The Personal Essay

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13 Δεκ 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 8 μήνες)

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ENGL 110.05

Mr. Jonah J. Hoyle

Essay #1: 100 points






T
he Personal Essay


In this essay you are to employ both narrative storytelling (scenes, dialogue, description) and
exposition (relevant backstory, historical/sociopolitical context, reflections on
the meaning of
your story
)
. In other words, you’ll write a 3
-
5 page essay
that

uses both “showing” and “telling”
(we’ll analyze several essays in class so
this distinction is clear
). In both instances, you’ll want
your writing to be as specific as possible

don’t just settle for “broad strokes,” really get in there
and paint the deta
ils. In your “showing” sections, describe physical details

how things looked,
smelled, felt, etc. In your “telling” (expository) sections,
go beyond trite summation (i.g. “And
so, in the end, I learned the true meaning of Thanksgiving!”).


The essay
must

include

the following
:

-
At

least two well rendered scenes

(this can include dialogue)

-
At least two

expository/reflective

paragraphs


-
At least two Noun P
hrase
Appositives

(i.g. “My dad, a hulking palooka o
f a man with
twin snake tattoos
running up each le
g, wasn’t in the mood for
board games..
.”).


To get you started, h
ere are some prompts, a
dapted from
Tell It Slant
,
by
Brenda Miller and
Suzanne Paola
,

and from
Writing True
,
by Mimi Schwartz and Sondra Perl. You may use any
one you choose, or even invent

your own, so long as it includes the elements listed above.


Structure an essay

around a journey of some sort. This can be a journey to somewhere as
commonplace as the mall, or it can be more
exotic
--
a pilgrimage to a sacred place, a trip to a
foreign
country, a psychological trip into the vortex of despair… an acid trip…



Write a list

of the topics/issues in
your

life that are “forbidden” to speak about, the things you
could never share with anyone. Choose one of these, a
nd then begin to write about i
t (note: don’t
write about something you won’t wan
t to share with your classmates
).


Freewrite a list of
things you deal with on a daily basis and don’t think about very much. Don’t
be choosy; jot down whatever pops into your head: paper, fluorescent ligh
ting, mosquitoes,
slugs, flush toilets

(or other types of toilets?)
. Then select one item from your list.


What are the larger metaphysical (that is, dealing with the properties of the universe at
large) connotations of your item? Let’s say you have chosen

a piece of white paper. What
does your paper suggest? What are the implications of its smoothness and whiteness? Of
writing on pressed trees? Of writing within a square fram
e?
Find the universe in

the
particular “grain of sand”

in front of you.


Next, un
cover a few facts about your item. They may be things you already know, or that
classmates or
family

members can tell you
,

or that you can look up quickly on the
Internet. Then do a second freewrite, focusing o
n the details about your item that
feel
intere
sting or suggestive.


(Note: this one might prove difficult when you try

to

incorporate the required “scenes”

but it’s
not impossible, if it really appeals to you.)


Pick a line

from something you’ve read

a novel,
a
textbook, a newspaper headline, an
ad

and
copy it out. Skip a space and start writing. No need to explain why you picked it. Let the
associations come as they may and don’t feel a need to stay on topic.


Recall a significant event

from your childhood.

First
,

write
down
the

facts

of the even
t
.

Then
write down notes about your subjective experience of the event, i.e. “how
it felt to

you
.


Now try
a third
version, recapturing the whole
memory, combining
the objective facts and your own
subjective experience
. Tip: Be sure to use enough sensory d
etails

at least one sight, sound,
taste, touch, and smell.


Write about

a

place
in four parts. (A) Think of a place that i
nterests you and write about it
from
memory, focusing on what makes this place vivid for you. (B) Go
to your

place

(if possible)

and
record what you see, feel, and hear. Capture as many details as you can. (C) Now look up factual
information about
your

place. (D) Finally, start again using at least one thing from A, B, and C.


Pick an abstract word
that is important to you

Justice
, Desire, Dating, Work, Faith

and
c
opy out a dictionary definition
. Then skip a line and write a highly pers
onalized definition of
the word, one that uses stories from your own life to illustrate how the word has been important
to you/what it means to you.


Think of a first
in your life: kiss, communion, night away from home, Big Mac, betrayal,
acid
trip..
. Write in first
-
person present tense, as if you were that age again. Try to capture the voice
of who you once were, choosing the words, rhythms, and atti
tudes you had at the time. Aim for
the immediacy of the moment by using lots of sensory data.


Now write about the same experience
from your current perspective as

an adult. Reflect on why
this memory still sticks with you today. What was at stake then, a
nd do you still feel that way
today?


Due dates:

-
Tuesday, Sept. 29
: Essay outline:


A)
Notes

about the story (or stories) you’ll tell, including

the significant details


B)
Notes

about the expository (reflective, contextual) passages you’ll include


-
Th
ursday, Oct 1
: Fi
r
st d
raft, ready for peer review



-
Tuesday, Oct 6
: Final Version, 3
-
5 pages, due at the beginning of class