Essay #2 (1000+ words)
You have a few options for this essay.
- Build upon your first essay by adding a second primary source that we have read to date, something that enhances the ideas you examined in the first essay, something that amplifies, contrasts, extends the conversation, thus enriching the reader’s understanding.
- Take the same idea you examined in the first essay and substitute two new primary sources we’ve read instead of the source you wrote about before.
- Change the idea that you looked at in the first essay to a new one, then pick two primary sources we have read that have something significant to say about that idea (this may or may not include the book you wrote about in essay 1).
No matter which option you pick you will be doing the following: writing a longer essay about an idea or theme as represented in two books that we have read, and using only your own analysis of those books (no library sources necessary), examine what happens when you put those two books in conversation with one another about this idea. Compare treatments of the idea and show where ideas overlap and correlate. Also look for places where the sources clash, conflict, contrast in their treatment of the idea. Based on the degree of correspondence, you will have a better idea of how to focus and organize the essay. In some cases the correspondences will outweigh the disparities. In other cases, the distinctions and differences should be the primary focus. It all depends on what you find in the texts.
Here’s another way to think about it: if you think of your topic as a room of ideas, how does the one author illuminate hidden corners or blind spots in the other’s thought? How does one author highlight truths or expose flaws in the other’s thinking? Or, what parts of that room are in full view, illuminated with shared intensity by both (clearly shared assumptions, common ideas, points of agreement)? If you find divergences, different accounts or explanations between the authors, and you find that your own thoughts are gravitating towards one author more than the other, consider using the one you favor as a wedge against the other. Imagine them in dialogue with each other. How would they react to what the other says? Use indirect discourse to speak on their behalf.
Another possibility is to use one author (say, Douglass) as a means of understanding and explaining the other author(s) in Letters to My Younger Self. This approach would perform an interpretation or “reading” of the other text from the point of view of one author.
There is no one magic solution to this puzzle. You have to play with different options and find a focus and method that works best for your topic. All of this mental preparation will require you to revisit your first essay and adapt its content. Feel free to reshape as needed. Some cases will require radical revision and expansion and changes of focus. We will brainstorm topic possibilities in class and provide suggestions for how the original topics for essay 1 might be retrofitted for this installment of the progressive paper sequence. You are always welcome to see me during office hour to discuss, too.
Avoid the use of secondary sources for this assignment. Save them for essay 3. The only sources cited should be your primary sources from both books, and don’t forget your Works Cited page.
Tips. Don’t force your content into a stock five-paragraph essay format. Come up with a paragraph sequence dictated by your focus and your content. Also do not simply tack on extra paragraphs to your first essay: very bad idea. This is a recipe for a low grade. Instead, rework what you have written before. You may have to strip away paragraphs that don’t fit the new rhetorical scheme to make room for your discussion of the second author. You may want to condense your summary of the first author’s ideas. You may want to reduce your critique section or take it out entirely. What you are essentially doing here is something that academics do all the time: they repackage ideas, rethink conclusions, restate arguments in new terms, and see what sense can be made of a topic when pitting one source against another. To conclude, here are your objectives for this assignment:
- Represent ideas from multiple sources (in this case, primary sources) with accuracy and clarity
- Elaborate on ideas covered in the first essay. Further clarify your own thinking about the topic
- Improve your writing style, conventional usage, and documentation skills
- Synthesize content from more than one source, using one to explain the other and vice versa