Approaching Great Ideas
First Edition   ©2016

Approaching Great Ideas

Critical Readings for College Writers

Lee A. Jacobus (University of Connecticut)

  • ISBN-10: 1-4576-9994-X; ISBN-13: 978-1-4576-9994-8; Format: Paper Text, 484 pages

Thirty-nine readings introduce students to great thinkers and writers from the past and present. Each thematic chapter features writing from classic authors to whom most contemporary writers look for a basic foundation, thinkers such as Lucretius, John Kenneth Galbraith, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Mary Wollstonecraft, and James Baldwin. Then, selections from more contemporary writers including Leslie T. Chang, Francis Fukuyama, Steve Jones, Michio Kaku, Amartya Sen, and others show students how these ideas are viewed from modern-day perspectives.

Five thematic chapters explore important ideas essential to our culture. Democracy and human rights, freedom and justice, science and nature, wealth and poverty, and ethics and morality have been important cultural concepts since ancient times, and they continue to shape our world today.

A guide to critical reading shows students how to engage with “big ideas.” The first chapter of the book, “Examining Ideas,” introduces students to the process of critical reading, beginning with essential prereading techniques and moving through annotating, asking good questions, reviewing, and discussing the readings with peers.

A guide to critical writing gives students the tools to put their own ideas into writing. A second introductory chapter, “Writing about Ideas,” guides students through the writing process, showing them how to generate topics for writing, how to form thesis statements, and traditional methods of development for supporting an argument. An annotated student paper then shows students what these strategies look like in action.Step-by-step editorial apparatus gives students effective methods for approaching and responding to the selections. Chapter introductions, headnotes, and useful glosses help students focus their reading and hone their understanding of the selections. Then, three sets of discussion and writing questions follow every selection:

  • "Understanding Ideas" questions help students dig into the readings by asking them to define terms, reflect on specific passages, and examine the writer's arguments, providing starting points for class discussion.
  • "Responding to Ideas" writing prompts give students the chance to demonstrate their grasp of the ideas in the text by producing their own critical writing. Every one of these questions has a rhetorical label (Definition, Comparison, Example, Cause and Effect, Testimony, Research, Response, or Analysis of Circumstances question-all methods that are discussed in the "Writing about Ideas" chapter) that help give students a sense of how to start responding to a reading and how to develop their own ideas.
  • "Comparing Ideas" questions ask students to find the connections and key differences among different authors, which fosters comparative critical thinking.

"Seeing Ideas" shows students how ideas are enacted in the world around them. Every chapter introduction features two images that help illustrate how the ideas of the chapter have played out-historically and more recently-in the real world.