This page is a reflection of my learning in “Literary Methods and Cultural Criticism” this semester and aims to exemplify how I’ve met various learning outcomes.


Read Texts closely and think critically

Characteristics of this ability include

  • Recognition of  generic moves in academic writing for improved reading comprehension (e.g. establishing focus, making a central claim, engaging with other critics, integrating and responding to quotations, considering other likely interpretations)
  • Description of another writer’s project in a way s/he would recognize that also creates an opening for the student’s own claims.
  • Drawing connections within and between texts

In Methods we commonly worked with a text by Joseph Harris called Rewriting.  Harris discusses moves like countering and forwarding an author’s claims.  Countering implies respectively disagreeing with an author, whereas forwarding means supporting an author’s ideas but taking them a step further or in a different direction.  When reading literary criticism, there is a general format authors follow and that readers expect to encounter.  Criticism typically begins with an Introduction that provides background and an overview of the writer’s project.  A thesis is always given, usually at the beginning (unless the author is really trying to frustrate the reader.  Academic writing enters a conversation with other academic writing, and so authors draw in other critics’ projects to situate their own.

This image is an example of my ability to engage with author’s work through close reading.  Though it’s an article on Wilkie Collins’ Heart and Science, I’m able to make connections to other texts like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Differences and similarities between humans and animals is a central debate in both texts.  I also collect questions I have that the criticism sparks.

Reading a critic’s work is one thing, but it’s also necessary to articulate it in writing.  This is a skillful task because the writer should be able to agree with what you’ve said about their project, but you also need select specific information from their claim that provides an opening for your own.

I believe I’ve had the most opportunities to draw connections within and between texts through the practice of writing reflective blog posts. In my second post of the semester, which you can find here, I compare and contrast the Creature in Frankenstein with Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.


Conduct research in literary and cultural studies

Characteristics of this objective include the ability to

  • Work with primary and secondary texts, synthesizing others’ ideas with their own
  • Find and explore archival materials when relevant
  • Identify schools of literary and cultural criticism to generate research questions and to enhance understanding of secondary sources
  • Use bibliographic tools to find source material, e.g., navigate the MLA database
  • Evaluate sources e.g. for relevance, age, and prominence of venue
  • Define and position own scholarly project within a critical conversation

Methods allowed me to develop skills working between primary and secondary texts mostly through the  format of the course.  We would read a text and then read criticism on it.  Through in-class discussion, we were encouraged to articulate our own ideas about the text while referencing the criticism.  Cathleen Miller, the curator of the Maine Women Writers Collection, came into class and let us look through a variety of archival materials. Though I didn’t find anything relevant to my project, I did find useful materials for another class!  At the time, I was working on a project regarding women in the workplace for my “Intro to Women’s Studies” course and found info from the 1970s regarding gender discrimination at work.  Learn more about my experience here!  I feel confident in my ability to conduct archival research, as I’ve had several opportunities to visit the MWWC in Portland.

I thought I knew how to use the MLA Bibliography and other library databases before this course, but oh how wrong I was.  I had never conducted this caliber of research before (at least in English), and it required deep and numerous searches.  At first my search terms yielded no results, so I had to learn how to refine or alter my key words.

Searching for secondary sources specific to my project also required other skills.  No one has time to read every article the Bibliography generates, so I needed to learn how to scan articles for relevance.  I always began by looking at the date and author to make sure it was published recently or written by someone who has made significant contributions to the subject.  The secondary criticism also had the meet the critical approach I wanted to take, for a Marxist piece on The Scarlet Letter is likely no good to someone hoping to take a feminist stance.  Through reading critical histories, I was able to identify what interested me most.  My first blog post displays which approaches towards Frankenstein most interested me.


Communicate effectively in oral and written modes 

  • Approach writing as a recursive process. Some markers include using
    • informal writing to develop research questions,
    • preparing proposals
    • drafting
    • critiquing one’s own and other’s work (peer review)
    • making substantive/global revisions
    • making local revisions that enhance the clarity of one’s prose
  • Presents research findings orally within the conventions of the discipline. Some markers of effective oral communication include
  • Consideration of audience
    • Attention to differences between oral and written presentations e.g. intonation, volume, emphasis, sentence length and complexity, use of voice markers and signposting, balance of academic and colloquial language

Writing is a recursive process.  It’s not something that can happen overnight, but rather it must be returned to time and time again before arriving at an acceptable, finished project.  This isn’t always evident in intro classes where essays are typically only a couple pages long.  However, when working on longer projects, a recursive approach always has to be taken.  I struggled to write my midterm, for I never had to engage so much with scholarly criticism in a writing project before.  I wrote several drafts and would come back time and time again to make notes.  Though this image likely looks like gibberish, it shows my methodology for working to edit papers.  I highlight in red sentences that don’t flow the way I want them to, draw arrows between phrases and ideas that need to be switched, and bold or highlight things that need further development.  For me and my perfectionist, “nothing’s ever good enough habits,” editing is a slow, meticulous process.

Perhaps I’m claiming bravado, but I think I excel at giving oral presentations.  I love public speaking which is why I opted for a smaller symposium panel to allow for more speaking time.  I think PowerPoints are a useful tool when giving oral presentations, regardless of the project, because they give the audience something to focus on and are a nice way to help pace oneself.  However, a major pet peeve of mine is when presenters don’t explain their images or use them only for decoration (like clip art).  I believe the images I used to explain differences in text vs. film served a distinct purpose.

I am always careful to include markers in oral presentations like “to wrap up…” or “this next section entail…” to let my audience members know where I’m going.  I make sure I’ve practiced enough, so that I only have to glance down at my actual paper occasionally.  I do try to make eye contact with people in the audience and make sure I don’t repeatedly look at the same person.  Overall, I can confidently say that Drew (who I worked with on the panel) and I delivered a strong presentation, as we received an Honorable Mention Award at the Symposium which is something I’m proud of.