assignment 2-6: writing an interpretive essay

Due date: Friday September 30
Format: Please type your essay. Print it and bring it to class. You will need to exchange your essay with someone in class, so if you don’t have an essay, you can’t participate and won’t receive attendance credit for doing non-class-related work.
Length: As much room as you need to fully develop your thesis statement and accomplish your purpose. I will say that essays shorter than 2.5 pages tend to fare poorly in final portfolio review.

Guidelines: Using what you learned from your previous writing about Maira Kalman’s “Back to the Land,” write a formal essay that pulls all the pieces together into a clear and coherent explanation of the piece as a whole. How do Kalman’s main strategies fit together in order to accomplish her overall purpose, given her audience and context — as you understand it? In other words, use your sense of Kalman’s overall purpose to support the interpretation you offer.

As you write, use and analyze evidence from “Back to the Land” — quotations, summaries, paraphrases, and images or descriptions of images — and from class discussion and the writing of others in class to support your critical interpretation. Use this as a chance to demonstrate how your particular understanding of this text has been arrived at critically, so choose your supporting evidence from across the text.

In the writing you turn in, remember that you’re moving from “writing to learn” to “writing to communicate.” In part, this means you should attend to how other people might interpret the Kalman text differently from you (and why). Write to others in a way that addresses what might matter to them. This also means that you should pay attention to the conventions that have developed over time in academic writing. Please remember the helpful overview of components of an academic essay on pages 148-149 in your DK Handbook. Here is a more detailed description of some of the “academic essay” conventions you should try to follow in this paper assignment:

  • Include a thesis statement that reflects your purpose, and maintain that purpose each time you reiterate and evolve your thesis in the essay. You should have already written a working thesis and a statement of purpose for Assignment 2-4, and you should know what I mean by “evolving thesis statement.” If you look at the goals on page 6 in the purple student’s guide, you’ll see the first goal is to “articulate and maintain a controlling purpose.” This is the #1 element that your final portfolio readers will look for, so it’s important that you begin trying to meet this goal in your first drafts.
  • Include an introduction (see DK Handbook pages 234-235), a conclusion (see DK Handbook pages 233-233), and a title.
  • Give ample supporting evidence in the form of direct quotes and paraphrases. To get a quick review of how to work with sources in your paper, see the DK Handbook pages 300-309.
  • Summarize Kalman’s essay as needed to contextualize your analysis. In your “Back to the Land” essay, I would suggest that you give a one- or two-sentence summary of “Back to the Land” in your introductory paragraph (see page 306 in the DK Handbook for an example of a one-sentence summary) and then add more summary as needed to introduce quotes and give grounding to your analysis.
  • Write in the Plain Style. You should know what that is if you have been doing the reading and participating in the discussions. (if not, see “Nuts and Bolts” uploaded to Course Documents and review DK Handbook pages 146-147).
  • Format your paper according to MLA guidelines on page 330 in the DK Handbook. Also read this web page for a description of how to format your margins, spacing, etc. in your word processor. If you are confused about how to double space or page-number your essay automatically, please check out that link.
  • Cite your references in the essay and at the end of your essay.
    • The basic MLA format for in-text citations is shown on page 344 in the DK Handbook.
    • Include a Works Cited page at the end of your paper. See page 340 in the DK Handbook for an example of what this looks like. Pages 364-365 show the Works Cited page citation for “parts of books.”