Assignment Two: Reflection on feedback

I received formative feedback on my second assignment. This entry comprises my response to Dr. Rees’ comments and suggestions. Once again, I’ve organized my thinking according to the sections in the feedback form.

Overall comments
Dr. Rees’ overall comments reflect my relative comfort with close reading. I tried to be as thorough and detailed in my reading as possible, within the limits of the 1,500 maximum word count, and this effort was recognized.

Assignment Two assessment potential

I do still plan to submit a portfolio of my best work for formal assessment at the end of this course, and feel relieved that the quality of my work is on track. Based on Dr. Rees’ feedback on my essay, I understand that the paper might be improved by:

  •  Taking the time to analyze how Roy’s short sentences inform the pace, rhythm and aural quality of this text when read aloud. Consider the effect of this on a reader’s breathing, and if there is any emotional response to it.
  • Taking analysis of weather further by consider it as an environmental antagonist/character.
  • Further consideration of the narrator.
  • A more personalized approach to essay writing. What am I bringing with me to this reading (ie: an interest in gender studies; prior knowledge of how the plot unfolds) that informs my analysis of the extract?
    • This feedback in particular raises the additional question: How can I make the subjective “I” writing this paper a more detectable presence in my writing? In this essay, for example, my choice of the novel, the extract, and the areas I zoomed in on in my analysis were all reflections of my personal taste and areas of interest. Word count constraints inevitably lead me to cut any personal or anecdotal asides, and I struggle to strike the right balance between academic and editorial (which is more entertaining to read) writing.

Feedback on assignment

Once again, Dr. Rees’ feedback has been thorough and constructive. I appreciate her pointing out the strengths in my work (which I often underestimate, particularly at the moment of submission when my brain feels a little fuzzy from focusing too much on one thing). These include:

  • Clearly communicated ideas, written in an appropriately formal style.
  • Awareness of contextual and cultural considerations/biases we bring to our reading/understanding of a text.
    • She also highlighted the ways an author accounts for their intended/anticipated audience via inclusion or omission of certain details,
    • Roy’s likely anticipation of (people like) me as a reader doesn’t change the impact on me of what I expect Spring to connote and what Spring is made to connote in the this text.
  • Analytical thinking, applied to Roy’s stylistic and language choices; also, the ability to apply personal areas of interest (gender studies, feminist theory) to my work in this course.
  • Looking for obvious/surface details I may have overlooked while deep-diving into other aspects of a given topic.
    • I’ve thought about this comment but don’t feel sure of what is being referred to. I’ll follow up for clarification.

One thing that felt really affirmative about Dr. Rees’ assessment was that she really honed in on areas of weakness in my paper (articulated above) that I was keenly aware of but didn’t really know how to approach. Particularly helpful was her analogy of the effect of a musician’s breathing on the audience during a musical performance; sometimes just having a new way of thinking about a particular problem makes its solution feel more accessible.

I appreciate her suggestions for how I might have dug a bit deeper into the identity of the narrator but don’t feel convinced that the narrator’s identity is the most interesting part of this extract, or would have trumped other points I wanted to focus on in my paper. One of my biggest challenges writing this paper was differentiating between Roy (the author) and the unidentified narrator (the voice we depend on for “objective” information about the novel’s setting). Sometimes it felt like they were interchangeable, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that this was a failing in my analysis.

Feedback on reflective commentary

I think the most helpful suggestion in this part of the feedback was Dr. Rees’ suggestion to keep a running list of/response log to artists/artwork I encounter throughout this course. The idea is to make notes of work that generates a strong positive or negative response and to note any evolution in my response as I gather more tools for understanding, engaging with and thinking about this art.

I drew up a graphic organizer in my learning log which includes space for artists names, the section of the course during which I encounter them, a pictogram summarizing my emotional response to the work, and some space for any notes on the evolution of my thinking.

Indeed, my thinking about art–and/or my ability to feel confident as I explain my thinking about art–is changing thanks to the very reflective and intertextual nature of this course.

I’ve been listening in short chunks to Christopher Butler’s “Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction.” The tone of this piece is very academic and challenging. Even as the construction of the author’s arguments depends on his ability to cite impossibly and perhaps intentionally inaccessible postmodern theorists, I am slowly getting more comfortable with it.

Particularly interesting is that Butler gives voice to a lot of what I tend to dislike/resist in post-modern art/philosophy. It’s so cynical and nihilist, and it creates so many barriers to understanding as to be discouraging. Its critical of artistic elitism; at the same time, the ideas that underpin post-modernism are hardly relatable to everyday folks.

Butler’s work casts a very critical eye on the postmodernist oeuvre and the ideas that underpin it and explicitly points to examples of contemporary art (like a brick in a room, for example, or an exhibition comprised of a note on the door of a gallery stating “The gallery will be closed for the duration of the exhibition”) that point to ideas, but that cheapens art, somehow, by making it too literal, and perhaps too easy to create. I need to listen to this book again (and again, most likely) to make more sense of it and finesse the way I articulate the main takeaways, but its exactly this kind of learning experience that informs an evolution in my own thinking about art–and sometimes (happily!) simply reinforces what I already felt at an intuitive level but couldn’t articulate maturely.

I mention all this because it’s typically the kind of learning that becomes tangible only when I can practice applying it to concrete examples of my own experience of art/ists.

Learning logs/blogs

Dr. Rees noted some issues in the drop-down menus on my blog. I sometimes struggle to be the true master of my WordPress blog but it seems I’ve (finally) addressed the ease-of-navigation issues. I also completed my gallery write-ups, and am generally really enjoying the combined learning log/blog approach that I chose at the beginning. It takes a bit longer, but pushes me in two different, but ultimately compementary areas of my personal development.



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