendency to revise too much as a way to avoid getting on with writing, and it limited my chances to go back and make more significant changes as my thinking evolved.

Another problem related to the size of the project.  Each post was 400-1200 words in length, which made it unwieldy for commenting.  I included a list of Works Cited at the end of every post, though perhaps that was overkill.

The good news is that I think this kind of tool would be valuable in my teaching.  I could use it to make the essay-writing process more social and more beneficial to the whole class.  Here’s how it could work:

  • students work on ideas, planning, etc.
  • they make a 5-minute presentation about their plans, either to the whole class or to a small group
  • they draft and revise the essay in Word
  • they copy and paste it into a discussion forum
  • they read and comment on several classmates’ essays
  • they get one last chance to revise their own essay based on comments received
  • they turn it in to me in print form

This would lengthen the process by perhaps a day, but it would make the essays part of the whole class’s discussion of literature.  After all, why should the teacher be the only one to benefit from their insights?

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