Assignments

Some excellent advice on writing short: John McPhee, “The Writing Life. Omission – Choosing What to Leave Out,” The New Yorker, 9/14/2015.

Assignments are due at the start of class on the specified day; you may bring in a hard copy or send them to me in advance as an email attachment. Late assignments will lose a full letter grade. They will be graded from 1-5, with 5 being the highest grade. You must turn in every assignment, but you may choose to drop any one of these from the final grade calculation. Assignment lengths are specified below. All assignments must be typed, single-spaced, in 12-point font and 1-inch margins.

Feb. 7th: Assignment #1. Write a one-page response to the following: Imagine that Daniel Webster has returned to Boston in 2017, and visits the National Park Service Museum at Bunker Hill. What would he make of its existence, and its carefully balanced historical exhibits? Would he approve? Be disappointed? Offer suggestions for improvement?

Feb. 14th: In-class role playing. Everybody will receive a persona: Persian; Athenian; Theban; Macedonian; Pergamene; Rhodian; Daniel Webster. Everybody will receive a monument: Marathon tumulus; Parthenon; Chaironeia Lion; Attalos I’s Monument to Gallic Victories; Nike of Samothrace; Lesser Attalid Dedication; Bunker Hill Memorial. You will have ten minutes in class to consider and draft a one-page answer to the following question: what does this monument say to you, and how?

Feb. 21st: Assignment #2. Everybody will receive a different persona and monument. Write a one-page response to the above question.

Feb. 28th: Assignment #3 – Four Roman monument summaries. For each of the four monuments to be discussed in class, write a one-paragraph description (= 4-5 sentences, or about one-third of a page) framed as if it was an explanatory placard at the monument site. Your writing should be understandable and meaningful to a high-school student. The memorials are: Sulla’s Chaironeia Trophy; Augustus’ Actian victory monument; the Arch of Titus; and the Column of Trajan. Each paragraph should include the following:

  • 1 sentence that explains what, where, and when;
  • 1-2 sentences that explain the motivation behind and intention of the monument;
  • 1-2 sentences that put the monument into some larger cultural, political, and/or historical perspective.

 March 14th: Assignment #4. John Bodnar, in his book Remaking America: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century, presents the construction of public memory as “a contest for power” with two poles: official commemoration and vernacular (i.e., public) expression. Write a one-page response in which you consider this statement with respect to the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. Will an American living 100 years in the future read either of these monuments as vernacular expression? Why or why not?

March 28th: Assignment #5. E. Simpson and S. Corbridge, in their 2006 article “The Geography of Things That May Become Memories,” discuss the contrast between “the memory business” and “history-making.” Write a one-page defense of the Oklahoma City National Memorial as either a statement of future memory-making or a bid to make history of its motivating event.

April 11th: Assignment #6. Write two haikus, one for the memorial at Ground Zero and one for the Empty Sky memorial, each aimed at a visitor to this spot 100 years in the future. 

April 18th: Assignment #7. Write a letter to the editor of the New York Times or Washington Post arguing in favor of or against the proposed memorial to General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Be sure to invoke specific aspects of design, placement, and/or message. The letter must be no more than 250 words.

May 2nd: Final Essay. This is a two-part, two-page assignment. Imagine that your audience is a college-educated adult citizen of this country.

  • Part 1: Read Paul Shackel’s article “Public Memory and the Search for Power in American Historical Archaeology,” American Anthropologist, vol. 103, no. 3, 2001, pp. 655-670 and answer the following questions:
    • What is the problem or issue under consideration?
    • What evidence does Shackel introduce and use to address the problem or issue?
    • What assumptions does Shackel make in addressing the problem or issue?
    • What are the complexities that surround the problem or issue?
    • What are Shackel’s conclusions?

The point here is to demonstrate that you have thoughtfully considered the article and the questions above. You may need 2-4 sentences to adequately answer them. However, you are to answer these questions in no more than a page. Choose your words wisely: no fluff, no unnecessary exposition, just clear, well-constructed sentences.

  • Part 2: Pick a monument that we have covered in class and about which you have read. Write only an introductory paragraph to a paper in which you treat your monument following Shackel’s model of dominant and subordinate groups and the display of power in or through monuments. In order to do this you will need to plan and outline your entire argument as if you were going to write a longer, 5 to 6 page paper. You will then write only the introduction to that paper. This paragraph must be no longer than one page. You must include:
    • a clear statement of the context of your argument.
    • a clear statement of your thesis.
    • the evidence you would use to defend your argument.
    • a clear statement of your conclusions.
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