thompson book


Most disciplines in the humanities convey their expertise via the written word: even in the visual arts, commenting on or offering criticism of art requires command of relevant vocabularies to express the distinctiveness of the piece. Thus, students in this introductory course should begin to develop skills that enable them to easily “read” or “listen to” a piece of art and convert their personal reaction into a form accessible to others. Twice during the quqrter, each student will write a brief Reaction Paper that will develop the student’s ability to analyze an argument, interpret material, and convey that knowledge in a concise manner.

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For each essay, the professor will provide multiple prompts. You may select which of these prompts to respond to. Papers are due one week after the question is assigned. Each essay will be graded on a 100 point scale and will count 10% of the course grade each. Unless otherwise specified, essays should range between 400-600 words long (roughly, 2-3 pages).

All essays must be typewritten and double-spaced using a standard sized font and standard margins. Do not exceed the requested length by more than a half a page. You will upload these Reaction Papers into Canvas via the turnitintool. Expect to upload a .pdf version of your file. (Never delete your files until after the quarter is completely over!).

Academic work always requires you to cite sources when relying on the ideas of another individual. When quoting, always remember the citation. For this assignment, parenthetical citations will be acceptable. Example: (Thompson, 44) or (Trend, 32) or (Lecture, 1/21/2020). Please note that citing lecture is less persuasive as evidence than finding a related idea in a published text. If the idea contains general information—even if you did not previously know it—no citation is required. Original ideas, precise phrasings, interpretations—these should always be cited. When in doubt, cite!


A reaction paper is a brief piece of writing so come to the point quickly: dispense with the usual slow, ponderous introduction and state the paper’s focus immediately. If interpreting art, remember that interpretation is subjective: issues you perceive are often in the eyes of the beholder, so don’t be afraid to be creative. Conversely, writers of secondary sources (commentary about art) are making arguments, and everyone should perceive more or less the same main points. Whenever possible establish links between ideas you discern in primary sources and the arguments presented in secondary sources. This will buttress your case.