Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Prompt for Final Essay (Spring 2009)

When I asked people about assignments they wanted to complete this semester, several people talked about a final essay, but there was disagreement about the style. Some wanted to go a more traditional route and produce something academic that might be useful for graduate school applications or jobs that request writing samples. Some wanted to go the personal essay route again. I thought, why not allow for both?

Write an essay of no more than ten pages where you answer this question: how can we learn to live with pain in our contemporary lives? Feel free to go academic with this and do traditional research. Or feel free to get personal. Frankly, I think the best essays will do a bit of both. Everyone should make some reference to things we have read or seen in class. Include a Works Cited list for anything you cite or reference.

As usual, your audience consists of readers who do not know what you know or what we have done in class. Think that you are writing this for a general magazine or academic journal. I want you to try to answer this really large question while choosing your evidence and arguments carefully. You'll need to select well since you can't do it all, but I still want you to answer the large question and not just write about torture or rape or illness.

Like last semester, we'll meet as a class on the last day, Tuesday, May 5, and you'll read a couple of pages from a draft. There will be no formal peer response, but you can meet in smaller groups and do that on your own. The final draft (not able to be revised) will be due by email by noon on Friday, May 8. Because grades are due so fast, I cannot accept any late essays. They must be in on time to be counted.

ETA: When I say that the essay can be personal, I want to be clear that it should still have an argument with details and evidence. In the fall, the final essays focused more on telling rich, detailed stories. This time around, these essays should be more thesis-driven. Now, the thesis does not necessarily need to be the last sentence of the first paragraph, but it should be clear that your essays have an argument. And you should develop that argument with evidence, much of which should be taken from course readings and films. It's fine to get personal, and this doesn't have to look like a traditional essay written in first-year composition, but it should develop a somewhat traditional argument with evidence.

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