The purpose of the group presentation is to seek out and report information concerning a text that will be valuable to our class discussions. The presentations will provide an introduction to the work, and help others in the class identify what is interesting/controversial/artistic about the text.
For the purpose of these presentations, it will not be necessary to read the book in its entirety. If you wish to read ahead, you may. Yet please be aware that you are only required to present on the basis of the characters and events that appear in the reading that has been assigned to the class so far.
The information that you are expected to present includes the following:
1) Biographical information
What happened in the author's life that may have influenced his/her writing? (For example, Mary Shelley experienced quite a bit of death and tragedy in her life. How may this have influenced her when writing Frankenstein?) Be sure not to merely list the timeline of the author's life. Rather, discuss significant biographical events and explain why/how they may have influenced the writing of a specific text.
2) Historical context
Discuss at least one of the following: 1) What was going on in the world at the time the work was written? 2) What was going on in the world at the time the novel or story was set?
As in the biography section, be sure to cover more than just "timeline." In addition to explaining significant historical events, discuss why/how they may have influenced the writing of the text.
3) Close Reading: Character and Plot
This section should be divided between two group members. The first group member will look closely at several major characters present in the work, sharing with the class ideas or insights about the chosen characters. Among some of the questions to be answered are: What drives or motivates these characters? What thematic purpose do they serve? Why did the author choose to include these characters?
The second group member will be responsible for analyzing plot. Look closely at the scenes or events in the story, and determine why or how they are significant. Delve into major themes presented through the story, and point to any events of particular importance (clarifying symbols, irony, etc.)
Remember: Materials that you present to the class should not be a simple re-telling of events that occurred in that day's reading. Do not just summarize the text, or create character sketches. Rather, analyze the significance and thematic importance of the plot and characters. Tell us something about the plot and characters that a "casual reader" may fail to understand, or miss entirely. Remember, your job is to analyze and interpret the text on a meaningful (and interesting) level.
4) Critical Approaches
You will be asked to find a critical essay that discusses the work at hand, and summarize the essay's main ideas to the class. Clearly identify the essay's major insights into the text, and explain its criticisms. It is your group's responsibility to choose an interesting, relevant essay. Critical essays can occasionally be found online, but are not always very informative or scholarly. Appropriate essays can be found in the reference section of the Morgan Library, or through the library's online databases (such as Contemporary Literary Criticism Select). If you are having trouble locating a critical essay, don't hesitate to ask a reference librarian for assistance.
Remember: Reviews are not the same as critical essays. Reviews are typically superficial ("Spellbinding!" A must-read!"), and don't go into the kind of depth we're looking for. An ideal critical essay will analyze the historical significance, content (major themes, hidden meaning), and craft (use of symbols, imagery) of a work.
5) Insights & ideas for discussion
After gathering all this information, create at least five interesting and open-ended questions for discussion and pose them to the class. These questions will come at the close of your presentation, and will kick off class discussion (which you will be in charge of!). Ideally, these questions will incorporate some of the ideas you have mentioned in you presentation.
Please note: you must turn in a typed list of questions to your instructor before the start of the presentation. (This will insure that if time runs out for this section of the presentation, your questions can be used at a later date.)
Poor question: What is the name of the main character in White Noise? Good question: Should White Noise be classified as a satire? If so, what cultural attitudes does DeLillo seem to be poking fun at?
Length, Task Division, and EvaluationUnless otherwise specified, presentations will be given on the first scheduled class date for the work you have chosen. They are expected to last at least 35 minutes (but with discussion, will usually take up the entire class period). Although the workload should be divided equally between all members, the speaking responsibility may be shared in whatever manner you see fit. Each member of the group will be given the same grade on the presentation, and it will amount to 10% of your final grade.