All posts by Joe Harris

I teach writing at the University of Delaware.

Class, Fri, 5/16

E688 Spring 2014The Gang

Blog Stats

  • 174 posts [27 by JH (15%), 147 by class (85%)]

Process, Affordances, and Constraints (9:05—10:35)

Let’s talk about your experiences in writing your digital essays in groups of four, talk back, and then move on to the next group.

Arcade (10:45–12:05)

We’ll move up to the third floor, set up our essays, read, and talk.

To Do

Come see our garden in New Castle! 32 E 4th St

A Day in New Castle, Sat, 5/17, 10:00 am–3:00 pm


Digital essay, final draft

A few notes on the final version of your digital essay:

  • The final version of your essay is due on Thurs, 5/15, at 11:59 pm. You will present this piece in class on Fri, 5/16. Disregard all other deadlines and notices.
  • The final, final version of your essay is due on Tues, 5/20, at 11:59 pm. That is, if you want to make some changes to your piece after presenting it in class, you may. I will start grading on Wed, 5/21.
  • Creative Commons: You must license your work with Creative Commons.
  • Acknowledgments: A generous and witty note of acknowledgements is the sign of a strong writer. You must find some space in your piece where you thank the people who have helped you conceptualize, draft, and revise it.

You guys are doing amazing work. I look forward to reading it in its final version.

Class, Fri, 5/09

x12: Presentations and Arcade

New Digital Writings

Fastwrite: Find something new that one of your friends and colleagues has shown you. Tell us what interests you about it.

Digital essaysDancingGopher

Catch up with your fellow woodchucks, groundhogs, or gophers. What changes have you made? What advice would you like?

To Do

  1. Thurs, 5/15, 11:59 pm: Post x12, including the final version of your digital  essay, to this site.
  2. Fri, 5/16, in class: Present your digital essay.
  3. Tues, 5/20, 11:59 pm: Final, final version of your essay.

x12: Presentations and Arcade

I’d like us to spend our last class meeting presenting your digital essays. Our closing celebration of your work will be in two stages.

Presentations:  Process, affordances, and constraints

I’d like each of you to offer a brief presentation of your digital essay to the class.  I’ll project your project on the screen. You should then plan to speak about it for about five minutes—no more! In the second half of the class, people will have plenty of time to read through your piece and talk with you about the substance of your work. So in your presentation, I’d like you to focus instead on what composing for the digital media allowed you to do, and what it made difficult. Please point to moments in your essay that help you talk about:

  • How you developed your project, from idea through drafts and revisions to final version (process).
  • What you feel you were able to express that you could not have done as well in print (affordances).
  • What proved difficult for you in working in this medium (constraints).

At the start of this course, I asked the question: What changes when you write for the screen rather than the page? This is your chance to offer an answer.

Final drafts: A digital arcade

Please post a link to the final version of your essay to this website. We’ll spend the last half of the class walking about the room, viewing and discussing one another’s work.

In the body of your post, write a version of your presentation of your project to the class. The written form of your presentation may be read by people outside this class, so you might want to:

  • Offer a somewhat more detailed description of your actual project—a “teaser” to attract readers;
  • Say a little more about the history of your project, how you developed it;
  • Insert an image from your project.

Please post your work to this site by 11:59 pm on Thurs, 5/15. Please use both digital essay and x12 as your categories.  I look forward to a fun last class!

x11: New digital writings

In this assignment, I’d like you to add to our stock of new and interesting work on writing in a digital age.

Please provide us with a link to a text that you feel will interest and contribute to the work of the other writers and teachers in this seminar. Let me suggest the following possibilities:

  • A model digital text: Something you had in either the front or back of your mind as you were working on your digital essay, a text that you feel offers possibilities of form and expression that might interest the rest of us.
  • A comment on writing in a digital age: A piece —either online or in print—that has offered you an insight into the sort of work you’d like to do in your digital essay.
  • Anything (digital) else: A digital text that has somehow grabbed your attention, and that you’d like to bring to ours.

In the body of your post, please help us read the text you are bringing to us, to notice what you value in it. Be ready to guide us through the text next week and to point to what you find most interesting or compelling in it.

Deadline: Tues, 5/06, 11:59 pm. Please use x11 as your category. And please try to read and comment on several of the these text by Thurs, 5/08.


Class, Fri, 5/02

Draft One Workshops


Authors: Fastwrite: Read through the responses you’ve received to your essay. Formulate a plan: What part of your essay would you like to read and get further responses to?  What questions do you want to pose for your readers? (9:15–9:30)


Groups: Each essay gets 30 minutes. The task of each author is to direct her readers to a point in her piece that needs further work. The task of each reader is to offer a response that goes beyond what she has written. (9:30–11:30)

Revision Plans (11:30–12:00)

Write me an email in which you:

  1. Summarize your essay as it now stands, its strengths and problems;
  2. Summarize the responses you’ve received—in writing and in workshop—from your readers;
  3. Begin to draft a plan of revision: What will you cut? add? rethink? tweak?
  4. Ask me any questions that you’d like my help with.

I will send you an email in response—certainly by Thurs, 5/08, hopefully several days before. I will then reserve office hours for conferences from Mon, 5/12, through Thurs, 5/15.

To Do

  1. Tues, 5/06, 11:59 pm: Post x11 to this site.
  2. Thurs, 5/08, 11:59 pm: Post responses to x11.
  3. Fri: 5/09, in class: Be ready to talk about the new digital writing you are bringing to our attention.
  4. Fri, 5/09, in class: What help do you need in moving forward on your digital essay?

Class, Fri, 4/25



Uncreative Writing

Goldsmith on Daily Show

Fastwrite: What technique or assignment from Kenneth Goldsmith might you borrow or adapt in your own teaching? Your own writing?To what ends? As always, try to ground your writing in a specific passage from the text.

Moment of Zen

The Apotheosis of Uncreative Writing: David Shields on Stephen Colbert


Workshopping Proto-Drafts

Spend about 20 minutes per project. Authors should walk readers through their projects, with the aim  of getting advice in response to specific questions.

Fastwrite: Write a quick draft of your cover memo for your first draft next Tuesday. Come up with a title for your project, a quick description of its form (and platform), a summary of your argument, and some questions you want to ask your readers.

First Drafts and Responses

To Do

  1. Tues, 4/29, 11:59 pm: Post your first draft with cover memo.
  2. Thurs, 5/01, 4:00 pm: Post responses to your group members’ drafts.
  3. Fri: 5/02, in class: Workshop first drafts.


Responses to drafts

By this point in the semester you’ve had the chance to form a sense of the projects most of the other members of this seminar are developing—the issues they’re dealing with, their aims in writing about them, the materials they’re working with. Your task now  is to write each other more focused and detailed advice toward revising the full draft of your digital essays. I’d like this response to be in two parts:

First, write the author a note in which you:

  • Define what you see as their project in writing. What’s their topic and slant?
  • Note what is working especially well in the piece. What should they make sure to keep or expand?
  • Try to describe one or two things (no more!) that you feel the author could work on to take their essay to the next level.This is a moment for big advice, not small criticisms.
  • Respond to any specific questions the author raised in their cover memo.

Address the author by name and sign yours.

Second, please point to at least ten specific moments in the text that the author might add to, delete, rework, reformat, or fix what they’ve written. These issues may be finesse points, or they may relate to the ideas for revising that you pointed to in your note. Use the attached form to keep track of your suggestions. (You can simply type in your note to the author at the top of the document.)

Please post your responses by Thurs, 5/01, at 4:00 pm. (This will allow authors time to review the comments on their drafts.)

Then, for our workshop next Friday morning:

  • Authors: Please print out the responses to your draft, read through them, and bring them with you to class.
  • Readers: Please print out one copy of each of your responses to your group members and bring them with you.

Good luck!

Digital essay, draft 1

The first draft of your digital essay is due next Tuesday, 4/29.  What do I mean by draft? Allow me to quote from myself. Here’s what I wrote to my E110 class this semester:

draft is an open and approximate version of the piece you want to write. It is not simply a set of notes, or an intro, or outline, or ideas toward an essay . . . Rather, it is an attempt to write the actual thing, the essay itself, even while knowing that you are not yet quite in a position to write that thing, that you still have more work to do.

An analogy might be to a sketch or study that an artist makes of a painting, or a demo that a musician makes of a song. The attempt in each case  is to offer a sense of what the final version might look or sound like—even if all the details haven’t been worked out or filled in, and even if key parts of the piece are still open to change. I’m hesitant to use the metaphor of a rough draft, since that can suggest something hastily or sloppily done, but in a sense that is what you want to do—to rough out your essay, put together an approximate version of it as a whole, so that you can then later go back to reshape, develop, and refine it.

So that’s what I want you to try to do for next week—to create a first, working version of your essay, something that gets at what you think you want to say, but that is still open to change and revision.

So, conceptually, that’s what I’m after. In terms of logistics, here’s what I’d suggest: Create your draft. Send your writing group a URL that presents your work in progress. With your URL, write a cover memo in which you: (a) briefly summarize your project, (b) note any gaps or problems in your present draft, (c) tell us what sort of feedback you’d find most useful at this stage in your work.


  1. Tues,4/29, 11:59 pm: Post a link to your first draft, with your cover to this site. Use digital essay as your category.
  2. Thurs, 5/01, 11:59 pm: Share responses to drafts with your group members. (See Responding to drafts.) Please copy all members of the group and me  on your responses to each draft.
  3. Fri, 5/02, class: Read through the responses to your draft. Come to class with whatever materials—online or in print—you will need to facilitate discussion of your work.


  • One (Woodchucks): Janel, Michael, Gab, Heather
  • Two (Groundhogs): Petra, Caitlin, Nagmeh, Chris
  • Three (Gophers): Kiley, Callie, Bel, Katie


Our current plan is to spend about half our class time next Friday sharing and thinking through “proto-drafts” of  your digital essays.

We’ll work in groups of four. Each of you will have about 20 minutes to walk your readers through your essay as it now stands—notes, materials, plans aspirations—with the goal of getting some useful feedback as you put together your first “real” draft of your piece, which is due on Tues, 4/29, at 11:59 pm.

No advance posting or reading is required. But we agreed that each of you would come to class with something like:

  1. A one-page overview of your project (probably a Word document, and it is probably a good idea to bring print copies);
  2. Some version of the frame or format of your piece, however rough or tentative. That is, if you think you’ll end up presenting your work on a WordPress or Tumblr site (or Prezi, or iMovie, or whatever), create a mock-up of what your essay might  actually look like.
  3. A list of the important texts or materials you’ll be working with. I suspect that , again, this might be most usefully formatted (for both you and your readers) as Word document, but I can imagine it taking other forms (links on a WordPress page, for instance).
  4. Anything else. Actual materials, notes, drafts, outlines, video clips, etc.  I have found it useful, at the start of similar projects, to create folders labeled: Videos, Audios, Images, Texts, Notes. But you should create and work with whatever taxonomy makes most sense for you.  One way or the other, though, you’ll want to be able to walk your readers through the “stuff” of your project and  to describe what you hope to do with it.

This is, in one sense, a low-stakes assignment, since it will not be graded and, in fact, I may not even see it. But, in another sense, it’s a high-stakes moment, since this is the first time when you are being asked to move from idea  (“I’m thinking about . . .”) to text (“Here’s what I’ve got so far. . “).  Take advantage of this moment. My hunch is that doing so will help you formulate your first draft.