After going through it yet again yesterday as a mini-lecture with two sections of introductory World History, I finally got around to boiling down the ninja reading rubric to a pithy one-page handout. It is depicted below and you should feel free to use it as creative commons (click the image for the doc file). I’d also welcome gentle critical improvement.
Even with this to put in the syllabus as a resource going forward, I think I’ll still do the lecture, because I can illustrate with examples to give wet flesh to the dry bones of the handout. For instance, I tell a story about walking past a used car lot and being accosted by a guy in a bad toupee and loud plaid jacket who says “Hey buddy, how ya doin’? Can I offer you a cup of coffee?” I suggest that the ‘text’ of this utterance is unlikely to be the whole story, then assert an ‘obvious’ homosexual subtext. At this point the students generally discover the interpretive joys of context all on their own.
To get at countertext this time I used the trivial example of the strange intertextual prevalence of the term ‘denigrate’ in the Critical Race Theory genre. Without being racists, these good progressives have somehow stumbled upon unironic use of the one term among many possible synonyms for degradation that contains within it the same linguistic root as the notorious ‘n-word’. Having thus used controversy already to focus the students’ minds I went all in and further offered the example of early Black football quarterbacks being commonly referred to as ‘instinctual’ rather than ‘intelligent’, and how every current mention of a Black quarterback’s intelligence, however favorable, inevitably takes part in this history; participating in a discursive history of racism without necessarily saying much about the racist intentions or not of particular speakers.