Exemplary Writing in Arts and Humanities

First Prize
Maureen Gard, Health Sciences
"They Are Heroes"
English 102: Elements of Composition II
Tricia Dowcett, first year writing fellow
Read the poem and essay (Adobe PDF)

From Trish Dowcett: Maureen Gard was a student in my English 102: Elements of Composition II course.  The essay was the second of three major papers on which the students have worked this semester, all of which connect to our course theme, "Exploring the Margins."

The main objectives for this essay are as follows: positioning oneself in a "conversation" with critics, peers, and the texts we have studied; formulating issue-based questions; writing to discover ideas; and making connections between the texts and our course theme.

In addition to the more traditional, argumentative essay, students were given three other "alternative" options.  One of these was titled "The Uses of Satire."  In this option, students are asked to do a close reading of Sherman Alexie's satirical poem, "How to Write the Great American Indian Novel," and to write a shadow poem, one that satirizes some aspect of our culture. Like Alexie, students must engage with stereotypes in order to mock them.  Students choosing this option must also include a "metacognitive" section in which they discuss their use satire and provide a brief analysis of the issue/ideology at which they are poking fun.   
Maureen's poem is powerful in its use of graphic, poignant word choices.  Motivated by her own unfortunate experience, she skillfully infuses argument with personal observation, thus creating a thought-provoking, cogent essay.  I believe Maureen's essay to be a strong candidate for the WAC Prize.



Honorable Mention
Emily Ampel, Occupational Therapy/Psychology
"Movies Set America in Motion: The Impact of Film on American Society"
QU201: Our National Community, Honors Section 03
Paul Pasquaretta, Research and Writing Institute coordinator
Read the essay (Adobe PDF)

From Paul Pasquaretta: The academic task of QU201 Honors Section 3 was to produce an anthology of course essays for public distribution. This resulted in "A Glimpse Behind the Veil: Essays on the American Dream," a group of ten linked pieces on various aspects of the American experience. The topics were selected by the individual writers in the group, who, following their personal inclinations, defined ten distinct topics for discussion and analysis. The work began with a reading of E.L. Doctorow's novel Ragtime, first published in 1975 after a decade of war, civil rights movements, and political upheaval in the United States. While technically fiction, the novel is a rich source of ideas, speculations, and information about American experience. The richness of Ragtime provides many opportunities for prioritizing the text, the initial acts of which became the basis for the essays in the collection. After deciding which aspects of the novel to claim as their own, the writers in "A Glimpse Behind the Veil" expanded the scope of their analyses, bringing into their orbit other required course texts: selections from Alexis DeTocqueville's Democracy in America and Ronald Takaki's A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. Additionally, the writers were required to make connections to QU101 course texts. The collection is therefore replete with references to writers featured in the The Individual in the Community reader. With the assistance of Arnold Bernhard Library staff member Janet Valeski, who prepared a custom database, the group began teasing out the threads of their own inclinations, making connections along the way, and thus widening the scope of their thinking, speaking, and formal writing.  The results of these labors are essays about American imperialism, immigration and social reform, escapism in American culture, ragtime music as a revolutionary force, the power of movies in shaping American society, women's rights, media culture and the lure of celebrity, the African American civil rights movement, anarchy and social revolution, and the progress and limitations of human rights.  The course ended with a public symposium in which each member of the group presented his or her project as a PowerPoint.

In addition to regular reading, annotation, and discussion tasks, the essays in "A Glimpse Behind the Veil" were developed from a series of benchmark assignments that included a research exploration statement with annotated citation, an abstract and annotated bibliography, and a series of drafts that were peer and professor reviewed. Specific guidelines for length, organization, style, and formatting were also included in the assignment design. Ms. Ampel, along with the other members of the group, produced remarkably thoughtful and well written pieces. Emily's is among the strongest of these. Her analysis is detailed, focused, and coherent throughout. It moves easily between primary and secondary source material while considering the impact of film on American society from multiple points of view. The maturity of her prose style and ability to turn complex phrases make for a truly enjoyable read. All in all, her dedication to the process established in the course has resulted in a well informed, well reasoned, and well written essay.

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