L11: HIS Writing Assignment 2
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Directions: Respond to the assignment below. Be as clear and concise as possible with responses. Offer specific illustrations to support your opinions, observations, and conclusions.
For this writing assignment, choose one of the following two options. Do not write about both options. You will be graded on the basis of your response to one of the topics.
Option 1 (Family Paintings)
On page 362 the authors of the course textbook state that “although paintings are often admired and studied for artistic reasons alone, their value as historical documents should not be overlooked. In an age before the camera, paintings, sketches, and even pictures done in needlework captured Americans at different moments of life and memorialized their significant rituals. Paintings of American families in their homes … reveal both an idealized conception of family life and the details of its reality. In addition, the paintings provide us with a sense of what the houses of middle and upper classes (who could afford to commission art) were like.” With that in mind, look at the family paintings that appear on page 363 and write a paper that explains what the paintings reflect about American families and their homes during the early decades of the nineteenth century.
Option 2 (Personal Diaries)
On page 386 the authors of the course textbook state that “nineteenth-century journals kept by hundreds of ordinary men and women traveling west on the overland trails constitute a rich source for exploring the nature of the westward experience. They are also an example of how private sources can be used to deepen our understanding of the past. Diaries, journals, and letters all provide us with a personal perspective on major happenings. These sources tend to focus on the concrete, so they convey the texture of daily life in the nineteenth century, daily routines and amusements, clothing, habits, and interactions with family and friends. They also provide evidence of the varied concerns, attitudes, and prejudices of the writers, thus providing a test of commonly accepted generalizations about individual and group behavior.” With that in mind, look at the journal entries that appear on pages 386-387 and write a paper that explains what these journal entries reflect about the concerns, attitudes, prejudices, and/or everyday lives of their authors and the groups to which they belonged.
General instructions for either option
In completing your assignment:
- Be sure to have a clear introduction and conclusion to your paper. At the end of your introduction, you should provide a thesis statement-a statement that gives the reader a specific sense of what your overall conclusion(s) in the paper will be. In this sentence, summarize what you will suggest is reflected in the family paintings or the personal diaries.
- Base your paper around showing a series of points about what the family paintings or personal diaries reflect. Present your points clearly and explain them fully, with clear indication of how the family paintings or personal diaries show these points.
- Provide specific details from the family paintings or personal diaries and clearly explain how these specific details illustrate your points.Do not simply rely on the discussion of the family paintings or personal diaries that is offered in the textbook. While you may refer to the points in the textbook or use them as a starting point, your paper must be built upon your own observations and the conclusions that you draw from those observations. You are being asked for this assignment to develop your own interpretations from what you see when you look at the family paintings or personal diaries. You will not be graded on whether your interpretation is “correct” or not. Rather, you will be graded on how well you state what is reflected in the family paintings or personal diaries, how well you explain how these things are reflected in the family paintings or personal diaries, and how well you show what specifically about the family paintings or personal diaries provides the basis for your conclusions.
- If you do use the textbook, be sure to cite it appropriately. See Step 7 of the “General Instructions for Papers” in this lesson for directions on how to cite the textbook properly.
- Create a fitting, descriptive title for your paper. You can summarize the content to follow in the title or you can devise a clever title that is connected to what is discussed in the body of your paper.
Paper Length: three word-processed pages, double-spaced.
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