By the second week of class, you will need to purchase a notebook that you will bring to class every day and use consistently inside and outside of class to take notes on your reading and research.

A commonplace book was a feature of eighteenth-century reading practices. Commonplace books included excerpts from published texts that were hand copied by their readers in order to enhance the memory, serving as a record of reading experiences and inspiring the owners of commonplace books to reflect on what they were reading. I’ve prepared examples of commonplace books both old and new here.

This class adopts the commonplace book both in order to inhabit the reading practices of the period we’re studying as well as to develop our own, new ideas. In order to prepare for each class, you should record/transcribe important passages from the reading into your commonplace book and write out notes and questions for class discussion. This is the bare minimum required for the commonplace book.

Commonplace books are at their most exciting when they contain additional elements: drawings, charts, daily logs, cut-and-pasted items, etc. I encourage you to develop a close relationship with your commonplace book, keeping it with you all the time, using it as you read assigned texts, decorating and developing it as way of creating a memento of your reading experiences as well as a record of your intellectual development in the class.

I will collect your commonplace books at the end of the semester for grading. In order to receive a C, you’ll need to ensure that there is one substantial entry (at least 1 stuffed page for a large notebook; 2 pages for a small one) for every week of the semester, beginning with week 2 and ending with week 13. It is useful for grading for you to ensure that all of your entries are dated and titled. From there, your grade can only go up; commonplace books that receive a grade of A are creative works of art and thinking that show concerted and consistent ongoing effort.

 

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