Presentation by Robert F.
This page presents examples of student work. Negotiating Identities Due in Ses 2 The reading and writing we will do for this class will invite you to consider how others write with and through a variety of identity categories as they offer to readers their perspectives and narrate their experiences in the world, and also for you yourselves to write from one or several of the identity categories to which you can lay claim.
What identities are available to you as a writer assuredly more than one? Which of those seem particularly to call you as you think about the writing you will do for this class? One of your identities is writer, so I would appreciate your telling me now something about your history, habits, and passions as a writer.
What successes have you had with writing? What struggles or uncertainties have you had? What do you hope to accomplish in the writing you will do for this class?
Finally, is it important—or is it unavoidable—for writers to write from particular and openly declared identities? Why or why not? Please bring your typewritten responses to this assignment with you to class on Tuesday next week. We'll talk about some excerpts from what you've written as a starting place for our writerly conversations this semester.
The Investigative Essay One of the essays you submit this semester must be an investigative one—that is, an essay that depends for its effectiveness not only on your style and voice, but also on information you gather from sources outside your own experience in order to speak convincingly and with authority on the subject you have chosen to write about.
What the investigative essay is not is a "research paper" in the sense you may be used to thinking of that genre in school. It must be an essay: I will give you some examples of essays of the kind I am asking you to write here, and we will discuss the various strategies the different essayists have used in order to make their case, whatever it may be.
Sources that are appropriate will depend entirely on your subject. The kind of research you may already be familiar with—library or online research of books, newspapers, magazines, articles, visual information—is likely to be necessary but will almost certainly not be sufficient.
Interviews, searching archival records, laboratory experiments, visits to appropriate places, careful observation, seeing films, listening to music, critically scrutinizing ads—all these may supplement or in some cases even replace the usual kinds of research that may be familiar to you from your school experience.
Finding a subject is your first challenge. Remember that your essay must be in some way related to the subject of our class, the ways people negotiate multiple identities, though your subject need not be narrowly focused on that.
I'll be glad to talk further with you about your possible subject. You're welcome to have a look at the OCW archive for this class for inspiration.
What have you wondered about lately and would like to know more about? What particular passions or interests do you have that you could make interesting to a reader? Where have you been, what have you done that might provide you a basis for further investigating and reporting? You need to be sure that your subject is one that you can inform yourself about adequately in the time you have, and you must give yourself plenty of time to do the reading, observing, checking out, thinking, interviewing, or whatever is necessary to support the claim you will make about your subject.
I hope you enjoy this essay into investigative journalism, and I look forward to reading what you write. The Writing Workshop The writing workshop, as another writing teacher has called it, is "a communal conversation" among the members of a writing class about a piece of writing-in-progress done by one of the writers in the group.
I like the phrase "communal conversation," so I've borrowed it for our use. To describe the workshop in that way highlights that all of us participate actively in that conversation, stresses that each one of us is responsible for reading the text in question with an open mind, reading it carefully and with our full attention, and then for contributing our perceptions, insights, and visions of the piece, what we see as its strengths, where we think it is going or could go, and how we think the writer might engage further with it in order to make it more successful—all in a process of focused dialogue, or conversation, with the writer and other readers in the group.
The first step in preparing for the workshop is reading. In that way it has much in common with your other reading for the course, but with a significant difference: When you read the writing of another member of our class community, though, your reading is aimed at assisting the writer to intervene in the text's production, to help the writer shape and hone and refine it.
In preparing for the workshop, you should read the text that is to be discussed once, and then read through it very carefully again. Try to locate the places in the text that seem to you to be in some way its centers of gravity, places where something happens which focuses the text and moves it in some particular direction.
Then think about questions you have which the text does not answer—what do you still need or want to know? Finally, given what you understand of the writer's intentions for the piece, what suggestions would you give the writer for improving this piece?
Write a brief note—a substantial paragraph to half a page—to the writer with your suggestions; you'll give your written response to the writer after the workshop conversation on his or her essay.
I don't mean that you prepare what you have to say about the piece, and then say it in the workshop, and you're done. It's nowhere near as cut-and-dried as that, and we don't want it to be.
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