Essay 1: Surprise and Inform
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.
Additionally, your 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 standards.
Your essay 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:
Essay due – beginning of class, Thursday, October 4
Vanderlyn, 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>