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Coming to Terms with the Semester: The Final Reflective Essay

December 8, 2015

I thought I’d start this final entry for our class blog by circling back to something we’ve read in Joseph Harris’ Rewriting. In Chapter 5, he challenges the simple, linear way we typically think about revision. Here’s how he describes the way our thinking might change over the course of working on a draft:

I have no quarrel with the need to define a clear plan of work for an essay or book. You want readers to know what your project is , to have a sense of where you’re headed in your thinking and what you see as at stake in your writing. […] But you also want to develop a line of thinking in an essay, to explore its contradictions and stuck points and ambiguities, not simply to stake out a fixed position and defend it. You want to be able to say something at the end of an essay that you couldn’t say at its start, that your work in the previous pages has made possible. (117)

As we near the end of the semester, I’ve asked that you revise one of the essays you’ve written during our class. But I also hope you’ll consider some of the ways that you might be revising your own thinking as a student and as a writer. The final reflective paper is an opportunity for you to look back over the past fourteen weeks and think about what you’ve been able to do with the concepts we’ve talked about in class. Have you found any of the ideas or readings we’ve discussed interesting or useful? Have you found yourself questioning, modifying, or flatly disagreeing with any of the sources we’ve talked about? Has anything you’ve encountered helped you to move forward as a writer and thinker? What, if anything, have you added to your own knowledge and ability as a writer this semester?

I can imagine a number of ways that you might focus your approach to this part of the assignment:

  • You might focus on a particular concept – or several related concepts – that we’ve discussed in class and reflect on how your understanding of those concepts has evolved over the semester. What are the uses and limits of those concepts?
  • You might focus on a particular assignment or project and describe how your thinking about that project changed or evolved as you worked on revising it.
  • You might identify some of the choices you made in putting together the materials for the final portfolio (Why did you revise your essay as you did? What decisions did you make about your blog?) and explain how those choices connect to the ideas we’ve emphasized in class.
  • You might identify a problem that you had with one of our readings or assignments and describe how you worked through that problem.
  • You might describe the way you applied something we discussed in our class to an assignment or project you worked on in another one of your classes.

Of course, you may discover other options for approaching this assignment, so feel free to talk with me if you have another idea. As a starting point, however, I’d suggest that you think about some of the key words and concepts we’ve covered this semester. On the Key Words page of this blog I’ve listed some of the most important terms from Rewriting with page references. Also, please check the Writing Projects page for detailed information about the due date for the final portfolio (next Thursday, December 17th, at 12:30pm) and submission details.

Good luck as you reflect on your progress this semester, and best wishes for the winter break!

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