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Xavier University is launching the Common Reading eXperience, 2009, with the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. All incoming Freshmen will receive a copy of the book at PREP. During the summer, students will read the book and respond in writing via “The Road to Xavier” web page. During the Manresa orientation in August, students will have an opportunity to discuss their reactions to the book with Xavier faculty, who will have read the writing assignments submitted electronically.
For this first Xavier assignment, Xavier students should submit an essay of two pages, double-spaced (about 500 words) using ONE of the three following writing prompts:
Rationale: Writing prompts should encourage critical thinking and invite the students to make connections to their own lives. Such prompts may help to discourage students from responding with canned answers or from relying too heavily on the plethora of online information available on this novel. Also, discussion moderators might find it easier to engage the group with such prompts rather than those that focus exclusively on literary terminology and approaches. Prompt 1 addresses Bradbury’s concerns with mediated experience, prompt 2 gives students an opportunity to critique the novel, and prompt 3 offers a specific audience to whom students can address the response.
- Many people believe that Bradbury’s novel is about censorship, but careful readers will note that Faber tells Montag “[t]he public stopped reading of its own accord” (87) and that Beatty tells him “[t]here was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship to start with, no!” (58). In light of these passages, discuss the novel’s relevance for college students today. Which aspects of it speak to your own concerns or experience?
Think about the following before you draft your essay: Did you welcome the chance to read or reread the novel, or did you immediately seek out online study guides or summaries to avoid having to read the novel? What novel or literary work did you last read that wasn’t assigned as schoolwork? What book would you attempt to memorize if you knew the last copy would be burned? Why? If given the choice of texting, watching television, or reading to pass the time, which would you choose?
- Bradbury’s novel implies that reading encourages critical thinking and that media such as movies or television transform people into passive, subservient creatures. Discuss this aspect of the novel, referring to specific examples in the text, and comment on whether or not you find Bradbury’s portrayal outdated or timely.
Think about the following before you draft your essay: Can new technology foster critical thinking equally as well as books? How so? Does texting, tweeting, You Tube, IM, etc., expand or shrink our worlds? Do students today require other vehicles of learning beyond books?
- Write a letter to Ray Bradbury about your reading experience of this novel. In your letter, cite three passages from the text that strike you as the most significant or as the most revealing in regard to his intentions in the book. Explain to Mr. Bradbury how much, or how little, his novel has to say to new college students in the 21 st Century.
Faculty members may choose to grade and return to the students the essays submitted to them prior to the Manresa discussion sessions. The following are guidelines the faculty may use when grading.
- Clarity of argument
- Quality of organization
- Depth, originality and development of ideas
- Support from the text
- Style and mechanics
Grades may be assigned as follows:
A DEMONSTRATES UNUSUAL COMPETENCE: The purpose is clear; ideas are original, substantively developed, and supported with details and illustrations. The paper is well organized and shows effective use of graphic design techniques. The paper displays careful use of language: complete, clear and engaging sentences; correct and distinctive diction. There are few errors in usage, punctuation, and spelling.
B DEMONSTRATES COMPETENCE: The purpose is clear and ideas are adequately developed and supported with details and illustrations. The paper is organized and attractive to look at. The sentences are clear and complete. The diction is correct and appropriate. There are few errors in standard English usage, punctuation, and spelling.
C SUGGESTS COMPETENCE: There is a sense of organization. The paper has a central idea. The central idea is apparent if not always clear; the ideas need more development, along with more details and illustrations for support. While the sentences are complete and clear, their structure or rhythm may seem repetitious. The diction is appropriate though limited. There may be recurring errors of standard English usage, punctuation, and spelling.
D-F FAILS TO MEET CRITERIA FOR ASSIGNMENT: The paper lacks an apparent central idea, and ideas that are present need more development and support. It is unattractive to look at and poorly organized. There are incomplete sentences. The diction is inexact. There are many recurring errors of usage, punctuation, and spelling. Often is sloppy, skimpy, and disorganized. All or part of the paper is plagiarized.
When the essays are received, they will be submitted to TurnItIn, a plagiarism prevention web site. This is in keeping with the process used in most Xavier writing assignments. To learn more about plagiarism, see our online XU.Tutor plagiarism tutorial at http://www.xavier.edu/library/xututor/plagiarism/.
The deadline for submission of the writing assignment is August 3, 2009.