Contemporary Text Commentary

The Assignment


The overarching question to the Contemporary Texts category of required commentaries might be stated broadly as follows: What is a contemporary text? What are the possible arguments to be made in classifying this or that text as contemporary? How are contemporary texts different from classic texts or texts of earlier periods?

If you have completed a course project that involves a text that you, literary critics, or others might identify as “contemporary,” you may write a commentary on that project that explores the characteristics of contemporary texts—in particular reference to your project, but also in general as relevant to literary, rhetorical, or linguistic studies.

More specifically, you may choose to write a contemporary text commentary if you have completed a course project for which questions like these might be relevant:

  • Does you project deal with a text that has been written in the past 50 years?
  • Does your project connect to contemporary issues?
  • Does your project invite comparisons to other texts that may be considered contemporary?

The Commentary Assignment

Your commentary should not attempt to be a comprehensive study of issues of contemporary texts. Rather, it should identify a relevant issue or issues of contemporary text features that are present in—or implied by—your artifact. The artifact may or may not use the term “contemporary text,” but your commentary should use it, or related terms, and use that term or terms with accuracy and appropriateness for students of literature.

Your commentary should contain at least two sections: a section of 300-600 words with the bolded subhead “On Contemporary Texts in General,” and a section of 300-600 words with the bolded subhead, “On Contemporary Texts in Relation to [Your Artifact].” These sections may be presented in either order—i.e., the general exploration first, followed by the specific treatment of your artifact, or vice versa. Whatever the order, the general part should provide your understanding of the term, “contemporary text.” The artifact commentary should provide a brief description of your artifact and then some analysis of that artifact in terms relevant to the material in the general section. In other words, the two sections should have some connection.

The object, once again, is not to be comprehensive in your analysis of contemporary texts, but rather to be authentic in using/defining terms, making references, and identifying ideas and traditions, as you choose to raise them in your general statement about contemporary texts and your specific application of those ideas to your artifact.


  • Before writing your commentary, you should consult the evaluation rubric for this assignment.
  • Structurally, your commentary may contain just two sections (i.e., the general disciplinary category section and the specific artifact section)—or, as you wish, may contain additional sections, like an introduction and conclusion. Please note: The goal of the project is to provide a working definition of the general category (or at least part of it) and an illustration of that definition by way of your artifact. The commentary as a whole may not have the traditional “beginning-middle-end” structure of typical critical or course essays, but some of those features may be embedded in the two main sections. Also, the two main sections should mutually set up and refer to one another. That is, each section should not be filled with random, unconnected observations, but rather they should share a common context to some degree.
  • The artifact section of your commentary requires a summary of the artifact. But instead of composing a full, detailed summary of the artifact (which itself could take pages), you should compose a purposeful summary—i.e., a summary that sets up the definitions and illustrations in the two main sections.
  • You should attach a brief description (or actual assignment sheet) of the class assignment that led to the creation of your artifact.
  • Your commentary should be 2-4 pages, double-spaced, in length.
  • You should follow your instructor’s requirements for submission procedures and due dates of commentaries in your course.
  • In addition to submitting your commentary to your course instructor who will evaluate the assignment according to the rubric, you should submit the commentary to LiveText (please see the English Education Coordinator if you have questions about this procedure, or if you do not have a LiveText account). For this LiveText submission please also attach a brief description (or actual assignment sheet) of the class assignment that led to the creation of your artifact. You may include this portion at the end of the file containing your commentary.