Cliff Hanger Notes

Earl Jackson, Jr.




Back to The Four Students Menu

The Case of 
Suspense Fiction

Students D and B have claimed that I provided no guidance
in the course, and gave them no idea as to what was a passing performance.
Student A has called the course „disorganized.“ In the table below I have
isolated from the interactive online syllabus the descriptions of the important
training procedures we conducted in the course, which I hyperlink to examples.
These descriptions, instructions, and earlier examples were available to
students in the course through the online syllabus, which was accessible
even weeks prior to the of class. Of course, the examples taken from the
work of fellow students hadn’t existed when the class began, but it was
posted every week, often with less than a 24-hour turnaround time. The
„peer inspiration“ sections hold work that is both instructional in itself
and can serve as examples of how much students accomplished by fully participating
in the challenges of the course an taking advantage of the many resources
– both in terms of reference tools and networking – made available as fundamental
elements of the course.

To  Student C

To The Four Menu

Interactive Features

Trouble shooting

I have a section of every course Web site devoted to
„troubleshooting.“ On these pages I post student’s papers anonymously,
with my commentary (usually in red) interwoven with the student’s text.(in
black). Frequently my commentary is two- to three-times longer than the
student’s text. I single out student work whose errors in grammar, style,
and conception are errors we see very frequently. By taking these texts
apart minutely and giving very specific criticism, these „troubleshooting“
pages (hopefully) benefit a large number of students [not necessarily limited
to the students in the course at that time] without embarrassing the student
whose work it is.

Of course, the students always receive the work back
individually as well, and I encourage any student with such problems in
their papers to see me in office hours or to make an appointment. The posting
is never done in place of personal intervention.

The first time students encounter their work in this
way it is a bit shocking. Not just because of the percentage of red to
black, but because my criticisms are extremely to-the-point. There is no
other way to write them as they are very time consuming. I reassure the
students that I also always forget who made the mistakes, but I never forget
the progress and individual improvement students make (and this happens
to be true). My critiques are quite impersonal and literal. When I write
next to a sentence, „
is not English
,“ I mean that literally. When I write, „What do you
mean?“ that is a literal and sincere request for the student to clarify
the thought. I stress the importance of being able to explain what one
means at any point within one’s argument. If this question stumps the student,
something is amiss. Using this question as a diagnostic device, aids in
guiding the student in developing critical thinking habits that are also
critical communicative skills. The focus of this process is definitional
clarity and consistency. I draw this out both in my comments on student
works, and in reading the critical/theoretical texts assigned in the class.

The Trouble shooting pages for the Suspense Fiction course
are designed somewhat differently from my other courses. I have organized
them into two separate folders, Net One and Net Two. Here are the urls
for these pages:



Note that navigation from one trouble-shooting page to
another is much easier onsite that it may seem from the list of urls. I
have placed on each individual page a grid whose boxes each contain a digit
from 1-10 [in Net One] and from 1-8 [in Net Two]. These correspond to the
numbered trouble-shooting pages. Therefore, once the student has opened
one of those pages, she or he can jump to any other of these pages with
one click of the mouse. At the bottom of each page I also provide hyperlinks
to the syllabus and other basic pages of the Web site so that even the
newcomer to the Web need not become „lost in cyberspace.“

I also archive these troubleshooting
and crossreference them from course to course. The search engine
I installed in Another Scene this summer can find the troubleshooting pages
of all of my Web sites. Just go to


type in „tshoot“ in the box and click „search.“ Some of
the tshooting pages have other names. The tshooting pages in the Samuel
R. Delany seminar begin at http://www.anotherscene.com/delany/scream1.htmlthrough

And some of the tshooting pages in Postmodern Japan are
in other series, beginning


is the most important series here.

Peer Inspiration

The LTMO 145D Web site also includes
a folder of materials that emerged as a result of an incident related to
the Troubleshooting pages.

Among the first „troubleshooting“ papers I posted in
Net One, was one written by a biochemistry major. Taking exemption to some
of my comments both in content and tone, she wrote me a detailed letter
of her perspectives. I immediately wrote her back, first of all apologizing
if my brusque style seemed condescending, and explained to her the reason
for this style [as I explain in the „Troubleshooting“ section above]. I
also thanked her for taking the time to respond to my responses in such
detail. I then asked her permission to post her letter, my response, and
the dialogue that we were about to engage over her original paper. She
graciously agreed and the result I think was a very valuable exercise in
communication across disciplinary differences but also across disagreements
which we decided would remain disagreements. In almost all of her subsequent
papers, she and I would have a point at which we found ourselves in complete
disagreement with each other. This proved to be a valuable opportunity,
because in annotating and posting these exchanges, I was able to demonstrate
how even diametrically opposed viewpoints could allow for mutual understanding
as long as the parties agreed to use the same critical/theorical lexicon.
It also reassured the students that the success of a paper did not depend
upon thinking like me or mirroring the critical positions I set forth in
the lecture.
I also include other
work from students in the class as peer inspiration. In the LTMO 145D class,
Peer Inspiration work included:

The Questions of M. Riddle. http://www.anotherscene.com/suspense/net1/riddle.html

This was an exemplary
attempt at figuring out what a particular critical theory stands for by
using it to explore another text. Ms. Kypreos’s work here is highlighted,
but also the way in which she engaged me with her project. I include her
text by itself, and link it to another version of the page which is
her text with my feedback

Theresa Suarez’s excellent midquarter

McCracken’s „fake“ (I .e. „dryrun“) midquarter
on Tom Ripley and Fools.
With my feedback to demonstrate one can have lot to say to an excellent
paper too. Not all red comments are bad news. I also wanted the students
to appreciate the difference in the kinds of questions I raise, prompted
and inspired by Meghann’s
own speculative feats

Jackson’s sterling paper
on Pat Cadigan’s
novel Fools.

To Student C

To The Grievance Menu


A and B

work with  Earl Jackson, Jr.’s feedback 

[as posted on


work with  Earl Jackson, Jr.’s feedback 

[as posted on
C’s Midquarter
Letter to Committee 


A  Midquarter

with Jackson’s feedback


with Jackson’s 




to Student C’s 

Email letter

From Earl Jackson, Jr. to Student  A 

concerning her work, particularly her
Email exchange


Jackson and Student  B

the opening of the midquarter with the 

course „Manifesto„

the general claims of no resources 

and the „Training“
features of the course as described 

and catalogued on the

Especially troubleshooting

and peer
  the history

involvement  with 

Student C’s midquarter


 The Pre-
and Post-history of the Failures
I taught Suspense Fiction in 1998

Another Scene

Earl Jackson, Jr.