This project builds from and extends the critical thinking you have already begun in your definition essay (and revision). For this project, you will take the term you have already defined—i.e., nature, culture, civilization, nationalism, citizen, self, Other, refugee, resident, foreigner, illegal, or alien—and explore this term as a problem: The problem of _____. (For example, the problem of nationalism OR the problem of citizenship.)
By framing your argument in terms of engagement with a problem, you can then offer a way forward to rethink the problem in a more productive way, one that will hopefully lead toward a solution. For example: How might we better achieve _____ in America today? (How might we better achieve citizenship in America today? Indeed, how might understanding the refugee experience help us to be more civic-minded in our enactment of our citizenship as we each seek ‘refuge’ in the country that we share together? OR How might we better value culture in America today?)
To make the argument your own (and to move beyond your prior drafts in the course), you will use an anchor text of your choosing to ground your original argument between 1000-1500+ words.
Rethink your definition essay (the term you chose to define) in terms of a problem. What is the “problem” with culture, or nationalism, or refugees, or defining our selves over and against an Other, or being a citizen in America today? How might we understand this problem in a more productive manner? What’s at stake in rethinking one of these terms as a problem that has the capacity to be solved?
You might also ask yourself—How might we better achieve _____ in America today? For example, How might we better achieve citizenship in America today? OR How can America return to an ethics of the Other? (Or, did we ever have such ethics in the first place? Consider, for example, the platitudes listed in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution alongside the lived reality of slavery and Jim Crow segregation laws.)
Choose an anchor text for your project. This will be a primary text that helps you to think about—or rethink—the problem in a new, innovative, or insightful way. Your anchor text can be a film, a TV show (or episode), a work or visual art, music, literature—even a work of philosophy or theory. You will use this anchor text as a vehicle to explore “the problem of _____” in a way that helps your readers to better see, understand, and think through the problem you are exploring.
Research your problem and find additional sources as evidence for your argument. How do these sources help you to think about—and rethink in a positive direction forward—the problem you have chosen to engage for the project? (Don’t worry, we’ll have a research module and spend time working on research together.)
Outline and draft your paper.
Your problem paper must use at least 3 sources beyond your anchor text. These may be either primary or secondary sources; however, it is recommended that you use a combination of both source types. One source must be from original research and move beyond our assigned course readings. Similarly, at least one scholarly source is strongly recommended (but not required). Remember, we’ve read multiple scholarly pieces this semester—so, you know already know how to read, understand, and engage with scholarly work.
1000-1500+ words of an original argument
Evidence from at least 3 sources; one source must be from original research and move beyond our assigned course readings
MLA in-text and Works Cited entries for all sources referenced must be present
In-text citations will be hyperlinked
Substantive revisions must be present between the rough and final drafts of this project; revisions will be shown in either a dark red or dark green font
Rough Drafts must meet the minimum required word count in order to meet our grading contract; they don’t have to be “good” (that’s why they’re called rough drafts), but they must meet minimum length in order to show the ideas you are working through
Final Drafts should be copy-edited to be clear of grammar and mechanical issues
MAJOR PAPERS NEED TO MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:
REVISIONS. When the assignment is to revise, don’t just correct or touch up. Your revision needs to reshape or extend or complicate or substantially clarify your ideas—or relate your ideas to new things. Revisions don’t have to be better, but they must be different.
COPY EDITING. When the assignment is for the final publication draft, your paper must be well copy edited—that is, free from virtually all mistakes in spelling and grammar. It’s fine to get help in copy editing. (Copy editing doesn’t count on early and mid-process drafts.)
PERPLEXITY. For every paper, you need to find some genuine question or perplexity. That is, don’t just tell four obvious reasons why dishonesty is bad or why democracy is good. Root your paper in a felt question about honesty or democracy–a problem or an itch that itches you. (By the way, this is a crucial skill to learn for success in college: how to find a question that interests you—even in a boring assignment.)
THINKING. Having found a perplexity, then use your paper to do some figuring-out. Make some intellectual gears turn. Thus your paper needs to move or go somewhere—needs to have a line of thinking.
Don’t let these last two conditions bother you. I don’t ask that your essays always be tidy and perfectly unified. I care more about working through the question than about finding a neat answer. It’s okay if your essays have some loose ends, some signs of struggle—especially in early drafts. But lack of unity or neatness needs to reflect effort, not lack of effort.
This project builds from and extends the critical thinking you have already begun in your definition essay