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Essay 1 Assignment: Recovering the Creature

Zimmerman, GWRIT 103
Spring 2008

In the world of knowledge, the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort…
                                                -- Plato The Allegory of the Cave

It is this way with all of us concerning language: we believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things – metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities…What then is truth?  Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense

The consumer is content to receive an experience just as it has been presented to him by theorists and planners….It is only the hardiest and cleverest of students who can salvage [it] from [the] package.  It is only the rarest of students who knows that [it] must be salvaged from the package.
 -- Walker Percy The Loss of the Creature


We have examined Plato’s Allegory of the Cave; we have wrestled with Nietzsche’s On Truth; and we continue to explore, expand, and complicate Percy’s concepts of “recovery” and “sovereignty.”  Now it is time to act. 

This assignment will challenge you to undertake three important intellectual activities: critical reading, recovery, and analysis as you turn the lens to your own experience and write your own “recovery.”  Where is your “Grand Canyon?” 

As you write, you will (no doubt) have thought carefully about the complicated quest for “truth”, the difficulties not only of representing those truths in language, but also of apprehending them in the present tense.    Now you must identify and write about a “Grand Canyon” – where you stood with the great gulf yawning at your feet, but did not “see” it at all.  Your ultimate goal is to wrest that event from the “many-tissued” package that Percy talks about.

You should imagine that you are carrying out a project that Percy has already begun, a project that has you looking at your own experience through “The Loss of the Creature.”

Use the worksheet and your critical reading of Percy to inspire your choices of possible topics. 
Use your writing groups as a place to talk out possible perspectives.  And then start writing.

Ideas for Prewriting

Start with a critical reading of your own experience. Perhaps the best way to look for an experience to recover is to open yourself to what you might learn from writing that experience into the present; that is, think about something in the past (be it 5 minutes ago or 5 years ago) that seems to linger in your memory.  Then sit down and write about it as specifically, sincerely, and as clearly as you can.  Only after you recapture the moment can you open yourself up to what you can learn from it.  That said, work to first tell the story as best you can, without agendas, without this essay in the back of your mind.  Let yourself inhabit that moment as imperfectly as your memory and language will allow.  Put it aside.  Then read it as if for the first time, through the lens of what you’ve learned from Percy.  From there, you can move through your analysis.


You’ll want to be sure to use evidence from Percy’s essay (i.e. quotes, specific examples) to show how your recovery “works.”  You’ll also want to be sure to integrate Percy into your essay as a means to explain your observations.  He is not to be used as a validator or “expert” to whom you surrender your sovereignty – rather use the terminologies he provides as ways to reclaim sovereignty over your own experience.  Ultimately, his terms should help you to establish a perspective from which you can look at and comment on the story you have to tell.

The recovery should be no less than 3 pages and no longer than 6 pages.

You will be evaluated on the degree of specificity and engagement with your subject as well as on the depth of your recovery as well as the conclusion(s) you make from the act of recovering the experience.  You will also be evaluated on how well you define and use your terms, how carefully you engage with Percy’s work, and how well you understand the way your own text functions in accord with Percy’s definitions.

Please be sure to give your essay a title and to head the papers as follows.  Place this information in the upper left hand corner:

Course and time
T. Zimmerman
Essay 1

Please cite your sources using MLA style



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