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Home » People » Karl Sherlock » English 120 » Resources » info | Subject v. Topic

Subject, Idea, Topic

Successful college level writing developed as a response to other texts requires a process of critical thinking that 1) recognizes at least one general subject involved and demonstrates a knowledge of that subject; 2) fosters a reaction to that subject that leads to deeper or more focused idea about it; and 3) leads to an argument, a point, or an assertive observation about that topic worthy of further discussion and support.


a collection of facts or background data
generality; neutrality
summaries; abstracts
encyclopedic overviews
  • famine
  • biotechnology
  • Renaissance art
  • cultural diversity
Writing Strategies
  • Summary
  • Overview
  • General Definition
  • Classification-Division


attitudes about subjects
inquisitive or investigative
hypotheses and inferences
focus on a part of a subject
  • starvation in U.S. urban centers
  • morality and biotechnology
  • the inspiration for Renaissance art
  • teaching cultural diversity
Writing Strategies
  • Report
  • Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Definition


a focused opinion
a conclusion needing proof
theories and assertions
an interpretive filter
a point of view
  • urban starvation a rising trend in U.S.
  • morality/biotech: who decides boundaries?
  • the Renaissance: heretical, not spiritual
  • why teaching cultural diversity won't work
Writing Strategies
  • Argument and Persuasion
  • Cause-Effect
  • Definition
  • Interpretation

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Lost in an Exercise

Take a five minutes to write about a time when you were "lost in an experience." For example, when was the last time you saw a movie, read a book, or were engaged in some other activity that you got so caught up in, you lost track of time and your surroundings? What generally and specifically caused that to happen to you?  Include your answer in your response. 

Note: Since you won't necessarily be sharing this with others in the class, it's okay to write this in whatever way is comfortable to you, even if that means in a language other than English.
Empathy and Aleithea

Aletheia: a psychological state of lucid self-forgetfulness; the opposite of mindfulness

[from "Lethe": For the ancient Greeks, the waters of forgetfulness during the crossing to Hades that made souls forgetful of their former mortal lives; related word: "lethargic."

Liminal: of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition; related word: "subliminal."

Pathos: (Greek) an appeal to emotions

What is EMPATHY?

How does "empathy" differ from "sympathy"? Is empathy something you feel consciously, unconsciously, or liminally? Why? When you are engrossed in something and lose "yourself" to it, are you feeling empathy or sympathy?

What are the roots of your empathy? Is it learned or something you're born with?


How do you know how to read, and read into, the text of a book, a film, a play, etc? Where do you draw your assumptions about what things "mean" and how they mean? 

xrcs | Things You Know

Last Updated: 02/01/2017


Karl J. Sherlock
Associate Professor, English
Office Hours: 558A (inside Bldg. 52)
Phone: 619-644-7871

  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District