As you set out to write your summary, bear in mind that your goal is to understand the text you are engaging (rather than to critique it or to spin off into your own ideas; you can do that when you write a synthesis). Think of what you are producing as a resource for your future self and others: what do we need to know to “get” this text?
Questions to engage:
- what debates is this text responding to?
- what interventions does it seek to make and why?
- what key terms does it employ and how does it define them?
- how does the style of writing, the texture of the text (whether pleasurable, painful, or productive of other affects), shape your engagement with it?
For a couple of complex texts, I have identified particular key terms that summarizers should be focusing on.
If you are summarizing fiction, ask yourself what kind of theoretical intervention or engagement this fictional text makes. Why are we reading it in this course? How is theory different when it is approached through a narrative or visual form?
If you have summarized a text, I’ll expect you to take a leading role in the class discussion of it: please make sure to formulate some questions and choose key passages that we can all engage together.