Sunday, November 27, 2005

assignments for a comp class

in trying to design a series of essay assignments for a composition 1020 class and working out the details of linking between them...

first, write 2 essays (one Personal, one Cultural) in which you respond to 2 essays from the book (that we've read and talked about) and include any cultural artifacts that seem relevant (images, newspaper articles, quotes from IM or email...). (essays come from The World is a Text)

then, the for the final assignment, look back to the first 2 and see where your professional interest lies in the context of these. The assignment for this last essay is to write from a professional perspective based on something that stands out, or seems to be a theme or idea from the previous essays...

i've cut one essay from the original syllabus in an effort to spend more time and write a longer final essay that incorporates the professinal perspective in the context of both the personal and cultural and also includes research and analysis of a particular theme or topic.

to begin, i wrote short versions of the Personal and Cultural essays. I'll include sections from both, but the cultural is even less finished than the first, and i've not included any cultural artifacts...if i had i could link them from within the text here, and option that i will give students if they are interested in hypertext, but one that we will certainly talk about in terms of how to create hypertext on paper...


What happens to women who spend their time alone in suburbia? Or alone, at home with kids and no interaction with other adults? This is a white middle class phenomenon—women who can afford (or are ‘privileged’) to stay home and take care of kids and home. But in suburbia, you drive right into your attached garage—don’t even have to say hi to the neighbors—this is generalizing but in some neighborhoods there are no sidewalks, let alone shops or a city center for people to frequent and mingle. You get in and out of your car and in and out of your house. Even if you work, have life outside of your homogeneous suburb ‘community’ you still may not be connected to your domestic location. Especially if you work far from home. Where I live, everyone drives away to work. There is little local community activity. People drive away to work, come home and watch TV or do whatever, inside their houses. The dogs all bark from behind fences because they never walk around and meet people.

The mother in ‘My Mother’s Hands’ always worked but she moved so often she had no real sense of community or sense of her own place, or a place of her own. This is not the focus of the story but suddenly when she puts her foot down and decides not to move anymore, her need to redefine herself and her space become clear. She probably has felt disconnected. The suburbs some would say also help to create disconnected people. Instead of experiencing the city or other places, we only watch it on the TV, and what we see on the TV is not always the real city, or it is only a small part of the story. Often we only see the bad parts, the local news spotlighting the worst of the crime and character. In the suburbs then, especially in the Detroit Metro area, residents are safe from the city. People don’t go to Detroit unless they have to work there.

In ‘A Remedy for the Rootlessness of Modern Suburban Life?’ the author quotes Karl Zinsmeister (‘the editor of the conservative magazine The American Enterprise’) who wrote that as a ‘radical experiment’ we might attribute to suburbia ‘the disappearance of family time, the weakening of generational links…the anonymity of community life, the rise of radical feminism, the decline of civic action, the tyrannical dominance of TV and pop culture over leisure time’ (225). In some ways this could be the argument of either a conservative or a liberal. Some liberal groups are advocates urban planning and redefining suburbs to be places that include more center and community aspects, more civic and personal neighborly interest. Different sorts of planned communities are often liberal endeavors. But in this statement Zinsmeister also attacks feminists just because some conservatives need to attack or blame any problem on feminism whenever there is a space to do so. How the suburbs contribute to the (apparently disastrous bad) rise of feminism I’m not sure when all I see are women shuttling their kids around from activity to activity in their minivans, and filling the grocery stores, since, while they are at home all day with kids, or sometimes even not, they are still ‘in charge’ of the domestic sphere; or one might say responsible for. Even working moms, studies show, are still overwhelmingly responsible for care and maintenance of house and kids. This is not the feminism I have been reading and living all these years. But maybe Zinsmeister was watching Desperate Housewives when he made this statement and interprets those wild and sexy women as wielding their power and control over all of the men in suburbia. Never mind the fact that the ‘culture’ of suburbia seems to have made them all insane!
Whether we live in cities or suburbs or if we work or spend whole days with our kids, in this contemporary society we are losing connection on all fronts. We watch TV, listen to music, play video games, drive around as individuals in cars and have little contact. One might argue that suburban culture is just another metaphor for the phenomenon of disconnectivity of modern life…


Everyone assumed the cop killer song was bad, malicious, etc and so it was banned practically or literally before it was even heard. I’ve not heard the rap (will find it and listen) but can imagine that during that time in the early 90s when African Americans and minorities seemed to be targeted actually were beaten by police, that it would make sense to want to fight back, that a song like cop killer might be a response to the felt racism and lack of social and legal response to that racism. (click here to see the lyrics and a note on the cultural context). I don’t know how much worse this rap might or could be than some of the violent misogynist raps that are on the market and consumed en mass. (though, ok, he does say "Die, die, die pig, die!" and includes the line "F**k the police!" repeated a number of times.) But one could argue that maybe it is ok then to write violent and aggressive lyrics about shooting other folks (as long as they’re not cops) and mistreating and degrading women—these often fictional representations of gang or ghetto life created for the rap to fit the genre, to sell records, whatever the purpose—but not to write and rap in response to actual destructive social conditions and pervasive racism that is having real effects in (the song’s) contemporary society.


(hip hop as potential site of resistance, popular culture site of both ideology and resistance revision etc, race and ethnicity in popular culture in movies, in the face of phenem like Katrina and Rosa Parks death and funeral—local connections between these, connect globally with riots in france, when ideology and articulation don’t hold the people in check and military or other force is necessary when the people don’t believe the hype when they break through the matrix of social construction…)


Professional: from something that came up in the first 2 essays, something that stands out a topic or theme or an idea from these that lead you into something to research deeper; use appendix (and footnotes for extra textual info?) to link to cultural artifacts and earlier essays, present with images and layout like a newspaper or magazine article

some ideas for my theme/focus for a final project:

-people living lives of isolation and tv nightly news
-2000, 2004 voting stats (wmn and minorities) and discrimination at the polls
-decline in newspaper readership reading comprehension literacy is more than being able to follow through a text and read word for word but comprehension analysis synthesis of information
-cultural literacy, using cultural studies to develop reading writing thinking practices, write to respond and articulate, to form and express thoughts and insights, learn how to express thoughts to self and others and learn how to ‘read’ all sorts of cultural texts written visual aural
-important to look at the lyrics of a rap like ‘cop killer’ and others to see what is allowed and what isn’t, what is encouraged by the industry and society, what potential effects and consequences hip hop and other pop culture forms can have
-katrina, rosa, france: there are still great inequalities of consideration and respect for people and groups of people but
-impt to read culture in terms of own personal position and as part of cultural groups and society as a whole, as well as in terms of future professional situation, professional interests and opportunities, how we function as thinking and articulate professionals in the world…

preliminary sources:
articles on Katrina, rosa parks, france
voting demographics
reading culture, world is a text, cultural literacy
hip hop essay on potential site of resistance, etc

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