Posted: September 23rd, 2022
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– Writing Project 1–Textual Analysis: American (U.S.A.) Culture and Identity
Minimum Length: 1,000 words (not including quoted material or the Works Cited page)
– For Writing Project 1, you will be required to think deeply about how a “text” taken from American popular culture reflects, depicts, or conveys the American experience/identity to an audience. The primary “text” that you choose MUST be an example of one of the following genres, all of which have a visual component: an advertisement (TV, print, billboard, or Internet ad)
an episode of a television show (drama or sitcom, NO reality shows)
a comic book/graphic novel
a dramatic (not documentary) film
a work of art (such as a painting, a sculpture, a multi-media piece, a poster)
a music video.
– You MAY NOT, however, use any of the following texts as your primary texts for Writing Project 1:
“This Is America” (by Childish Gambino) “God Bless the U.S.A. (I’m Proud to Be an American)” (by Lee Greenwood)
Captain America (comic book/graphic novel and film)
The Blind Side (novel and film)
The Great Gatsby (novel and film)
American Sniper (book and film)
World Trade Center
The Pursuit of Happyness (book and film)
To Kill a Mockingbird (novel and film)
Of Mice and Men (novel and film)
Gone with the Wind (novel and film)
Forest Gump (novel and film)
The Wolf of Wall Street (book and film)
Romeo + Juliet
The Godfather (novel and film)
Goodfellas (book and film)
– Once you’ve chosen an appropriate primary text, your job will involve interpreting the significance of that text, its theme/message, and the implications of how your primary text depicts the American experience/identity.
For example, you may want to choose a car commercial that plays upon our desire to achieve the American Dream. Think about how the product, the car itself, represents a status symbol, the use of patriotic music, and key images. If you enjoy comic books, you could examine a specific Superman comic or graphic novel, and analyze how Superman fights for American ideals despite that fact he comes from another planet and that his powers/identity keeps him separate from others. You may want to take a look at a quintessential American image from one of Ansel Adams’ photographs or one of Norman Rockwell’s paintings. In your analysis you should not rely on general observations of your primary text. Focus on specific examples and details from your primary text in order to fully develop and illustrate your analysis of the text. – Here are some questions to consider as you as you analyze your primary text:
What aspect(s) of the American identity/experience does your primary text focus on (aspects such as but not limited to the following ideas: The American Dream; The American independent spirit; The American identity in wartime; The American identity in the aftermath of tragedy; the American idea of patriotism; American Capitalism; The American idea of family; etc.)?
Is the depiction of the American identity/experience in your primary text accurate or inaccurate?
Does your primary text rely on stereotypes in its depiction of the American identity/experience?
Does your primary text promote stereotypes, or does it try to destroy such stereotypes?
Is your primary text influenced by American ideals and attitudes? If so, how?
Does your primary text try to influence American ideals and attitudes? If so, how? These are the kinds of questions that should guide your analysis as you write Writing Project 1.
– The purpose of this writing project is to analyze, evaluate, and reflect on the possible meanings, intended or not intended, of your primary text. Ask yourself the following questions: Does the text rely on almost mythic ideas of what it means to be American? Does it utilize symbols or motifs or stereotypes (class, race, ethnicity, gender)? What messages—implicit or explicit, accurate or not so accurate—does this text produce or promote concerning American experience/identity? What language and/or visual images are incorporated into this text and for what effect? Does the primary text celebrate being American and present a positive depiction? Is the text’s message jingoistic? Does the text convey a negative image and criticize what Americans stand for? Is such a criticism valid and what is its source? It is important that your opening paragraph introduce and briefly summarize/describe your primary text.
– Your writing project should be clearly and logically organized and thoroughly develop and support your ideas. Your opening paragraph should convey why your primary text is representative of the American experience/identity and should establish a statement that controls the focus of your writing project and makes a claim about what insights your primary text makes about the American experience/identity.
Body paragraphs should contain only enough summary for background and context, relevant details from the texts, direct quotes when needed to support/illustrate a point, and thorough analysis. Be sure to move smoothly from one text to the next by drawing significant connections and utilizing transitional phrases. Rule of thumb: There should always be more analysis/interpretation than summary. Assume that your reader is basically familiar with your chosen texts. You may want to explore characters and what they reveal about the American experience/identity.
Finally, you may want to end your writing project with a conclusion that contains your final thoughts on how texts taken from our popular culture convey or reflect or shape American experience/identity.
– In addition to your primary text, you must research and include information taken from TWO (AND ONLY TWO) secondary sources that directly or indirectly address the text/topic. The secondary sources MAY NOT consist of book reviews or plot summaries. Please note that your research must come from credible sources such as books (none from the kid’s section), scholarly journals, magazines, or research databases (such as those available through Columbus State). You must research and find secondary sources that are more academic and that discuss your primary text (or topics related to the text) more deeply and more analytically than a basic review or plot summary can. The MLA International Bibliography database (which can be found on the Columbus State library website) might be a very useful place to begin your search for secondary sources. Many of the online databases (such as Academic Search Complete, MLA International Bibliography, etc.) offer access to full-text articles, so I highly recommend you search one of those databases for reliable secondary sources. I also recommend that you go to the “Research/MLA Help” area of the course, which contains two interactive guides that can help you significantly as you research your topic for Writing Project 1. Keep in mind that your secondary sources don’t necessarily have to directly discuss the primary text you’ve chosen (although it’s helpful when they do). For instance, your secondary sources could provide biographical information, historical information, cultural information, etc. As long as you can make useful and relevant connections between the information in your secondary sources and your topic, you’ll be fine. Remember, the most important aspect of this writing project is what you have to say about your primary text; your secondary sources should play a supporting role only. NOTE: While you may cite passages from The Bible in your essay, you should do so sparingly and only as a means of providing contextual information rather than concrete historical information. If you choose to cite from The Bible in your essay, you must still cite two other secondary sources. – An interesting and informative title
An introductory paragraph that identifies your primary text and establishes an explicit statement in your introductory paragraph that makes a claim about your text’s message and its impact on our understanding of the American experience/identity An awareness of audience, purpose, and context
An appropriate voice, tone, style, and level of formality
An analysis of argumentative strategies and/or persuasive appeals present in your primary text Development and support of a compelling idea through relevant and thorough exploration of one (and only one) primary text
Development and support that incorporates ideas and evidence from two (and only two) secondary sources
An identifiable structure, including introduction, coherent paragraphs, and conclusion
Appropriate conventions for structure and paragraphing
Appropriate mechanics and format
Effective use of syntax, grammar, punctuation, and spelling
Proper MLA documentation of primary text and secondary sources in both the body of the essay AND on a Works Cited page
At least three direct quotes from the primary text (unless the primary text is a painting/sculpture or some other work that does not contain written text)
At least one direct quote from each secondary source
Appropriate textual conventions for incorporating ideas from sources, e.g., introducing and incorporating quotations; quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing
A minimum of 1,000 words (not including quoted material or the Works Cited page)
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