Writing our Biology Assignment #2: Conference Presentation

Queens College is sponsoring a Healthy Minds conference to promote a healthy lifestyle and strong scholarship for its students and professors.  Since you are known to be interested in both health and writing, the organizers ask you to prepare a speech on the subject of whether “healthy minds” can be promoted through literature.  You turn to the respective works of George Lawton and Mark Haddon for guidance.  George Lawton’s 1939 article “Mental Hygiene through the Study of Literature” provides a list of discussion questions Lawton hoped would spark the growth of hygienic minds in budding scholars.  You start by using The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime to answer five of these discussion questions.  Then you draw on your results to prepare a speech that argues the merits or demerits of discussing texts in a “hygienic” way.

Audience:  Professors and classmates wondering about the value or pitfalls of “healthy” literature.

Format: 4-5 pages, MLA style

Advice:  While Lawton’s questions may seem awkward and/or mawkish, you’ll achieve better results if you attempt to answer them sincerely.  Keep your eye on the bigger picture here; this is your chance to seriously consider the assumption that literature can tell us something about health.

(FOR INSTRUCTORS ONLY)

Type: Use a secondary text to analyze a primary text, and support a thesis with evidence.

Rationale: This assignment asks students to analyze a novel under a particular critical framework, but complicates that task by requiring student to use that analysis to make an argument about the framework.

Pre-Draft Activities

  1. Consider Lawton’s book report questions in groups of four to brainstorm motives and assumptions underlying the mental hygiene agenda.
  2. Ask students to look up internet information about Mark Haddon and his book on Wikipedia and on Haddon’s website, referenced in Wikipedia.  Use this as a springboard to discuss reliability of internet sources versus academic sources, as well as for discussion of authorial motives with respect to mental health issues of book’s protagonist.
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