My uncle began teasing me about it when I was seven. I was riding with him in his combine, watching stalk after stalk of corn slip through the heavy outermost blades, when he said, “You’re going to be one of them starving artists, aren’t you?” I denied it. Starving? Not me. But his words stuck with me, lingering, as if a suggestion that the dreams I had might be less than ideal. I come from a family of farmers. Pragmatism is a common trait, as well as straightforward intelligence (contrary to the stereotype, farmers cannot afford to be stupid). Our legacy is a plot of 160 acres that has been in our family for generations; it will be mine and my sister’s someday. Growing up, I anticipated “Corn Day” each summer, which involves the back of a pick-up heaped with green ears and an entourage of relatives – grandparents, aunts, curly-headed toddlers. Uncle Steve used to take obvious delight in teasing me with writhing corn earworms while the 25-pound farm cat attacked the backs of our legs. My immediate family is something of an anomaly. We live on an acreage, but do not farm. There is a 40-foot high barn in our yard, a local landmark of sorts, and fields surround us in every direction, yet both my parents commute 70 miles a day to Lincoln. I have always wanted to leave. Granted, this feeling may have begun as mere mimicry of all those girls in books or on television continually proclaiming, “I can’t wait to get away from this place.” It would be tantamount to giving up some inner sense of teenage decency to admit otherwise. But a city like Chicago or New York is more of a center for the arts than Nebraska, and I knew that was the kind of place I wanted to be. I can’t imagine staying here my whole life; my sister can’t imagine leaving. Only recently have I come to harbor a strong affection for this place – the prairies, the old roads, the buildings. There’s a kind of subtle poetry about it. I find myself drawn to books by Willa Cather, and laugh knowingly through Ted Kooser’s Seasons in the Bohemian Alps, all too familiar with the idiosyncrasies of old farmers and wild roses, barn swallows and icicle-style light decorations. I find I like it here much more than I ever have, especially as a seven-year-old paying only grudging acknowledgement to the setting of the Little House series. I used to ache to leave; now I want to lounge around on the porch and write about how the gravel road looks when the sun is rising. I wonder what it would be like to leave. I wonder how hard it would be to develop a similar affection for Chicago, or New York. Not impossible … it’s just hard to know how to go on from here. How can I be, and do, all the things I want, and not forsake this place and the family that I come from? Is it worth it to try? I think so. I think it’ll scare me at first – probably a lot. But everyone gets their sea legs eventually. And what I finally, absolutely know is that no matter where my aspirations take me, Nebraska is a good – no, an excellent – place to come back to, and in the back of my mind, to keep as home.
Project #2 Rough draft
Below is the prompt and directions for a essay I am required to write. I’ve attached “The New Jim Crow” and The world and me” below in order to complete the assignment.
During this project, we learned that a rhetorical analysis examines aspects of the rhetorical situation (writer, audience, purpose, context) and explains how the appeals, tone, and other rhetorical characteristics work together to create a certain effect. Remember that, while your analysis may touch on the ideas (content or topics) of a text, a rhetorical analysis essay’s main goal is to construct and develop an interesting argument that illuminates the effects of writers’ rhetorical choices: How does a writer’s tone affect the character of their argument? How do their choices regarding ethos, pathos, and logos, affect the targeted audience? In constructing a rhetorical analysis, the writer (that’s you!) identifies and critically analyzes the rhetorical strategies the author uses in order to comment on the effectiveness of the text.
Having learned about the rhetorical situation and rhetorical concepts like ethos, pathos, and logos, your job in this assignment is to compare and contrast the methods of persuasion used by M. Alexander with those used by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the assigned excerpts from The New Jim Crow and Between the World and Me. (Length Requirement: 1,200-1,500 words.)
To review this genre’s conventions, review the UNC Writing Center’s page on compare/contrast essays (Links to an external site.), which is fantastic as usual and offers methods for addressing one of the challenges of this assignment: illuminating something new for your readers. As we have learned, merely pointing out examples of ethos, pathos, or logos in the texts is only a jumping-off point; you must develop these discussions to explain the significance of your observations, or you will leave your reader wondering why they are slogging through the essay. Remember that you should be advancing a thesis, and your thesis should incorporate some of the vocabulary and themes we read in Elizabeth Browning’s chapter on rhetoric (linked below for review). In sum, the challenge of this assignment (aside from the criteria noted in our Project 2 Rubric) is to demonstrate significance in your thesis and achieve analytical depth in your analysis.
Start by providing context with a brief discussion of the subject/topic that the two genres are focusing on. Include the title of each piece, the genre type, and the author (or authors) of each in the introduction; and identify the thesis/purpose, either implied or stated, in each genre. However, your thesis should compare/contrast two texts and should ideally articulate an interesting revelation about how the rhetoric is working, one that a casual reader may not have previously noticed. Remember that you are comparing and contrasting two texts, so your paper will be different from the following example, but this instructive, well annotated example (Links to an external site.) will help you review the useful rhetorical analysis techniques we have learned during this project. (Links to an external site.)
If you would like suggestions in terms of process, I think the following general sequence works well for this paper:
Step 1: Do some close readings of these two excerpts in order to understand the content of each author’s arguments, as well as how they are constructed. Be sure to annotate. After you have a solid grasp on the authors’ main arguments, narrow your focus to two or three passages, two or three main arguments that you believe you understand well. These will be the passages you use to develop and support your thesis. Remember that you are not writing an essay that agrees or disagrees with the authors’ arguments. That sort of writing has its place, but in this project, you are writing a much more nuanced piece: You are using a rhetorical analysis to illuminate something for your reader about how the arguments function.
Step 2: Carefully reread Elizabeth Browning’s wonderful chapter on Rhetorical Analysis (Links to an external site.). What aspects of Browning’s chapter seem most relevant to you as you analyze the passages you’ve decided to focus on? Use Browning’s chapter and your knowledge of rhetoric to discuss which strategies of persuasion Alexander and Coates employ in their work. (Be sure to employ the vocabulary you’ve acquired throughout this project.) How do these strategies affect their readers? In what ways are they similar? Different? Do some free-writing, and develop close reading analyses of your chosen passages. It may help to review the close reading analysis techniques we learned during Project 1.
Step 3: Examine your free-writing and other notes, and begin to organize your thoughts. Create a simple outline that features (at least) your thesis statement followed by a list of your topic sentences arranged in a logical manner. Failing to create at least a very basic outline before you start drafting is similar to trying to build a house without a blueprint. It’s probably gonna look pretty bad, and it will likely fall apart. Now, start writing.