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GWRIT 103 Fall 2005 ~ Comfort
Essay Assignment #2 ~ Exploring Our Histories

First Draft and Annotated Bibliography Due During Conferences Monday 10/24 – Friday 10/28
Revision Due Tuesday 11/1
Second Revision Due Thursday 11/3
Final Revision Due Tuesday 11/10

We all have our stories. We all have our histories.  Through the filters of human memories and lives, stories evolve and interweave with others, creating a three-dimensional reality in constant flux. We call it history.  Diaries, interviews, photographs, films, recorded conversations, letters and other forms of primary sources can help us get closer to the different truths of our collective pasts. After viewing the film Now After All These Years and after reading Limerick’s essay “Haunted America” and Griffin’s essay “Our Secret,” we have witnessed different examples of critical, analytical thinking and writing. We have explored different elements of history and the many forms it can take in our comprehension of it.  The memories of those who have made history or who have been a part of history are often different from what we read in textbooks.  We can see that the events that occur in the world and the events that occur in our lives are interconnected, and we have a vested interest in exploring the contrasting perspectives of these historical events and people’s actions (or inactions) and the causes and effects which surround them.

Your Main Assignment: Go to the library and find at least two or three first person accounts of a place, person, or event of local, national, or international significance before 1994. The more varied the first person accounts the better. Analyze the details and the different first person accounts surrounding your subject which reveal its/her/his complexities.  Examine the parallels and contrasts between the different accounts and use them to illuminate a larger argument/lesson, a three-dimensional, humanized mini-history.

(Assignment Version #1)  You may want to follow Limerick’s example and create a linear essay illustrating the importance of seeing the contrasting human experiences and perceptions which make up the multiple layers of your historical subject.   
(Assignment Version #2) You may want to challenge yourself further and follow Griffin’s more “experimental” example.  Create a non-linear piece about your subject, using “Our Secret” as a model.  Break the “plane” of the page and treat history, according to Griffin, as “a field of gravity that is created by the movement of many bodies. Each life is influenced and in turn becomes an influence. Whatever is a cause is an effect.” Griffin mixes both academic and personal writing to illustrate this idea. You will need to think about your own personal family histories which you may tell in response to the stories and texts (outside, primary sources) which you assemble.  You will need to consider how to organize and arrange your ideas and stories with others’ ideas and stories, and how to assert your own voice within the piece.  With this version of the assignment you may use the first person voice in addition to the third person voice.  

Keep in mind that this is not a report, this is a thesis driven essay built on analysis and critical thought, and I will be grading the final revision accordingly. The final revision of the essay will also be graded for depth of thought, focus, style, and mechanics.  I know that you are not a professional historian and I do not expect you to have the time to write a complete history of a place, person or event.  Think of this as a mini-history, an exercise in thinking critically about a subject and the sources which reveal its history.
The First Draft/Version must have:

  • an annotated bibliography of sources you are researching;
  • at least 750-1000 words, typed on a word processor, 1” margins, 12 pt. font, double-spaced, with a title, your name, and date;
  • a working thesis which has some concrete details and examples;
  • at least two primary sources, personal accounts, cited within the piece.

The Final Revision must have:

  • 1250-2000 words, typed on a word processor, 1” margins, 12 pt. font, double-spaced, with a title; your name, date, course number, and section number in the upper left hand corner of the first page, and your last name and page number on each consecutive page at the top right hand corner;
  • a clear thesis supported with concrete details and examples;
  • at least four outside sources cited within the piece according to MLA format, at least two of which must be primary, first person accounts. Two of the sources must come from scholarly journals or books.
  • a Works Cited page, according to MLA format.

Remember to include all drafts, peer reviews, and invention work along with your final revision in your essay folder. You must hand in all of these materials in a folder in order to get credit for your final revision.

Some examples of primary sources/first person account sources:

Oral histories
Documents produced by government agencies e.g. Congress or the Office of the President
Audio recordings
Films/moving pictures
Video recordings
Research data
Objects or artifacts such as works of art



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