HUMA 1302 Essay Assignments

The goal of the assignment: It is with the Unit Essays that we engage most directly with the MonuMentor theme of the class. Your goal here is to write three relatively brief essays (minimum 750 words, maximum 1500 words, each) identifying six works from the Late Renaissance to the Present that you believe must be preserved at all costs for future generations to experience and learn from. Over the course of the semester, in three essays you will identify six works, which turns out to be two works per essay. There is one guideline for the overall selection of works. By the end of the semester, you will need to select at least one work from each of the following categories:

  • Art (painting or sculpture)
  • Music (classical, religious, or popular secular work)
  • Literature (a work of creative imagination or philosophy or political science)
  • Architecture/Engineering (a building, bridge, dam, civic or religious structure of significant size

How you combine these will be up to you. You can see my goal. As the semester progresses, I want students focused on a variety of cultural forms. I do not want one person focusing on paintings, while another might focus only on poetry. My second goal, of course, is that students examine the ways in which these art forms interact with each other and with historical events.   If you focus only on one type, it is harder to accomplish this.

Essay Instructions: From the chapters under consideration for the unit, select two works of different kinds (either art, music, literature, architecture/engineering) that you nominate to be preserved at all costs. In this essay, you will identify the cultural importance of those works. “Cultural Importance” is a large and multi-faceted concept that you will have to define in your own ways. The general idea, though, is that these two works will provide to us something that other works don’t, or they provide us with something other works do, but they do so more clearly or powerfully than other works. So in the essay, tell us what the world was like before the work was created. What did that world value and find important? What was that world’s values? How do these two works either support or contradict those values? What do these works add to our understanding of nature and development of human nature and human aspirations. To do this, you need to name the works correctly, identify the creator (if there is one), and identify the dates and country of the creator and of the work itself. What was the creator attempting to communicate or portray in the work? What were the creator’s values? Is this work attempting to communicate something new or unique or is it emblematic of the general accepted cultural conversation of its day? Does this work have a special history? Was it commissioned or created for or dedicated to anyone of importance? Has someone unusual owned the work? What later works did it influence? Did it help change or redirect future works of its or other kinds? Finally, is there some relationship between the two works you selected? Do they concern themselves with the same set of values, or not? Is there a historical or stylistic link between the two works.

Information and Analysis. Not opinion. You should notice that the above description asks you to focus on information and analysis of the nominated works, and not at all on your opinion (like or dislike) of the works. Basically, I assume that you like or enjoy the work you nominate. However, that is not a criteria. You could nominate a work that you personally dislike but think is culturally important. (For instance, I feel that way about Andy Warhol’s work. I know he is important, but most of his work doesn’t move me.) So you are not nominating a work “because I think it is really beautiful.” But your opinion can lead you to examine the work deeper. For instance, you can nominate a work because, “Caravaggio captures the intense emotions in an narrative event by use of dramatic lighting that highlights the strained and distorted muscles of the murderer.” In the essay, we do not much care about whether you like or dislike in a work, but we do want to know what the work makes you and other reader/viewer’s feel and think, and how and why it does that. Was it the use of color, design, types of instruments, use of rhythm, metaphors, characters, new ways of understanding past ideas, new materials?

Basics. The essay should be a minimum of 750 words. It should not be longer than 1500 words. Your grade will be affected negatively if the essay is too short. The essay should be double-spaced, in 12 point, serif type. I prefer Times Roman. Generally, the ideas and words in the essay should be your own. You are allowed to research the topic, BUT any ideas and language that do not belong to you must be identified using standard academic methods of documentation. I prefer that you use Modern Language Association (MLA) Style as taught in ACC English Composition classes. However, if you are more comfortable with other methods, I can accept those. Just be consistent. If you do quote or paraphrase outside sources, please identify them in a Works Cited or Bibliography page. This page does not count on your 750-word minimum.   Please, please, please, remember, I will run your essay though standard methods to check to see how much of your language is borrowed (stolen) from available sources. If you plagiarize your work, you will receive an F on the assignment with no chance to revise or resubmit.

Due Dates. These essays are due by Sunday Night, Midnight, for the week that they are due, according to the Course Schedule. In this class, I consider that weeks begin on Monday and end on Sunday.

Essay 1: Week 6                   Essay due Sunday, October 5

Essay 2: Week 10                 Essay due Sunday, November 2

Essay 3: Week 14                 Essay due Sunday, December 7

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About lymangrant

Lyman Grant is a professor of creative writing and humanities at Austin Community College. He has work at ACC since 1978. He is the author or editor of two textbooks, two books relating to Texas literature, three volumes and a chapbook of poetry. Recently he traveled the United States for a year in a 34-foot RV 5th wheel trailer with his wife and two younger sons.