EH 1301.88 WRITING ASSIGNMENTS
The purpose of this assignment is to encourage you to reflect on the factors that have molded you as a reader and writer. All of us come from different environments, and have had very different experiences; in this paper, you will analyze your own unique background, and try to understand some of the things that have shaped your individual development. The aim of this assignment is not to come up with an abstract, idealistic statement about your goals or aspirations as a writer. Instead, you will examine your own history in an attempt to define where you stand today.
One way to begin thinking about this assignment is to ask yourself the following questions. What were some of the formative experiences in your life as a student, from your earliest years in school to the present? How would you characterize the attitudes and approaches of your teachers and schools? What kinds of "rules" or "principles" were you taught, in or out of school? Do you agree with them today? What were attitudes towards writing and reading in your family? What are your earliest memories of reading and being read to? Of writing? Did you learn from siblings and peers? Were there one or two people who were especially important in your development as a writer, and why?
Think about a couple of specific events, people or situations that were especially important or memorable. What is it that makes them important? How are these events, people or situations related to your conception of yourself as a writer now?
As you work on the paper, think about the ways all of these experiences affect you today. What "lessons"-- whether intentional or unintentional-- did they impart? What sorts of attitudes and assumptions arise from them?
To sum up: in this paper, you will examine how you, as a unique individual, got to where you are today. Who are you, as a writer and reader in college, and what are some of the main contributing elements from your experiences and background?
In this paper, you will research a local political issue, or a local political personality (i.e., an official, or a current or former candidate for office). I have listed a few possibilities for you. I also encourage you to choose your own focus: perhaps there is another issue that you are especially interested in or that has personally affected you or someone you know. (If you choose something other than what is on the attached list, you should discuss it with me briefly.)
In researching a political issue, you should begin by focusing on the following questions. What is the history of this issue? (i.e., how long has it been a concern? What constituency or group originally brought it up? Why? Have previous measures been taken, and, if so, what were they?) Try to find out as much as possible about the various "sides" in the current debate. Are there particular interest groups involved in the debate? Who are they? Are the interests primarily economic, or based on other factors? Who will benefit or lose out if particular measures are taken? Why and how? Try to read "between the lines": are there underlying factors that tend not to be discussed publicly, but you think are important anyway? You should also focus on possible solutions to the perceived problem.
If you choose to research an official or candidate, your main focus should not be biographical. Any biographical information you do include should be very brief (i.e., one paragraph). You should start your research by asking the following questions. What is this person's political-- as opposed to personal-- history? (i.e., what issues did he or she focus on at the beginning of his/her career? What groups or interests did she/he choose to align with?) What are some of the person's main concerns of the last few years? What policies or legislative initiatives has he or she initiated? How have they been received? What kind of public "image" does the person project, and how has he/she worked with the media? Again, "read between the lines:" are there important issues that are not talked about directly?
Document all sources, using MLA style.
You are required to use at least five different sources, at least three of which must originally be printed publications. Possibilities range from daily newspapers to academic journals, internet websites and television news programs. It is a good idea to begin by looking at sources that will give you a broad overview, and then make your focus more specific. Be sure to evaluate your sources carefully. Does a given source represent a "neutral" point of view, or does it represent one of the opposing parties in a dispute? Is the source an informational article or an editorial? How can you tell the difference?
accusations of police brutality
the status of public education
local responses to war in Iraq
proposals to legalize marijuana
A politician or official from your home town
Former Mayor Bobbie Bright
Former Mayor Emory Folmer
Senator Richard Shelby
Senator Jeff Sessions
Former Governor Bob Riley
Write a personal essay exploring your citizenship. The events of the past few years have forced many people to question what it means to live in this country. Some questions you might want to explore are: which rights of citizenship do you benefit from, are there any that are outdated or should be changed? How have your ideas about being a US citizen changed in the past year? Do you feel more patriotic, or less? Do US citizens have too many rights, should our rights be more restricted? Why or why not?
Because citizenship means various things to each individual, you have lots of flexibility in this assignment.
The arming of the hero is a motif often exploited in literature. This highly ritualized action becomes richly symbolic of the hero's coming victory over opposing forces. The most famous example comes from Homer's Illiad (XVILI, 478-606). Achilles has lost his armor when the friend he loaned it to be killed by the Trojan hero Hektor. Now Achilles' mother, the goddess Thetis, prevails upon the heavenly blacksmith Hephaestos to make new armor for her son. On the marvelous shield Hephaestos portrays the earth, the heavens, the sea, the planets, a city in peace and a city at war, harvest festivals, scenes from animal life, and the joyful life of young men and maidens. Once Achilles is clad in this armor the reader can entertain no doubt that he will come off victorious in the fight.
W. H. Auden uses the Homeric shield as the metaphor for his ironic poem "The Shield of Achilles," about the inversion of values in today's life. Here the scenes on the shield are reminiscent of the holocaust, the concentration camp, the ghetto; and the goddess is appalled. Clearly the question is, how is heroism possible in a world where values are so inverted?
A powerful contrast in the motif of the arming of the hero is found in one of the most perfectly crafted heroic stories ever written, that of David and Goliath, found in 1 Samuel 17. Read that entire chapter thoughtfully and reflect upon the meaning conveyed by the ironic contrasts of Goliath's armor, Saul's armor, and David's battle dress. Do you see a connection in verse 45?
Still another wonderful literary account of armor is penned by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6: 10-17 (see also 1
Corinthians 10: 3-5). This detailing of the Christian armor is worthy of much prayerful reflection, for it is God's provision
for Christian victory. Clad in that invincible armor the weakest, most fearful saint is unassailable before a universe of
Note that the first piece of armor to be put on is the "belt of truth." What does that mean to you? Write an essay exploring it. You may share from the Scriptures an aspect of truth, which is precious to you explaining how it serves to protect. Or you may explore the truth of Bible promises: are they truth we can depend on? Or share an experience you've had, in which you either became aware of the preciousness of a truth or else learned that a specific truth is indeed protective armor. If you aren't comfortable, with a religious approach, discuss a truth, which is foundational to your own value system, your way of looking at life.
A concept is a major idea or principle. Every field of endeavor or study has its concepts: physics has quark , psychiatry has neurosis, business management has corporate culture, literature has irony, writing has invention , sailing has tacking, music has harmony, and mathematics has probability. From this brief list you can see that concepts include abstract ideas, objects, processes, and activities...[C]oncepts exist at different levels of abstraction; that is, certain concepts in a field are "larger" or more inclusive, than others. For example, in physics, atom is more abstract than electron , which is an element of atoms. In filmmaking, editing is more abstract than jump cut , which is one strategy of filmmaking ( Reading Critically, Writing Well 178) .
In this essay your first challenge is to decide what concept you would be interested in researching and writing about at length. The decision is an important one; much of the success of your essay depends on a sound choice. If you select a concept that is not of interest to you, you'll struggle to engage your readers. If you work with a concept that is too broad, you'll struggle to keep a focus; too narrow, and you'll exhaust your explanation within a couple of pages. If you select a concept that is too complex, you will struggle to establish your own voice and authority as a writer. That said, choose carefully and thoughtfully. I would like you to choose a concept within an academic discipline that you already have some exposure to and familiarity with. I'll expect you to know how things get explained in the discipline, to recognize language and conventions specific to the discipline. And as you write your essay, I'll expect you to break with convention, to offer an explanation that is creative and innovative and eschews traditional academic discourse.
Because I am asking you to draw on secondary sources, you might assume that I am also asking you to write a traditional research paper. Not at all. I am most interested in seeing how you grow familiar enough with and knowledgeable enough about a concept to clearly and engagingly explain it in your own words. If you rely too heavily on secondary sources as you explain your concept, your readers will suspect that you are uncomfortable with your topic, that you are unsure of yourself. In other words, you will lack the assurance and authority that you need to keep your readers involved in your essay. So why use secondary sources at all? First, I'm expecting you to write a thorough explanation of a concept, not a cursory explanation, so you'll need to draw on the knowledge of others in order to increase your own knowledge base. Second, and somewhat contradictorily, sources lend your essay authority. Yes, relying too heavily on sources weakens your essay, detracts from your stance as expert. But just the right amount of source material suggests that you are keeping very good company as a writer and thinker, that you belong to a community of experts. The bottom line: I'd like to see you use a minimum of three sources, and I'd like at least one of them be an interview with an expert.
So what exactly is it we do when we "explain" something? Explaining seems as if it would be the most natural thing in the world. Simple, really. Your roommate doesn't understand the distinction between "affect" and "effect," so you compose two sentences to illustrate the differences in the terms. You struggle to understand the "offsides" rule in soccer, so you ask your coach to draw a diagram. Think of all the strategies we have at hand to explain difficult or unfamiliar concepts and ideas:
We illustrate with similes, metaphors, and analogies--- tennis qualifiers are to a major tournament what the slaughterhouse is to a steak served at a fine restaurant: the qualies are messy and chaotic, and suggest none of the beauty and class depicted during the televised tournament (from David Foster Wallace's "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again").
We compare a concept with things it is similar to-- midwifery is like obstetrics, except that the midwife assists in the birthing of the baby rather than supervises and in many cases controls the birth, which is often what traditional obstetricians do. A pregnant woman has much more agency when working with a midwife.
We provide examples of literary references to the concept---In his novel Under Western Eyes , Joseph Conrad writes, "The lightening waved and darted round him its silent flames..."
We classify and divide the concept--- intervals and fartleks are two long distance training techniques that runners rely on to build strength and speed.
We refer to the history of the concept--- autism "was medically described, almost simultaneously, in the 1940s, by Leo Kanner in Baltimore and Hans Asperger in Vienna. Both of them, independently, named it â€˜autism'" (Sacks 190).
And there are many other techniques as well. So explaining a concept is not as simple as it seems. Your explanation will benefit from some creative thinking, writing, and researching on your part, and we will take class time to experiment with and strategize approaches to the essay.
"WHAT IS TRUTH?"
Look at the four accounts of Jesus before Pilate found in the Gospels. Notice where Pilate asks Jesus, "What is truth?" Pilate was a judge. Why does a judge need to know the truth?
Who today needs the answer to Pilate's question?
A hair stylist?
A young parent?
A college student brought up in a Christian/Buddhist/Agnostic home?
Let's each focus on some one questioner. The nearer we can come to ourselves, to our own interests and needs, the more honestly we're confronting this assignment.
Where to start? Think about an aspect of your projected career in which your actions will need to be firmly based in truth. Then think of something from the life or teachings of Jesus, or from some other Bible story or teaching, which points the way to truth in the setting you are addressing. Use one Bible passage or several (use a concordance if you need to). Connect an aspect of Biblical truth--truth as it is in Jesus--with your occupation or personal situation.
Try to keep tone conversational. Use analogies, figures of speech, if you like.
Appendix A: Excerpts from Student Responses to Writing Honestly
Honesty to others starts with honesty to one's self.
I have been taught to lie both in my writing and in my life. It has been driven into my brain that it isn't worth getting hurt by telling what I feel. I try to hide so many things from people, so they won't see the real me.
Writing truthfully is like wearing your shirt wrong side out. Everyone can see the loose threads, the missed stitches and the knots.... People hide behind big words, colloquialisms and overworked phrases because they're afraid if they let their true thoughts out on paper they'll be torn apart and crumpled.
To achieve the goal of truthful writing I feel that I must let some of my inner self escape and become woven into what I am trying to create.
In order to write honestly, I feel that I am going to have to meet and honestly know myself. But just studying more and more "English" will not help me to know and better understand English; trying to find myself and my honest writing style will not come from digging from inside myself. It will come from a close personal relationship with God, who made me and gave me the mind I have. He is the only one who really knows me, and truth can come only from Him.
The exciting thing about truthful writing is that I don't ever have to kid myself that "I have arrived," for truth is always new, alive, and different. There is always more to learn.
Writing that causes the reader to empathize . . . is good writing. It may cause embarrassment or even disgust, but that is a risk that must be taken when presenting truth. When my writing equals the simplicity of a child, then I will know that I have reached my goal.
Honesty is one of the childhood traits we shouldn't have left behind. Writing exactly what we feel is reeducation, rewinding our way of thinking and acting onto another reel, but it will untangle a lot of communication problems and allow us to view others and ourselves more clearly.
To shake the habit of untruthful writing I must either eliminate all unuseful words or start my learning process over.
To scratch my leg when the character in the story has gotten bit by a mosquito, to feel an intense relief when the fever breaks and the little boy is going to live; to discover after a suspenseful chapter I had bruised the apple I had been holding. This is honest writing.
I can only hope to write truthfully as I allow myself to be straight-forward and vulnerable to life itself.
Appendix B : Teacher-written sample
What Is Truth?
The watch's smoking torch lit the passageway between dwelling quarters and praetorium, and the procurator could see that it would soon be full day. An evil one, he feared. The presentiment about the day seemed out of proportion to his irritation at being summoned so early from his bed. Judea was a distasteful post at best; one never knew what the excitable people would do next. Worst of all were the crafty religious leaders, forever trying to ingratiate themselves into one's favor but only waiting a chance to stab Caesar in the back. Since this was feast time,
he'd have to look to his safety; with a million people in town and feelings high anyway, an insurrection would blaze up like hurricane-fanned tinder. Fortunately, the worst terrorist was safely behind bars: he knew the people were sure to try to get him to release Barabbas, but he was not going to see anyone who set himself up as "King of the Jews" freed to light that fuse. As for this trial he'd been routed out of bed for--he'd let them have their way at feast, time: what was one more crucifixion? The road to Rome was paved with the crosses of Caesar's puppet's enemies.
Arrived at the chamber to the salutes of legionnaires, Pilate his place on the judgment seat. The prisoner would be another sullen, slinking cur, lashing out with oaths against a world he couldn't conquer. Pilate's eyes scanned the hall without locating the victim.
"The accused?" he questioned of the centurion who served as chief officer of the court.
"There, your honor." The soldier indicated a man of medium height wearing a soiled blood-stained tunic.
Pilot's eyes registered surprise bordering on disbelief. Wrists tightly bound behind him with a chain held painfully taut between two soldiers, the Man seemed oblivious to His surroundings. In fact, in all his life Pilate had never witnessed such dignity. Not insolence, not bravado, held the bleeding shoulders erect and the chest high: the prisoner stood as though he somehow owned the land he trod. The face, Pilate thought, would be with him always: it was filled with sadness diffused with joy, and utterly without resentment. When the prisoner turned and cast his eyes upon Pilate, the Roman thought it must have been the first time in his life that anyone had ever really looked at him and seen him as a person. The glance made him conscious of his humanity in a way held never been before. He felt both more and less free, as though infinite possibilities for his own development had just been opened before him, yet as though somehow there would never be any going back to the farce he'd called life for forty-seven years. Pilate wanted to explore the possibilities the look had opened to him, but the court was called to order by the chief officer and the trial had started.
The proceedings were a blur of angry, shouting Jews, unfounded accusations, threats and innuendoes that normally would have intimidated the governor into doing what was asked. But today Pilate was a man at last. He could act and stand up and take the consequences. It wasn't that this case was so different from scores of others. It was just that the unforgettable Face had made Pilate aware for the first time that injustice was something more than a word, that integrity did actually exist, that a puppet who'd danced to anyone's pull of the strings could stand up to the universe, that what he did mattered. The thought made him dizzy.
What were they saying now, that this man made himself out a king? King? Pilate passed his hand over his eyes in wonderment. Why, that was it: the prisoner stood like a king. But what sort of kingship could overlook all of this, could own it all--even the shamefulness--could even somehow make Pilate himself sovereign in a way he'd never dreamed possible? It was as though he were about to be born again, into a higher life than held ever known, into a kingdom in a completely different dimension from Caesar's. He must talk with Jesus alone.
When the two men stood together in the inner chamber, Pilate had no words to express what he sensed. "You--you are a king?" He was stammering like a simpleton.
"You have judged correctly." The eyes seemed to see not Pilate's form so much as his soul, to read inner longings the Roman had never known existed. The voice went on, human, weary, pain-constricted, yet sure, resonant with joy. "My kingdom is not from here not from this world."
The prisoner shook his head. "My kingdom is in a higher realm. It is for this that I came into the world: to reveal my kingdom."
Pilot's eyes widened. Yesterday--an hour ago--this would all have been insanity. Now he wondered if anything else could ever matter.
"I came into this world," resumed Jesus, "to--"
"Came?" Pilot interrupted. "From where?"
"From my kingdom," Jesus affirmed, glancing upward. It seemed as though warmth of light suffused His face. Pilate could not tell whether the glow descended upon Him or shone out from within.
"Yes, I have come to bear witness to the truth. One who is of the truth hears me and accepts me for what I am." There was invitation in the tone, as though it mattered to Jesus whether or not Pilate accepted, a kind of mattering that had nothing at all to do with whether the governor released Him or crucified Him.
"Truth. What is it?" Could this be truth--that the values Pilate had lived by, this governorship, climbing the ladder of empire by coercion, flattery, or duplicity--that these were non-values; and that it was by relinquishing authority that one could be connected with the only power that really mattered, power in a higher dimension, that satisfied one down inside, that made freedom of action possible?
The shouting outside broke Pilate's reverie. The roar--he had heard it before--like a crazed human organism, crescendoing into a hurricane: by hand-gained experience he knew that the mob was one step away from insurrection.
Pilot darted for the door instinctively. The disturbance must be quelled without delay. Then he hesitated. Truth. What mattered more, his post as procurator? Or becoming part of a 'Kingdom based on truth? He knew what he
would do. He would take the hands, release the fetters. Not the subject but the King had the authority to confront human nature. He would send the King to meet the mob.
"Pontius Pilate!" The roar was deafening. "Pilate, don't be bewitched. Come out here at once. Come or you are not Caesar's Friend." Pilate shook himself out of his trance, shrugging into the role he had always played. Weak at the core as he knew himself to be, he was the Roman, by training and authority. It was too humiliating to think he couldn't handle a handful of Jews. How foolish to have believed for a moment that not only Jesus' destiny but Pilot's own salvation lay in the prisoner's fettered hands.
"Truth--what is it?" he muttered as he strode forth to quell the insurrection.
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Congratulations on making it this far. Only one more thing to do. The PORTFOLIO.
What is a portfolio? Well, it is a collection of your best work. Pick four of the seven assignments and rework each paper. Re-vision the paper. Re-think the paper. Re-see the paper. Then re-write the paper, showing everything youâ€™ve learned in this class. These papers will be the bulk of your grade, so make sure that you give them everything youâ€™ve got.
Remember to check your arguments. Are they sound? Do they lead to a conclusion? Ask yourself: Do I know the purpose of my paper and do I achieve that purpose? Will a reader know my purpose and believe Iâ€™ve achieved my goals? Remember to proofread. If I get to the fifth grammatical mistake, I will stop reading. No credit. No pass.
Put these four papers in the left hand pocket of a folder. On top, put an essay arguing your grade for the class. Show me how you feel youâ€™ve improved over the semester (as a writer). Show me why you believe you deserve this grade. Remember to include in your evaluation the number of late papers, and weeks you were prepared, or unprepared, for class.
In the right hand pocket put all of the assignments (formal writing assignments) that I have returned to you. Put them in order beginning with assignment #1. If an assignment is missing, put an explanation in its place. "I lost it" is not an explanation.