Thu, 9/28: Draft of Essay #2 due before class (categories = [your name], essay2-draft
Fri, 9/29: Comments on drafts of essay #2 due
Fri, 10/6: Revised Essay #2 due before you leave for break (category = [your name], essay2-rev)
Consider the questions: What does Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” say about how an individual makes change in society? Is his method/strategy still relevant today?
Re-read King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” paying particular attention to how he responds to the question of how an individual makes change in society. Dig into the letter, examining such elements as key terms, claims, assumptions, evidence, style, nature of reasoning, quality of reasoning. Extend King’s argument to another context, for instance, examining whether his methods are still relevant today, arguing that his perspective could be applied to some other case, or suggesting new evidence be taken into account.
For example, you might consider whether some aspect of King’s letter is relevant to:
- a text you’ve read in another collaboratory course, such as a work by Thoreau’s Walden, Frederick Douglass’s Autobiography, Claude McKay’s essay “The Negro in Russia,” Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, or even something you read for Embryology.
- Davidson’s new Justice, Equality, and Community graduation requirement or the just announced Davidson College Commission on Race and Slavery;
- the September 2016 Charlotte protests in the wake of the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott;
- the current protests in St. Louis, following the acquittal of Metropolitan police officer, Jason Stockley, of first-degree murder charges in the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, during a high-speed car chase;
- North Carolina’s controversial HB2 law, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, officially called “An Act to Provide for Single-sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom and Changing Facilities in Schools and Public Agencies and to Create Statewide Consistency in Regulation of Employment and Public Accommodations.”
- a specific aspect of Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ advocacy, disability rights, or gender equity;
- a contemporary issue or controversy covered in AllSides.com, which links to articles from the left, middle, and right;
- an issue raised by Bryan Stevenson in Just Mercy (note: Essay #3 will ask you to map and enter a debate related to this book, so you may want to choose a different text for this essay).
Construct a clear, persuasive, well-evidenced argument that extends some aspect of King’s letter to another context in order to offer new insight into the problem of how an individual makes change in society (1000-1250 words). Your thesis or crux (see handout below) should arise from a single, crucial insight you’ve gained by extending a particular aspect of King’s argument to another context. The thesis is the engine that drives your argument and provides a roadmap for constructing it. Your thesis should not offer a moral lesson for our time (too general, where would you start? where would you go?). Instead, your crux should provide an insight about how King and others have responded to the question of “how individuals make change in society” in specific texts and/or circumstances.
Getting to the Crux of the MatterView Fullscreen
- After rereading King’s letter and selecting the text or context to which you will extend his argument, set a timer and do 5-10 minutes of exploratory writing or “free-writing” to generate ideas.
- Look up templates in They Say/I Say. Set your timer for 15 minutes and adapt the templates, rephrasing your ideas in the format of: King says… / [_____] says… / I say….
- Review the chapter on “The Art of Summary” in They Say/I Say, and write a purposeful summary of King’s letter, including the date and context in which it was written (10 minutes).
- Write a purposeful summary of the text, context, or issue you’re extending King’s argument to, including all the necessary “facts,” such as author, date, and place (10 minutes).
- Re-read the Crux handout and subject your thesis to the crux test (10 minutes):
- Would an intelligent, reasonable reader either not see or disagree with your insight?
- Does it assert a specific claim that you can defend or prove with the evidence you’ve assembled?
- Does it point to a problem or contradiction that requires analysis to untangle?
- Does it fall back on the formula of the 5-paragraph essay, leading to a descriptive list or catalog, rather than an analytical argument?
- Review the chapter on “Constructing an Argument” in Understanding Rhetoric, and map out your argument like a sandwich or floor plan (10 minutes).
- Each paragraph should a clear topic sentence that advances your argument.
- All the sentences should relate to that topic.
- Each paragraph should provide evidence to support the claim and include at least one quotation sandwich.
- Use the Writer’s Diet test to help identify passive voice and excess verbiage (10 seconds).
- Come to office hours and/or go to the Writing Center for help.
An effective essay:
- communicates ideas in your own voice (no clutter or “paper-ease”);
- gets across the “facts” about relevant texts and contexts: who, what, where, when, why;
- offers purposeful summaries of relevant texts and contexts;
- asserts a clear, specific crux;
- uses well-placed quotations and evidence to support each point of the argument;
- makes good quotation sandwiches:
- introduces evidence and quotations with statements that identify their source, subject matter, and context.
- follows up with statements that analyze or explain how the evidence relates to your argument;
- Uses (rather than “utilizes”) the smallest words and simplest sentences possible to make your argument without dumbing it down.
- Avoids “clutter,” clichés, generalizations.
- Replaces passive voice with precise subject and active verbs (avoid “this” and reduce dependence on “is” and “was”).
- Includes any relevant images or media, appropriately sized, legible, and well-placed in relation to corresponding text.
- Is free of typos, spelling mistakes, punctuation problems, and grammatical errors;
- Includes a properly formatted works cited, required categories, and an honor code pledge.
Peer and self-critique
- Do the assigned readings and read “how to comment” BEFORE you begin commenting.
- Do not simply say, “This is an amazing essay, but I think you could provide more analysis.” Instead, identify one sentence, idea, or rhetorical strategy that you think works well. Then identify one sentence or idea that is not clear or effective and explain how to improve it. Finally, engage one ideas in the essay, asking a question to probe more deeply.
- Remember to do a “selfie” comment.