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Thread: Y3 wk 7 Personal Response to Literature

  1. #1
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    Y3 wk 7 Personal Response to Literature

    My daughter is supposed to write a personal response to literature. From the options in the teacher's notes she chose, "Describe a character's nature, circumstances, and beliefs, explaining how these shape his experiment in living." (from week 7 Rhetoric Lit TN's). However, this sounds like a Literary Analysis paper; I'm not sure how to make it go along with the Writing Aids talking points about PERSONAL response. Do I need to have her choose something else, or is there a way to make a "Reflective Personal Response" essay out of this topic choice?
    Thanks,
    Bonnie

  2. #2
    You know, Bonnie, when I went back and re-read that assignment, I concluded that it isn't very well worded and I can easily see why you'd feel confused! I feel free to admit this because I wrote it---I'm sorry for that confusion. :-/ I think the really sticky part is where the assignment requires the student to explain the cause-and-effect connection between the character's nature, circumstances, beliefs, and experiment in living. That's not giving the student an opportunity to simply respond to the character; it is asking her to make a reasoned argument. It is, in short, analysis.

    To make this assignment more truly a Personal Response Paper, I recommend that you tweak it (and I will certainly edit it, now you have pointed this out!) to invite the student to simply "describe his or her response to the character's nature, circumstances, beliefs, and (or) experiment in living." The "and (or)" there is important, because I would want the student to feel free to comment either on one of these, or on several of them together.

    For example, if I was the student and chose the character of Werther (from The Sorrows of Young Werther), I might describe my response to his circumstances by saying that I thought they made it easy for him to do wrong, because during much of the book he didn't have a job to keep him occupied instead of being idle and simply dwelling on his feelings. If I was describing my response to his nature AND his circumstances, I might say that I didn't care for his self-centeredness or for his circumstantial idleness, because I thought they got him into trouble.

    Thus, although my responses might very likely turn out to be observations about the connections between the character's nature, circumstances, beliefs, and experiment in living, by phrasing the assignment this way I would not be REQUIRING the student to make those connections, or indeed to respond to more than one of these major character elements.

    I really hope that helps, and again I am sorry for the confusion! Does it help?

  3. #3
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    Yes, Christy. Thank you. That's very helpful. To clarify: The element(s) of "artistry" she would be responding to would be the character's nature, etc. and/or experiment in living >as artistry< (not as analysis)? I hadn't really thought about those things as artistry - but they are, aren't they? An author uses the character's nature, beliefs, etc. to influence the readers' opinions about/sympathy for the character. Thanks for expanding my thinking about that.

    And in a personal response paper, can the writer use the first person to talk about her responses? or is she supposed to use the academic third person?

    Thanks so much for replying.
    Bonnie

  4. #4
    I'm so glad that helped! To your question about responding to artistry versus analysis, I'd say that any time we are writing about literature we are reacting to artistry (yes, I would agree that those things you mentioned are artistry!). The ACTION that we do might be simply response (describing our reaction) or it might be analysis (creating an argument about what we are reading, using evidence from the book to support what we say), but we are always doing it TO artistry.

    In a personal response paper, I THINK you can use first person… I don't have a copy of Writing Aids on me and I would defer to what it says, but I do believe that the personal response is one of those exceptions to the general rule of academic third person. :-)

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