The assignments for this course are designed to help you practice
writing as a way of thinking. Writing is not just something we do
after making up our minds; we can also write to discover connections,
clarify intuitions, hone arguments. We can write for ourselves as well
as for other people.
Reading Journal [15%]
Every week, by midnight the night before class, you
will make an entry in your reading journal in response to a prompt I
In a reading journal, we write for ourselves. The prompt will require
you to identify central connections between the texts we’ve read and
our goals in class. I will also encourage you to note connections with
projects you have outside of class.
Keeping an open journal for your major projects is an excellent habit
to develop. It gives you a space to record and think through those
minor epiphanies that don’t have immediate application—i.e., in our
case, that won’t make it into your other papers. Also, if you’ve had
to put a project down for a while, reading through your journal is a
quick way to remind yourself of the work you’ve done.
Grading: I will grade your journals on a simple check, check-minus,
zero scale. Full credit requires only that you keep up with your
journal and put some thought into it. Late entries are allowed (since
if you’ve forgotten to keep up with your journal, it’s still good to
go back and jot down some notes about the material), but cannot earn
more than a check-minus (since you will have missed the chance to
think through your impressions while it was all still fresh).
Mechanics: I prefer to receive all assignments electronically, in
a form easy for you to archive and access for yourself. We will
discuss the most convenient way of submitting all your assignments on
the first day of class.
Reading Responses [2 x 20%]
Twice during the second unit of the course (weeks
4–8), you will write a roughly 1,500-word reading response, engaging
and developing an author’s theological analysis of poverty.
The goal of a reading response is not simply to get an author ‘right,’
though it’s crucial to read the texts with care and attention. The
goal is to think with an author. In these essays, you will be
required first of all to identify and elaborate a key theological
argument about poverty in one of our texts. You will then attempt to
extend or critique that argument in your own terms.
You are still writing for yourself in these essays, exploring and
developing your own opinions about how we might adequately speak about
poverty in theological terms. They should be more exploratory than
Grading: These reflections will be graded on the
H/H-/HP+/etc. system, but on a different set of criteria than a
standard academic paper. Creativity and intellectual risk-taking will
be preferred to tight argumentation (which comes later). I will not be
concerned with matters of style or form. I will distribute a general
rubric later in the semester. I will grade and comment on the first
paper. The second paper will be graded and commented on by your
classmates. The goal of this kind of assignment is to develop the
habits of constructive conversation with one another.
Mechanics: You will choose two days during the second unit to
focus on for your responses. The response will be due the week after
we discuss your text in class.
Theology in Practice Essay [45%]
At the end of the semester, you will write a
3,000-word essay connecting one major theological theme to one major
form of anti-poverty organizing.
In this essay, your goal is to reflect on the basic question of the
course: how does theological reflection on poverty play into concrete
efforts to organize against it? You will take one form of anti-poverty
organizing we study in the final unit of the course (weeks 9–12) and
explore it in light of one one of the major theological themes we
studied in the second unit. You may use the specific case we study in
class, or, after running it by me, you can choose another case you are
familair with. You can pick whatever theological theme seems most
fitting, but I encourage you to develop of the themes you wrote about
for your reading responses.
This essay will require you to strike out on your own theologically,
since you will be developing a connection that’s only implicit in our
other readings. I will provide templates closer to the end of the
Grading: These essays will also be graded on the letter system,
with much more focus on logical coherence and clarity of expression
than was expected of the earlier papers. Again, a general rubric will
be distributed later in the semester.
Mechanics: Your synthesis will be due on the final day of the
semester, December 16.