Lesson Plan on Gordon Harvey’s “Elements” and the Initial Stages of Critique

Jason Tougaw, Queens College Department of English

Course: Interdisciplinary seminar on dreams

Lesson objective:  Introduce a vocabulary for talking about writing, based on Harvey’s “Elements”; identify the elements in the work of published writers; use the elements as a way of critiquing the rhetorical strategies of Freud and Jung, the two writers under discussion.

Total estimated time: 80 minutes

Additional outcomes: Students may practice using some of the techniques they see Freud and Jung using.

Assignment sequence that’s underway: Essay #1: A Critique. Specifically, students will be writing a mock conference presentation, to be delivered at a meeting of the Penn Humanities Forum, whose theme this year is dreams. I will have asked them to identify a flaw in either Freud’s or Jung’s theory and then make an argument about whether or not it is fatal and why. I will have also asked them to consider whether or not the argument remains relevant today (which may be somewhat difficult, since they haven’t yet read more contemporary dream theories).

Work completed before class: Students will have read Freud and Jung, and we will have discussed both in class, focusing mainly on content and background. I will have assigned each of them one of Harvey’s “Elements of the Academic Essay” and asked them to introduce it, define it, critique it, and offer synonyms for it. Finally, each student will bring in an example of the element in either Freud’s or Jung’s text.

In class:

  1. Presentations (3 minutes each; 40 total)
  2. Discussion (10 minutes)
  3. Writing.  I will instruct students to choose a passage from the text you plan to critique and write about the argument being made in it and the rhetorical techniques used to make it. (15 minutes)
  4. Discussion. I will ask a few students to share their chosen passage and say a few words about it. I will then ask other students to respond, offering further insights and identifying potential challenges or problems. At the end of class, I will tell the students to use the work they’ve done in class as they begin writing their essays. If they think they don’t know where to begin, they will already have begun. (15-20 minutes)

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