Saturday, August 11, 2007

For insight, it's hard to beat Mencken

But does anyone read Mencken anymore? I don't know that answer for the general population, but I do know of at least fifteen people who will.

Prior to the first class meeting I'd like you to read Mencken's On Being an American, conveniently linked here.

On the syllabus, which I will get to you Tuesday the 28th during our initial meeting, I require you to make two posts to this blog. I describe the assignments as either the application of a theory discussed in class to a particular cultural artifact, or a reaction to one of the presentations of artifacts we will examine during the semester. Each post is worth as much as 100 points, with 1000 points available for all the assignments this semester.

What I am going to do is give you the chance to earn up to 100 points even before the semester begins. All you need to do is read the Mencken piece, then using it as a guide to coalesce your own thoughts, write a short political biography of yourself. Figure three to four well structured paragraphs, and consider grammar, spelling, etc. You need not be politically active, or even politically attentive to write this blog post, nor do you need to be intimately familiar with American politics in general; this is not an assignment about your knowledge of politics, it is about you.

Two other things - there will be many opportunities to post to the blog, so while I still want you to read the Mencken piece, I'm not demanding that you seize this opportunity; I just thought I'd give you the chance to get some points out of the way early if you so desired. Secondly, since all posts will appear to be authored by, you will need to write your name at the start or the end of the post in order to receive credit for it. Instructions for logging in are included in a previous email, though you are free to write me at for further details.

(Posted by Ralph)