to Fall 05 Course Page
1: Surprise and Inform
Vanderlyn (1775-1852), Landing of Columbus on the Islands of
Guanahani, West Indies. Oil on canvas, 12' x 18'
Commissioned 1836/1837; placed 1847. U.S. Capitol Rotunda
A large part
of the mission of these classes is to look at early American history from
a nontraditional perspective which seeks to correct historical myths and
misconceptions. You may have already been surprised by something you have
learned while listening, watching, reading, or writing. What material
have you encountered that has challenged some of your assumptions about
the dominant narrative of our nation? Have you heard some new or different
voices from the margins of that story? Have you discovered that you knew
only part of the story? Have you seen how a painting can not only be an
artistic object but an argument?
For your first essay,
you will be asked to write an informative essay that questions a common
assumption about an aspect of early American history that we have covered
in History or English class. Imagine an audience of general readers who
hold a common view of your topic. Your purpose is to give them a new,
surprising view. Pose a problem or question, provide the commonly accepted
view, and then give your own new interpretation, based on information
you’ve learned in these courses.
new view doesn’t necessarily have to diametrically opposed to the
common view. Perhaps you’ve discovered that the common view is incomplete
or insufficient rather than dead wrong. Instead of saying, “View
X is wrong, whereas my view, Y, is correct,” you can say, “View
X is correct and good as far as it goes, but my view, Y, adds a new perspective.”
In other words, you can also create interest and surprise by going a step
beyond the common view to show the reader something new. You can advance
the conversation in new and interesting ways.
Your essay should
begin with an introduction that includes a clear thesis, or “road
map.” You should outline what you intend to do in the essay and
then follow through. Carefully include in-text parenthetical citations
for any material you either quote directly or paraphrase. Conclude your
essay with a separate Works Cited page in which you arrange your sources,
including the sources for your images, alphabetically according to MLA
should be 750-1000 words in length. Include 2 images in your paper to
illustrate your position. Remember to cite the sources for images.
Each week the list
of possible topics will grow longer. Possible topics:
the commonly held view of the world in 1492, i.e. Europe as the world’s
most advanced civilization, using material found in “eXplorations”
from Digital History. You might also expand the view that the importance
of 1492 lies only in Columbus’ voyage to the New World.
an essay in which you challenge the commonly held assumption about what
“history” is. Could you explain examples of how “history”
is shaped by authors and the times in which they live?
an essay that challenges the traditional view of:
1. life in the “golden age” of Elizabethan England, or
2. the validity of celebrating Columbus Day, or
3. the popular “Disney” view of Pocahontas, or
4. the identity of the first slaves in America.
an essay about artistic portrayals of historic events, arguing that
art can be more than simply representational, as having a point of view
and advancing a claim about the subject matter.
the Vanderlyn painting of Columbus’ landing in the Americas and
the Rivera painting of Cortes at Vera Cruz:
For the Columbus Doors:
You can probably find many more examples of art with historic themes.
surprising that you have heard in either English or History could be
crafted into an essay.
can not make an A or an A- on the essay unless you see a writing consultant,
attend a workshop, or have a conference with Mr. Perez or Ms. Gray.
In addition, five percent (5%) of your total grade consists of 1) your
coming to a workshop; 2) seeing one of us individually; or 3) seeing
a writing consultant twice during the semester. Workshops will be held
on 9/22, 9/27, and 9/29 from 1:00 – 2:00. We will have a sign-up
sheet for workshops. You can visit with a consultant in the Writing
Center on a walk-in basis from 11:00 – 2:00, Monday through Saturday,
Room 215. If you see a consultant, you should get him/her to fill out
the form outlining what you discussed; you can then staple the form
to the back of your essay.
typed in standard 12 point font, stapled in the left-hand corner
- 1000 words in length
title that catches the reader’s interest
with clear thesis statement
that support the thesis
due – beginning of class, Thursday, October 6
Material for this assignment drawn from John D. Ramage and John Bean,
The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing. Boston: Allyn &
John. Landing of Columbus on the Islands of Guanahani, West Indies.
1847. Onlie image. U.S. Capitol Rotunda 12 September 2005. <http://www.aoc.gov/cc/art/rotunda/landing_columbus.cfm>