Theory Carnivals–Now with Students!

Jenn and Dennis had both commented on what I thought was a throwaway comment in an earlier post—the fact that I planned to institute a blog carnival with my theory students.

I’m embarrassed to say that it didn’t strike me as all that ambitious or pioneering; more and more, I’m trying to model student work with blogs on the practices that bloggers themselves employ. It seems like cheating, somehow, to see the blog only as a tech version of what we previously did with pen and paper. Having said that, of course, I need to think more about how students view these assignments, because God knows I end up explaining them as tech versions of what we previously did with pen and paper…

Right. So onto the theory carnival. I’ve just passed out the assignment in my class, and we’re going to discuss it later in the week, so I’ll have more to report on the reactions and actual products later, but for now, here are the components of the carnival-cum-assignment. *Note*–this is for a literary theory course, and so you’ll see some additions here designed to address and develop students’ thinking about and beyond particular theoretical positions.

For our purposes, the carnival will have several component parts, all of which will work together to represent the collective intelligence of our class on a particular set of theories (sign/language/form, cultural critique, etc.). The end result will be one single post with several links to each of the following component parts:

  1. Traditional Carnival Fare is a set of links to individual writers’ blog posts on the class readings. Each writer will nominate his/her best post from the theory section. This part of the carnival will assemble links to those posts, and posit connections among them (e.g., “in Kellie and Keva’s posts, the question of a poet’s individuality is paramount, while Kim tries to connect that idea to the notion of tradition.”) Note: this is a big job. You might want to pair up on this part.
  2. Helpful overviews of schools of criticism relevant to your chosen set of theories (e.g. Marxism, postcolonialism, postmodernism, etc.). Here, you’ll want to explain the major ideas of the school in your own words (and using direct quotation from sources is fine), and include some helpful outside links. Note: Peter Barry is your friend. This is what Beginning Theory is for!!
  3. Practical applications, in which you locate 2-4 “texts” (the assigned literature, a pop culture text, an experience, a YouTube video—whatever works) and explain how one or two of the theoretical readings allow you to understand the text. Note: these may also function as drafts of your critical perspectives paper—think of them as a two-fer.
  4. Implications/blindspots, in which you explore what a particular theory may allow us to do or think (e.g., in society, as individuals, as global citizens, etc.), and conversely what significant concerns they seemingly ignore (e.g., human agency, aesthetics, ethics, the love of literature, etc.). Again, direct quotation will probably help you support your claims here, and outside links might help too. [All due credit to my colleague M. here, who suggested this excellent addition to the assignment.]

What do you think, blogosphere? Sound do-able?

I’ll have an updated report from the trenches. Stay tuned…

1 thought on “Theory Carnivals–Now with Students!

  1. I think this sounds great so far. Do you have any models that you were planning to show the students?

    I have an in-class oral presentation assignment, and in the past I have found good results from asking students to write a “richly-linked blog entry” to organize the remarks they want to make during their presentation. I knew I would have higher expectations for that assignment than simply letting the students summarize a few articles or walk the class through a close reading, and I was conscious of the fact that I wanted to be able to use those oral presentations as a way to help students organize the material, but I hadn’t thought of a blog carnival until I read your initial post.

    Since I am teaching a 300-leve crit theory course that involves blogging, I think it would be wonderful if our students found each other and helped each other grapple with the material. Would you like to talk with me about it via e-mail?

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