Author Archives: Jason Tougaw

Adapting Your Essay for the Web

When you adapt your seminar project for the web, you’ll need to think about how to translate your ideas for a new context and audience. That will mean the following:

  • Devising a structure that works well for the web, probably including main page and a series of main pages–or including a single page with a table of contents built of live links that take you to various sections on that page and subheadings for each of those sections. See U Mass Dartmouth’s suggestions for “Writing for the Web.”
  • Adapting your prose style so that it captures complex and nuanced ideas in ways that will be accessible for online readers.
  • Including some combination of video, images, links, and sound files–with the intent that these will do new kinds of rhetorical work, that they will help you communicate in ways that you couldn’t in a traditional essay.
  • Considering questions about copyright and fair use when it comes to images, video, and sound files. For links to material in the public domain or made available through a Creative Commons license, see The Educators Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons.
  • Deciding whether to stick with the motive and thesis that govern your essay or to revise these somewhat for the new format.


Annotated Bibliographies

The next phase of your research projects will be to compile an annotated bibliography–a list of sources you plan to cite, with a short explanation of what roles they’ll play in your essay.

Cornell University’s library offers a good overview of the genre of the annotated bibliography–including samples of effective ones. It’s worth checking out.

For your annotated bibliographies, you should do the following:

1. Create a full list of works you will cite, in alphabetical order, following MLA Guidelines.

2. Write a few, concise sentences that explain how and why these sources will help you make your argument. For example, a source might help you establish motive or illustrate a point; it might provide background information or a counter-argument you want to address. Describe the source’s content as well as its functions in your essay. It may or may not be relevant to offer some details about the author (field of study, previous works, status, etc.).

3. Identify the discipline or genre the source represents and offer a brief description of its methodology–and, if possible, name this methodology.

4. Conclude each entry by listing which of Mark Gaipa’s “8 Ways to Engage Sources” seem relevant for the source at hand. Feel free also to devise your own categories if none of Gaipa’s seems to apply.

Guidelines for Feedback on Proposals (+ Writing Groups)

These are the writing groups for your research projects. You’ll read and offer feedback on each other’s project throughout the process–starting with the proposal.

Ali, Kelsey, Laura, Sunjida

Kevin, Nathan, Angela

Malorie, Kim, Mike, Sarah

David, Clémence, Alix, Katryna

Feedback on Proposals

Write each member of your writing group a letter in response to his or her proposal draft. Be sure to address the following questions in your letter:

1. Has the writer included four paragraphs, addressing the four prompts included in the assignment?

2. Which of the four paragraphs is strongest? Which is weakest?

3. Is the writer’s sentence-level prose clear and readable? Is it free of typos and errors with regard to punctuation and grammar?

4. Does the project seem manageable? Can the writer accomplish the aims s/he articulates?

5. Can you suggest any sources, ideas, or questions that might be helpful to the writer?

6. Imagine you are me: What revision does the proposal need before I’ll be ready to pass it and give the writer the okay to move forward with the project. (Note: Be tough here. You’ll all get more out of this process if you are rigorous with each other. Remember, these are drafts, so there’s no expectation that they’ll be perfect or ready to go at this stage.)

Research Proposals

You will submit a research proposal that guides your seminar essay and your web project . In four paragraphs,

1. Present a text or set of texts to examine a research question about these texts or about an idea or concept they raise.

2. Consider an angle or method for approaching the subject. (See my suggestions for “angles” or “methods” in the assignment guidelines.)

3. Examine the motives for your research and how you will contributes to a scholarly or intellectual conversation about the relationship between nineteenth-century fiction and the human brain or mind. (See Kerry Walk’s “motivating moves” and Mark Gaipa’s “8 Ways to Engage Sources”–both on our “Documents” page).

4. Identify possible sources that you will need to address your research question.

Important dates:

Note: We’ll treat this process as if you are submitting your project for publication or for grant funding.You will keep revising until you’ve convinced me that you have a viable proposal that outlines a solid and manageable plan for your project. Once you have a solid proposal, writing the essay will be much easier than it would have been without it. You may find that I am somewhat relentless during this process, but I hope it will be helpful for you ultimately.

April 1: Project proposal workshop (in class).
April 6: Send a draft of your project proposal to your writing group.
April 8: Send feedback on your peers’ proposals, using the feedback guidelines I’ll provide.
April 10: Send me your revised proposal by email. I’ll send you feedback. You will revise until I give you the go-ahead to proceed with the project.

Research Projects

Each student will complete an essay for a course website we’ll build together–an online anthology of your essays.

In your essay, you will make an argument about how nineteenth-century fictional texts and psychological or scholarly ones illuminate each other with regard to a question about a particular aspect of the brain, mind, or mental experience–for example, dreams, hypnotic states, desire, consciousness, or relationships between mind and body. Your job will be to identify texts that ask related questions about some aspect of psychology and then explain to readers how each text can help us understand the other–as well as the question(s) they share.

Your research projects will involve two related tasks: 1. You’ll write a research-based essay based on course readings and independent research and 2. You’ll adapt this essay into a component of a course web site featuring the work of all students in the seminar.

You will complete your essays in stages, including a proposal, annotated bibliography, a draft, and a revision for our web project. You will work in writing groups, offering each other feedback throughout the process. Essays should be 1,500 – 2,000 words, organized into a series of pages readable in web format, integrating relevant visual material, links, or video. I will assign two grades–one for the draft (25%) and one for the completed project (75%).


To make a strong argument, you’ll need an angle, or method. Consider some of the following possibilities:

  • An examination of one or more fictional works through the lens of a prominent theory about the relationships between literature and psychology (for example: Lisa Zunshine’s argument about “mind reading” or Shuttleworth’s about phrenology and social power).
  • A survey of a psychological phenomenon in works of nineteenth-century fiction in a particular genre (for example: “representations of reading in sensation fiction,” “mind reading in the marriage plot,” “the mad scientist in the gothic,” or “cognitive difference in the detective novel”)
  • A comparison of a particular brain or mind phenomenon in two or more works of fiction (for example: altered states, mesmerism, dreams, hallucinations, visions; particular qualities or quirks of memory; “the mind-body problem”; or sexual desire).
  • Analysis of the cognitive effects or implications of particular techniques of narration (for example–free indirect discourse, multiple narrators, or the unreliable narrator).
  • A close examination of the ways a single author draws on psychological theories or phenomenon to achieve literary aims (for example: Brontë’s use of theories of phrenology and physiognomy in Jane Eyre or the influence of evolutionary psychologist James Sully’s theory of “double consciousness” in the composition of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).


Choose a topic and a set of texts that fascinate you. Challenge yourself by addressing sources that may seem daunting at first. Let the project evolve as you conduct research and learn from it; don’t be afraid to change your mind or change direction. Start early and write your essay in stages. Revise. Take feedback seriously. Revise again. And again. Think THESIS and MOTIVE. Be sure your SOURCES are reliable and relevant. Choose your EVIDENCE to advance your argument. Think of your audience as anybody interested in learning something new about psychological aspects of literature.

Note: Our “Readings” page contains a variety of readings that can help you get started with your research. You might start by scrolling through the titles there to see if anything sparks your imagination.

Formatting Guidelines

Use a 12-point font and 1” margins. Include page numbers, a title, and Works Cited list. Use MLA Style. (See link on on this site for Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab guidelines for MLA Style.)


You will adapt your essay for a web format. While much or most of your essay’s content and argument will probably remain central, your adaptation will be aimed at an expanded audience: any interested readers who may happen upon your project online. The rhetorical demands of writing for the web overlap with those of writing a traditional essay, but they also differ in significant ways. With this in mind, you’ll want to do the following:

  • Structure your project for the web, creating an introductory page and a set of readable sub-pages easily navigated using a menu. See UMASS-Dartmouth suggestions for “chunking” when writing for the web.
  • Adapt the style and tone of your writing to appeal to an audience who may be unfamiliar with the texts or ideas you’re writing about.
  • Be sure you have a title that is both explanatory and catchy.
  • Include images, videos, or sound files wherever they are relevant.
  • Indicate sources using live, embedded links whenever possible.
  • Include a short “about” page introducing yourself as author.

Writing for Multimedia 

We’ll use a WordPress theme to create a collective website representing your work for the seminar. We’ll give it a name, and we’ll include an introductory page explaining what readers can expect to find when they navigate the site. We’ll decide on menu topics, and we’ll arrange your various projects according to these topics. We’ll consider how particular design elements send rhetorical messages. In addition to all this, we will work on finding ways to use multimedia elements–video, images, charts, maps, graphs, sound files, etc.–as more than windowdressing. Sometimes an image or video may simply offer readers a visual example to accompany a detail in your writing (an author photo, for example), but you should also strive to use multimedia elements to help develop and drive your argument, as texts that offer evidence or new ways of thinking about the questions you explore. The University of Massachussetts at Dartmouth offers some good advice for Writing for the Web.


You’ll complete your research project in stages (see calendar):

April 1: Project proposal workshop (in class).
April 6: Send a draft of your project proposal to your writing group.
April 8: Send feedback on your peers’ proposals, using the feedback guidelines I’ll provide.
April 10: Send me your revised proposal by email. I’ll send you feedback. You will revise until I give you the go-ahead to proceed with the project.
April 29: Annotated bibliography workshop: Bring a bibliography, without annotations, to class.
May 6: Annotated bibliographies due (to me, via email).
May 11: Essay drafts due (to me and your writing group, via email)
May 13: Draft workshop
May 21: Essays due online

These stages are designed to help you make steady progress on your projects, with opportunity for reflection, feedback, revision at each stage.

Cover Letters

Submit a cover letter with each draft or revision of your essay. Use the cover letter to orient your readers—explaining what you set out to accomplish, what you still need to work on, and what kind of help you would like. Be specific. You might even include a list.

In-Class Writing: Dickens and the Magic Lantern

In his essay, “Dickensian Dissolving Views: The Magic Lantern, Visual Story-Tellng, and the Victorian Technological Imagination,” critic John Marsh makes two claims about Dickens’s relationship to magic lantern technology. First, he suggests that Dickens’s fiction is influenced by the magic lantern shows he loved as a child (and an adult). Second, he suggests that magic lantern technology “reconfigure(d) the human imagination” during the Victorian era.

Write a paragraph in which you put Dickens and Marsh into dialogue, in order to make a point about either the magic lantern’s influence on Dickens’s fiction or on the Victorian imagination (or both). Your job is to teach a reader of A Christmas Carol something interesting about the relationship between magic lantern shows and Dickens’s most famous and influential work of fiction.

Some advice: Draw on the techniques described in my handout, “Integrating Sources and Indicating Stance.” Choose verbs and other language carefully, to emphasize your stance. Take control of the conversation. Aim for polished prose (rather than length).

Integrating Sources & Indicating Stance


In groups, you will compile timelines on topics of the group’s choice (for example, “Charles Dickens’s London,” “Victorian Psychology,” or “The Gothic from Mary Shelley to Oscar Wilde”). Each group will design, format, and publish its timeline on our course blog. Each student will write a short email to me describing the division of labor and process for the creation of the timeline.

Each group’s timeline should include the following:

  • At least ten dated entries
  • A short explanation for the significance of each entry
  • A short introduction that explains the purpose and scope of the timeline
  • Images to illustrate at least three of the entries
  • A list of sources at the end, formatted in MLA style

The following elements are optional:

  • Video to illustrate entries
  • Links to relevant online materials (including related timelines)

The design of your timeline is a form of communication. As a group, you should come up with a format that is user-friendly and engaging. You will create your timeline as a “Page” on our blog. Click on “Pages” on the right side of the Dashboard and look for a page titled with the names of your group members. You’ll want to change that title to one appropriate for your timeline. We will discuss the technical procedures in class.

Kevin, Clémence, Mike
Laura, David, Katryna, Kim
Alix, Malorie, Sarah, Sunjida
Ali, Nathan, Angela, Kelsey

Published timelines are due Sunday, March 30–as are emails articulating the division of labor. The timelines will account for 10% of each student’s grade.

Group Project: Translating Free Indirect Speech

In his chapter on “Narrating” from How Fiction Works, James Wood asks, “Whose word is this?” That’s the key question when it comes to spotting and understanding free indirect speech.To spot the technique, look for moments when a narrator uses language that seems to belong to a character–for example, when the narrator says the following about the Martin family: “they must be coarse and unpolished, and very unfit to be the intimates of a girl who wanted only a little more knowledge and elegance to be quite perfect” (18). Readers recognize that Austen’s narrator doesn’t think this way about the Martins. These are Emma’s thoughts, expressed in the narrator’s sentence.

Wood argues that free indirect speech gives novelists flexibility in their representation of characters’ minds. He also argues that the technique “merges” readers with the fictional minds of characters. To illustrate, he translates free indirect speech into direct speech–and vice versa. Sometimes he fabricates his own examples, as on pages eight and nine. Sometimes he rewrites the sentences of well-known authors like Henry James (pages fifteen and sixteen) or Jane Austen (page twenty-one).

Now it’s your turn to translate one of Austen’s sentences. Choose a sentence in which she uses free indirect speech and rewrite is as direct speech–or vice versa. If you have time, do one of each. Be ready to explain how the translation changes the effect of the sentence.


Mike, Clémence, Sarah

Nathan, Alix, Kim, Sunjida

Ali, Katryna, Malorie, Kevin

Kelsey, Laura, Angela, David