Synthesis: Putting texts into dialogue

Synthesis: Putting texts into dialogue Your task is to discuss two texts from your course readings critically and rhetorically with the goal of synthesizing connections across them. As you read, ask yourself, “How does reading these texts together enrich our understanding of the debate?” As you develop your discussion, your handling of competing or complementary ideas is crucial. Rather than merely agreeing or disagreeing with a text, synthesis means taking ideas from different sources and building a new argument based on new insights about them. You will have two purposes in this essay: To intelligently converse with two essays, and to put the two essays into conversation with each other. More specifically, your job is to show how the ideas in one text help you understand those in the others. You should specifically take into consideration the following pointers:

• Although you will almost certainly find yourself more in agreement with some essays than with others, be fair in your discussion of both essays. Temporarily (but only temporarily) put aside whether you “agree” with the writing or not and concentrate on what’s thought provoking in the text (and what’s not) for the purposes of your own writing.

• Moreover, try to think of the texts at hand as contributions to an ongoing discussion, not containers of facts; think of yourself as working in (critical) collaboration with the arguments in the, not as mining information.

• Try to avoid only listing overt “similarities” and “differences” between the texts; try instead to focus on the interesting, subtle, or unexpected overlaps and disjunctions between the texts—that is, those that help you to think more lucidly and originally about the subject matter.

Below are the questions from which you may choose in writing your paper.

1) In his article “The Shame of College Sports,” Taylor Branch writes, “The tragedy at the heart of college sports is not that some college athletes are getting paid, but that more of them are not.” According to Branch, since major college sports are essentially businesses, players should be paid as if they were employees. On the other hand, in “Cracking the Cartel,” Theodore Ross writes that “transfer of cash from the NCAA and the universities to the players would not address the basic problems of big-time college athletics.” Ross argues that even if colleges pay players fairly, many problems with college athletics would persist. How do these essays, taken together, broaden our thinking about college sports? Which of these arguments are more convincing, and why? Do you agree more with Branch or Ross? Or neither of them? Why?

2) Compare Witold Rybczynski’s discussion of suburban sprawl and its consequences in “Scatteration” with Christopher B. Leinberger’s argument in “The Next Slum?” Rybcynski defends some kinds of suburban development and argues that suburbs have been unfairly blamed for “many of the things we don’t like about modern life: traffic jams, overcrowding, instability, change itself.” Leinberger, on the other hand suggests that “[i]f gasoline and heating costs continue to rise, conventional suburban living may not be much of a bargain in the future” and also that some of the “suburbs’ other big advantages—better schools and safer communities—have eroded.” What are some fundamental disagreements between Rybczynski and Leinberger? What dangers or opportunities do these authors see in the suburbs? Despite their disagreements, are their some unexpected areas of agreement or overlap between these essays? How do these essays, taken together, broaden our thinking about suburbs, land use, commuting, and cities? Are you more convinced by Rybczynski’s limited defense of suburbia, or Leinberger’s criticisms? Or neither of them? Why?

3) Contrast Christine Rosen’s arguments about the shrinking popularity of physical books in “In the Beginning Was the Word” with those of Stephanie Foote in “Lost Books and a History of Reading Them.” Rosen worries that reading on screens, instead of traditional paper books and newspapers, leads to “a kind of experience pollution that is challenging our ability to engage with the printed word.” Foote, on the other hand, writes that digital texts open up new worlds of reading and allow us to “[take] seriously the multitude of pleasures that even now-forgotten fiction and texts might have provided.” How do these two authors think about reading and books differently? Do they value the same things in the experience of reading? Are you more convinced by Rosen or Foote? Or neither of them? Why?

4) Discuss the issue of video games as it is examined in Henry Jenkins’s “Art Form for the Digital Age” and Chris Suellentrop’s “Playing With Our Minds.” What are the differing concerns of these two essays? How do they approach video games differently? How do Suellentrop and Jenkins see the future of video games differently? What kinds of arguments do these essays offer for the value of video games and a form of recreation or art? How do these essays, taken together, broaden our thinking about the future of video games? Which of these arguments are more convincing, and why? Are you more convinced by Jenkins’s claim that we should embrace video games as an art form, or Suellentrop’s argument that video games are primarily a teaching tool? Or neither of them? Why?

The learning objectives for this assignment are as follows:

• Students will make convincing and logical arguments by drawing conclusions from clear, specific, and concrete evidence in written texts

• Students will use summary, paraphrase, and direct quotation to cite sources.

• Students will read sources critically and objectively, with an eye to both understanding and challenging them. • Students will synthesize ideas from varying (and sometimes dissenting) sources and forge new insights based on them.

• Students will employ clear and concise English prose, unambiguous and appropriate syntax and diction, and logically organized paragraphs.

The paper will be evaluated according to the following criteria: 1) originality, thoroughness, nuance, and depth of textual analysis, 2) thoughtful incorporation of material from the texts (as direct quotation, paraphrase, and summary) that elegantly and lucidly contributes to your argument, 3) substantial and thoughtful support in the form of both reasoning and evidence, 4) organization, as manifested in the logic of how the argument is ordered, and, 5) clarity and lucidity of prose, diction, and style.