The readings were chosen for their political
eloquence, for their ability to inspire both how we speak and how we
act. As a way of developing your political eloquence, you will write
two one-page essays each week for most of the semester. The first
one-page (double-spaced) essay of the week will explore a passage from
the day's readings. The second one-pager will explore a passage from
the reading, in the context of a classmate's one-pager.
a passage is a fairly specific activity. First copy down the quotation.
As you do so, pay attention to the word choices, the metaphors
employed, the images invoked. Move inside of the world created by this
passage. Palpate the meaning from the inside and then extend it gently
into your experience. Exploring a passage does not mean quoting someone
else and then running off in an entirely different direction. It does
not mean springboarding into random free association. It means letting
the words in a book settle in your imagination and then seeing how your
weekly schedule will run as follows: At the end of Monday's class, you
will exchange a one-pager with a classmate. On Fridays, you'll hand in
a one-pager that engages with both the reading and your classmate's
essay. The interdependent nature of this assignment means that you
can't afford to blow off an assignment. First, it will jeopardize
someone else's process. Second, it will jeopardize your standing in the
is a link to the one-pager I did for the first class: Meg Mott's One-Pager.
Five-and Ten-Pagers: Over the
course of the semester, you will be writing three essays, two brief (5
pages each) and one extended (8-10 pages). All of these essays should
have a clear argument (your voice) and engage with the readings (other
voices). Here is one idea on how to craft a political theory paper:
by asking a big question, i.e. What are the natural rights of the
conquered? Tell us what you think they are. How does Las Casas argue on
behalf of the Indians? Have you come across a similar argument in
another context? For instance, there may be some similarities between
Las Casas' defense of the Indians and Sor Juana's defense of her
scholarship. Compare and contrast these two arguments.
Take a moment to step back from the argument. What condition do these
arguments address? (This is a big part of the game. Political theorists
do not philosophize in a vacuum; they are concerned about the way we
think about the conditions of this world.) Once you've got a sense of
the argument and the condition it addresses, consider any analogies in
your lived experience. Where else might a natural law argument pertain?
How do you support the condition of conquest?
is a helpful link when it comes to writing political theory (used with
permission of author):
Some Notes on Writing Political Theory
is critical. If you have to miss a class, please let us know. Reading
is essential. Class discussion assumes that each one of you
has a good grasp of the reading. Active participation in the
class discussion is necessary. Writing clear and lucid prose is
the stuff of the whole affair.
is a link to the rubric used to grade your papers. Grading Rubric