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					WRT 105: UNIT 2—HOMELAND (IN)SECURITY
Adapted from Matt Garite’s “Geographies of Exclusion” assignment.

Introduction: The American landscape often seems like little more than a crowded tapestry of gas stations and Quick-E-Marts, 7Elevens and burger joints, massive concrete structures shoulder to shoulder with plywood sheds, wires and cables crisscrossing the heavens— the whole thing saturated with layers of signs and billboards that float in mid-air, disrupting the continuity of experience like a webpage littered with pop-ups—all connected by an intricate network of highways breeding highways breeding shopping malls and Other resources: bourgeois residential utopias. We  <www.epodunk.com> could also describe this landscape as a  <www.zillow.com> series of affluent (but paranoid)  Google Earth islands, fully equipped with guarded  Graffiti artist Banksy‟s website: <www.banksy.co.uk> perimeters and cutting-edge  Various youtube videos, keywords “David Belle” or “parkour”  <www.urbanfreeflow.com> surveillance technologies, buttressed  Various chapters of Writing Analytically on all sides by an ever-expanding sea of impoverishment, disempowerment, and decay. These are the spaces we occupy. Our days are spent toiling in the shadows of global capitalism, where “purple mountain majesties” have long since faded from view. For Unit 2, I would like each of you to explore this landscape, focusing specifically on the spaces from which you emerged. Like social cartographers or film noir private eyes, we will devote the greater part of the next six weeks to an ongoing investigation of this omnipresent “culture of congestion” in an attempt to determine the role it plays in our contemporary built environment. Postmodern space, in all its complexity, will constitute our shared object of study.
Suggested Readings from Critical Encounters with Texts:  Sara Ahmed‟s “Recognising Strangers”  Stuart Cosgrove‟s “The Zoot-Suit and Style Warfare”  Steven Flusty‟s “Building Paranoia”  Lucy Lippard‟s “Marking the Spot”  Michael Martone‟s “Country Roads Lines with Running Fences: A Dozen Story Problems about the Place of Place”  Linda McDowell‟s “In Public: the Street and Spaces of Pleasure”  Rachel Middleman‟s “History with a Small „H‟: A Conversation with Glenn Ligon”  Geraldine Pratt‟s “Abandoned Women and Spaces of the Exception”  David Sibley‟s introduction to Geographies of Exclusion

Overview: Each of you will build upon the work you’ve done in Unit I—in other words, reading closely and critically, observing, and interpreting—only this time I would like you to analyze the spaces and geographies of your hometown, its buildings, its layout, its social atmospheres, and most importantly, its various patterns of inclusion and exclusion. Think of the essay as an opportunity to enter an “autobiographical contact zone,” where your life narratives and the social narratives that surround you connect and collide. Our collective goal for the unit is to generate meanings about spaces, identities, and cultural beliefs and practices. Toward this end, each of you will: 1) attempt to understand your hometown in relation to its broader social and political context; 2) attempt to make provocative claims about what the spaces of the community illustrate, gloss over, or hide; and 3) you will ultimately try to generate new ideas or theories for the rest of the class to consider, challenge, and complicate. Unit 2 is also intended to serve as a continuation of our introduction to the conventions of academic discourse. We will spend time over the next few weeks thinking about how to make analytic claims, to richly describe, and to recognize and articulate links between personal experiences or memories and larger cultural issues (like race, gender, class, ethnicity, and history). We will also spend time grappling with complex readings, and practicing critical reading strategies like annotating, unpacking, responding, and journaling. Along with the issues of inclusion and exclusion, you’ll also want to keep in mind the following additional questions or prompts as you pursue your analysis for Unit Two:  Is your hometown located in an urban, suburban, or rural region of the country?

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What are some of the relationships between your town and those around it? What are the component parts of the space? What kinds of people or identities emerge from the space? Is this predominantly a space of production or consumption? Is one form of labor privileged over another? How is your hometown composed in terms of race, class, age, or religious affiliation? What are some of the power relationships revealed or obscured by the space? How is the history of your town grounded in its buildings and structures? What ideologies are embedded in the landscape (at the level of billboards, bumper stickers, symbols, and icons)? What is the relationship in your community between natural and built environments? Is the community devoting resources to development, or conservation? Is it building new homes, or restoring old ones? Where are the “dead spaces” or “wastelands” in your community? How are these “unprogrammed” spaces (local streets, courtyards, sidewalks, apartment staircases, vacant lots) occupied by teenagers or adolescents? Is the community composed of spaces that encourage boredom or engagement?

Just because there is pressure on you (the “I” of the essay) to be critical in your examination of your hometown, that doesn’t mean you will be working all alone. That’s one of the ways secondary sources can help. Your analysis will be both richer and more persuasive if you contextualize your claims in some way, offering your readers some insight into larger cultural forces and phenomena. To ensure that you do this, I am requiring each of you to reference at least two outside sources. We will spend time in class brainstorming possibilities, exploring the web for potential material, and practicing working with source material and weaving it effectively into our own analyses. The first step of the assignment is to pick a location within your hometown that you would like to examine in more detail. However, it won’t be sufficient to narrate your personal experience of the space, or simply to describe its various features. These are all important aspects of analysis (in other words, things that you’ll want to include in your paper), but you can’t stop there. Ultimately you’ll need to ask questions about the space: Who is it for? Whom does it exclude? How are these prohibitions maintained in practice? It will be important for you to move beyond the level of mere narration and description, in order to examine the details of your location carefully enough to be able to explore what it means, what it suggests, and why it seems significant. As Rosenwasser and Stephen say, “Virtually all forms of description are implicitly analytical. When you choose what you take to be the three most telling details about your subject, you have selected significant parts and used them as a means of getting at what you take to be the character of the whole. This is what analysis does: it goes after an understanding of what something means, its nature, by zeroing in on the function of significant detail” (WA, 4th ed. 7). There is no predetermined formula to follow or structure to imitate as you attempt to organize your essay, but your writing and critical thinking are bound to be more successful if you adhere to the following principles:      Provide readers with a rich, detailed description of your hometown, so that they can picture or imagine the space for themselves. Keep your narrating to a minimum, and make sure that any stories you tell serve the purpose of supporting a claim. Make regular, repeated references back to the details of the space. Readers will appreciate being reminded of what you see and why it’s noteworthy. Let your discoveries, insights, realizations, claims or theories serve as the driving force behind the essay. In other words, make these things prominent—use them to create shifts or transitions as you build paragraphs or make your way from one discussion to another. Keep in mind an academic audience that is ready to challenge ideas that are unsupportable, overgeneralized, obvious, or poorly articulated.

Grading: As I grade your papers, I will be looking for the following:          a clearly stated thesis. a clever title. a minimum of two sources. evidence that you have pursued a variety of research options, that you understand the differences between your sources, and that you are able to read sources rhetorically and to evaluate their usefulness and reliability. evidence that you are comfortable incorporating the ideas and voices of other writers into your essay—for example, that there are clear distinctions between your voice(s) and ideas, and the voices and ideas of your sources. evidence that you’ve adopted a critical perspective in relation to your topic. evidence that you’ve chosen a meaningful topic, that your interest in it is genuine, and that the place you have (by necessity) ended in your essay is not the same place you started (in other words, evidence that your research has led you somewhere new). evidence that you are conscious of issues of rhetoric and style as you write. evidence that you understand how to cite your sources properly and appropriately.

Each of you will draft and revise your essay based on comments and feedback you receive both in class from your peers, as well as from individual conferences with me during the last two weeks of the unit. Final drafts should be 6-8 pages long and are due on XXX. Be sure to include a “Works Cited” page and follow correct MLA citation procedures. As in Unit 1 you will turn in an invention portfolio along with your essay.


				
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