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The Identification Project, Spring 2006

This page takes on three important questions about the Identification Project: what, what for, and how to (here's where you can find the assignment sheet[s]). My goal is to make this page as useful to you as possible, so let me know if it can be improved. If anything is badly worded, unclear, or missing, please contact me with constructive criticisms. Thanks.

What

The Identification Project is designed to encourage self-awareness, self-reflection, and a critical engagement with the course material. It consists of an initial personal/reflective essay (due Th 2/9/06) which you then revise into a longer experimental/persuasive essay for a public audience (due F 4/21/06), based on your responses to the readings, discussions, reading responses that have most influenced you through late March in the course.

The first stage of the Identification Project is to write a personal essay that, in three separate sections--using self-reflection, storytelling, and theorizing, respectively--conveys your perception of your own identity, your experience with American identities, and understanding of the concept of American identities. The three sections do not have to be unified under a general theme or overall argument and you don't even have to work particularly hard to create connections between them if you don't want to. The point is to get your ideas out early in the course on each of these topics and then see how they change over the first two months of the course.

By the time the revision of this initial essay is due, we will have completed the first two units of the course. Your task for this "re-vision" is to change your relatively fragmented personal essay, with its emphasis on self-reflection, into a relatively coherent experimental essay with an emphasis on reaching a public audience. Your job, that is, is to re-envision your first draft (rethink, rewrite, reorganize it) so that it shifts smoothly between theoretical and experiential writing in a mix that best conveys how your ideas about the relation between your own identity and American identities have changed or developed in the course and best inspires your readers to consider doing a similar self-examination and self-reflection of their own. It's not exactly a persuasive or argumentative essay, that is, because it doesn't have to be thesis-driven in the narrow sense, but you should work hard to move readers to take seriously the perspective you're bringing to bear on the issues you've chosen to focus on. Putting yourself in dialogue, explicitly and implicitly, with the writers and ideas in the course that have influenced you the most or prompted the most productive internal dialogues is one good way to accomplish all these things, but the final revision shouldn't read like a book report or research paper--developing your own voice and organization and audience for the piece is what makes this an experimental essay.

What For

In a nutshell, the Identification Project is designed to confront the common assumption that it's easy to separate learning from the learner. In other words, the assignment is meant to demonstrate that this course isn't about 'others,' that your own identity and how you understand it and feel about it are on the line here, as well--whatever that identity may be. Further, it's meant to allow you space to explore and reflect upon your own experiences, beliefs, values, and assumptions with respect to a range of significant identity markers or group affiliations or structuring forces, such as age, gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, class, and sexuality, among many others. In pedagogical terms, think of this project as consisting of a pre- and post-assessment that allows us both to consider your growth and development in the course and your engagement with the course as a whole--or at least as close to one as is feasible. By supplementing our course materials' focus on national and regional identities and the Service Learning Project's focus on local and community identities with a focus on individual and personal identities, the Identification Project allows you to analyze and reflect on American Identities from the macro- to the micro-level.

How To

Here's the assignment sheet for the initial essay.

Due: by 5 pm Thursday, February 9, 2006.

Assignment: write a personal essay in three sections: 1) a reflection of at least two pages on how you identify yourself (what aspects of your identity are most crucial to you?); 2) a description of at least two pages of a significant experience with American identities; 3) a statement of at least two pages of your beliefs/principles on how we ought to define and understand American identities. These sections do not need to be explicitly related to each other.

Format: typed or word-processed; minimum of two pages per section; double spaced, with reasonable fonts, font sizes, and margins (be warned that barely getting onto the 2nd sheet of paper does not a two-page section make!); heading that includes your name, the course name or number, and the date; title that alludes to main themes of the essay; subtitles that indicate your focus in each section; formatting, bibliography, and citations (if you choose to use either of the latter two) in a recognized style like APA or MLA (see the links page for explanations and examples of MLA style; the basic template is: Author. "Title of Poem, or Essay, or Story." Title of Book from which It Comes. Ed., Editor of Book [if any]. City of Publication: Publisher, Date of Publication. Page Numbers.); proper quotation format in body of paper according to the citation style you've chosen (for MLA, it's typically author's last name and page number in parentheses in body of paper--"..." (Prashad 17).--and blockquote format for quotations five lines or longer).

Audience: In general, think of your immediate audience as those who have taken and are taking this class; hence, you can assume that your readers have read the texts you're writing on and you don't have to include the kind of background that someone not taking this course would need. Rethinking who your audience is and how the essay needs to be changed will be part of the "re-vision" process for this project, and it's never too early to approach this task thoughtfully after you turn in the initial draft.

Grading Criteria: The initial essay will receive a grade based strictly on the effectiveness of each section's structure in conveying your ideas and experiences and the quality of the paper's prose (including grammar, syntax, and punctuation). This grade will be one small factor of the overall Identification Project grade.

Here's the assignment sheet for the "re-vision" to the initial essay.

Due: by 5 pm Friday, April 21, 2006.

Assignment: revise the first draft of your personal essay into a relatively coherent experimental essay that shifts smoothly between theoretical, narrative, and experiential writing in a mix that best conveys how your ideas about the relation between American identities and your own identity have changed or developed in the course and best inspires your readers to consider doing a similar self-examination and self-reflection of their own. Your job is to turn your personal reflections into something that a public audience will find interesting, inspiring and persuasive.

Format: You have two options: posting your paper on the American Identities blog, or turning in your paper to me in the usual way. 1) If you take up my offer to post your revised essay to the class blog I've created, and thereby up the ante when it comes to audience (actual people besides me will read it!), you must turn in to me a paper that meets all the requirements of the regular paper but is no more than 6 pages and which lists the pseudonym you want it to be posted under in the heading after your name (should you want to hide your actual identity). You must also respond to my invitation (over email) to join the blog and post your essay on it yourself. 2) If you turn it in as a regular paper, it must be typed or word-processed; a minimum of ten pages; double spaced, with reasonable fonts, font sizes, and margins (be warned that barely getting onto the 10th sheet of paper does not a ten-page essay make!); with a heading that includes your name, the course name or number, and the date; a title that alludes to main themes of the essay; subtitles that indicate your focus in each section (if you continue to use sections or break it up into new sections); formatting, bibliography, and citations (if you choose to use either of the latter two) in a recognized style like APA or MLA (see the links page for explanations and examples of MLA style; the basic template is: Author. "Title of Poem, or Essay, or Story." Title of Book from which It Comes. Ed., Editor of Book [if any]. City of Publication: Publisher, Date of Publication. Page Numbers.); proper quotation format in body of paper according to the citation style you've chosen (for MLA, it's typically author's last name and page number in parentheses in body of paper--"..." (Du Bois 17).--and blockquote format for quotations five lines or longer).

Audience: In general, think of your immediate audience as someone who may be interested in the core issues of the course but who has not been taking this class; hence, you can't assume that your readers have read the texts you're writing on, so you have to include the kind of background that someone not taking this course would need. Rethinking who your audience is for this "re-vision" and how the initial essay needs to be changed in light of it is one of the big challenges of the Identification Project.

Grading Criteria: The "re-vision" will be graded in terms of its ability to convey how your ideas about the relation between American identities and your own identity have changed or developed in the course and to inspire your readers to consider doing a similar self-examination and self-reflection of their own; the quality and coherence of the ideas, experiences, and stories that reveal your essay's main goal(s), audience(s), and interlocutor(s); the effectiveness of the essay's structure and organization in contributing toward its main goal(s) and to the dialogue between writers who use this form or who write on related topics; and the quality of the essay's prose (including grammar, syntax, punctuation, and formatting). This grade will be one fairly large factor of the overall Identification Project grade. Other factors include the ambitiousness and success of the "re-vision"'s development of the ideas and stories from the initial essay; the effectiveness of each section of the initial essay in conveying your ideas and experiences and the quality of each section's prose (including grammar, syntax, and punctuation); the overall grade for the initial essay.

Advice: Think of this revision as an exploration of the meaning of American identities today through a mix of writing modes that draw on your own identifications and affiliations. You might ask yourself the following questions as you consider what you want to convey about American identities today and how: What is "national" identity? Is it legal status, participation in a particular culture or multiculture or transculture, participation in a certain kind of political-economic system, commitment to a set of ideas or principles, a certain kind of emotion, or what? How does "national" identity relate to other identities (racial, ethnic, gender, class, religious, regional, subcultural, etc.)? In what ways do you identify personally as an "American"? In what circumstances do you feel "most" American? How to convey how it feels to be American without lapsing into overgeneralizations, stereotypes, or clichˇs?



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AMST/ENGL 296: American Identities, Spring 2006
Created: 1/27/06 10:46 am
Last modified: 5/5/06 4:30 pm
Webmaster: Bruce Simon, Associate Professor of English, SUNY Fredonia