Writing After Reading

About two double-spaced pages, using 1 margins and a readable 12-point font such as Times New

Roman. That is about 500 words. 

  1. Identify a problem about language and/or translation that the text seeks to address. (For example:
    Why do people speak different languages? or How do we deal with a single word that has multiple
    meanings? This problem should provide the title to your response paper.
  2. Quote from the text to show how the author addresses that problem, making sure to explain what
    the quote means in your own words (paraphrase). Find a second example if you can, and do the same.
  3. Apply the authors position to a present-day example. This should be your own idea.
  4. Offer a counter-example, a challenge, or a counter-argument against the authors position. Does
    a later quote in the text undermine the position you identified in step 3? If so, your counter-argument can be found within the text, so give another quote and explain it in your own words, as above. The best papers will engage with at least two substantial quotes from the text (see assessment rubric).
  5. End with a question that your discussion of this problem has left you with. If so, then what? Keep your questions open-ended: that is, not answerable with fact, or by direct and immediate reference to the text. You are not expected to answer this question. Just show that the process of thinking through an idea and its counter-arguments has brought you somewhere.


  • You dont need to give a long introduction to the work/author/date/context. Assume that your reader is another member of this class. Introduce your problem in one or two sentences and move on.
  • Write in clear and precise language, using a voice that you feel comfortable with. If you are not
    confident that you understand the meaning of a word, dont use it–or look it up. We are not trying to
    produce stuffy, pretentious writing.
  • If you feel confined by the academic voice, you can get creative by addressing the author directly as if
    you were in debate with them. For example: Mr. Nabokov, you claim that the sounds of poetry are not
    translatable. You say, QUOTE. But I want to offer this other perspective…
  • There is no need to consult outside sources. If you do consult outside sources, make sure to cite them properly in a footnote to avoid plagiarism.


  • No title page or Works Cited page is needed. Give page-number citations from the Reader in parentheses after the quote, like this:
    Nebrija argues, I dont like being quoted (Reader 61).
  • If you dont have the Reader and are using the PDF, give page-number citations according to the original edition, like this:
    Nebrija argues, I dont like being quoted (Nebrija 491).
  • Use grammar-check and spell-check programs before submitting the paper. These are amazing tools, and the free versions are fine. Proofread your work. Not taking the few minutes to do this sends us a signal that you dont care to make your writing friendly to your reader.
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