English 101 -03 -08 -49, Fall 2017
Essay 3—Short Memoir
Rationale: A memoir is a personal account of a life experience or a period in life that has shaped or impacted the writer in some way. Unlike an autobiography, which focuses on the chronology of a writer’s entire life, a memoir is centered around an experience or several experiences that have had a profound effect on the writer. Another distinguishing feature of memoir is how the writer perceives memories, opposed to the factual history of those memories. Consider what kind of affect a limited perspective has on how the audience experiences these memories.
Even though you are young writers, I am certain your lives have been full of surprises and life-changing events. If you could connect your current-self to your past-self and an extreme moment in life, whether joyous or traumatic, what might you uncover that you haven’t thought of before? What story is there that has not yet been told? How might revisiting the past help to illuminate the present and future?
Assignment: Your task is to write a short piece of creative non-fiction in the genre of memoir. This is not a timeline of your entire existence from beginning to present – there would be no way to fit anything of substance within the short parameters of this paper. Instead, you are to recall something significant in your life that shaped you into the person you are today. This may be a traumatic experience, a powerful relationship, an emotional connection to a place or a thing, or something else that has impacted your life; you can explore a particular aspect that is meaningful to you and can involve multiple memories that center on a specific idea or theme. There are several guidelines I want you to follow for this assignment:
1) Depict whatever you choose with vivid imagery, sharing explicit details as precisely as possible. Bring this moment in your history to life so that the reader can experience in full what you remember.
2) Interview a family member or friend to gather additional info and details on the experience – this will give you another perspective and help to generate more ideas.
3) You must employ allusion or reference in your writing. Consider how Alison uses intertextuality in Fun Home to add depth to her own story. There are many reasons to layer stories atop one another. One may be to connect with the audience, like using an analogy to compare something unknown to something well known. Another reason may be to raise a seemingly simple story to the level of epic, like how Bruce is compared to Fitzgerald and Camus in the eyes of Alison.
4) Analyze your memories and discuss the significance of this impact on your life. Is there an apparent theme or underlying message to this story? I want you to ruminate on the meaning of your anecdote. Think of Fun Home and how Alison reflects on her experiences. She lends great weight to each memory. Everything seems to be symbolic or intentional and much of the book is her sifting through the memories to find any meaning she can.
Getting Started: So what moment in your life is suitable for this assignment? We all have some moments in our lives that have stayed in our memory, moments that may define us, or changed our understanding of ourselves. Maybe it was a road trip you took with your best friends. Maybe it was the time you saved someone’s life, or someone saved yours. It could be a time you got to meet one of your heroes or the experience of moving to another country. Look at what you consider the most interesting or influential experience in your life. Why did this event stay with you? Did you learn something from it? Do you have regrets about it? How did this event define you? How did it impact your view of yourself or others?
Another angle to take to formulate ideas for your memoir is to think about the way you define yourself. What makes you, you? Imagine you were going to write a character sketch of yourself. Think not just of your physical appearance, but the aspects of your personality. When you try to define yourself, what comes to mind? Your family? Your friends? Your job? Where you are from? How have these people and things influenced who you are today? What, if anything, do they tell you about yourself?
Voice –First person p.o.v. Avoid using second person, too many “yous” can be heavy handed. While you should cultivate a voice that is uniquely yours, you should also try to remain objective. This means that you are trying to tell us the story but you, the present you, are not a part of the story. Make connections between the experiences you are relating to your reader and other aspects of your life. The present you must reflect on the story.
Memory – objectivity does not necessarily mean complete factuality. Remembering is a reconstructive act that sometimes involves forgetting. Try to capture the essence of what you think is important and fill in the gaps accordingly.
Audience – as for any piece of writing, you must consider the audience. Imagine you are writing this memoir to a friend or relative. This will create a level of intimacy. Use descriptive language and literary devices to engage your readers.
Length, Format, and Evaluation: Essay 2 must be 800-1200 words in double-spaced Times New Roman 12 pt. font. Please adjust your margins to 1” all the way around and use the appropriate MLA heading and page numbering system (see Canvas for an example and template). I will be using the Holistic Rubric to assess this project. Together, Essay 2 first and final drafts are worth 15% of your final grade: 2% for the first draft, 13% for the final draft.
1. First draft: Monday, November 13th at the beginning of class.
The day the first draft is due, bring one printed and stapled copy. You are also required to submit your first draft to Turnitin.
· You will earn an A for arriving to class on time with your properly formatted 3-4 page draft and for submitting it to Turnitin by the deadline.
· You will earn a C if it’s too short or if it is formatted incorrectly.
· You will earn an F if you have no draft, if you are late to class, or if it is not uploaded to Turnitin by the deadline.
2. Final draft: Wednesday, November 29th at the beginning of class.
The day the final draft is due, bring one printed and stapled copy in a double-pocketed folder along with any previous drafts. You are also required to submit your final draft to Turnitin. Remember, I don’t accept late work!
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