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Essay : The Cultural Artifact*

Context: This essay asks that you explore your chosen culture through the things they value, and how these values are represented through cultural artifacts. An obvious example of a cultural artifact might be a sports trophy, which represents the value of victory. It is also connected to teamwork, determination, physical fitness, and endurance. Athletes, perhaps unconsciously, accept these values, which connect them with the community of their teammates and other athletes. However, through analysis of a cultural artifact, we can come to be better understand some of these unconscious values. You will engage in a similar analysis as you choose a cultural artifact and analyze its significance to your chosen cultural group.

Essays we read, films we view, and places you will be encouraged to visit will explore cultural artifacts in personal, conceptual, and critical contexts, so that you have models to apply to your own writing.

Assignment: Choose one or two cultural artifacts from the culture that you are exploring and analyze the values that the artifact or artifacts convey. What hopes, preferences, or ideas do these artifacts communicate? What do these values (and thus these artifacts) reveal about your community? About society as a whole? Next, critically consider whether or not mainstream American cultures agrees with the values conveyed by your artifact or artifacts, and why. Explore where these considerations place your chosen culture in relationship to mainstream American culture.

Developmental Tasks:

* Engage in critical analysis of your chosen community

* Consider the thematic and rhetorical impact of readings/films discussed in class

* Employ integration of various sources

Points: 200 – for more complete breakdown of assessment, please see rubric available on Canvas

Length and Formatting: 5 pages. Follow MLA conventions for academic writing: In general, 1-inch margins all around, 12-point MLA-approved font (Times New Roman if uncertain), double-spaced, page number and last name in upper right-hand header (.5” from the top).

Sources: You will use 3 additional sources in the essay. The sources should be applicable to your analysis, and you should consider articles, books, and dependable web sources. Only one of your sources can come from in-class material, and no more than one source should be a website.

Organization: The format for this paper is similar to our basic 5-paragraph essay in that your essay will have an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion; however, your essay will also include two additional paragraphs: a process analysis paragraph and a division and classification paragraph.

Process Analysis — in a process analysis paragraph or essay, you describe how to do something, or how a particular event or phenomenon occurred, or how something works. In brief, process analysis is a method of paragraph or essay development by which a writer explains systematically how something is done or how to do something. Process analysis can take one of two forms:

  1. Informative —information about how something works , or
  2. Directive— an explanation of how to do something

In your essay, you will use the process analysis paragraph to discuss the preparation, presentation, and/or engagement with the cultural artifact you are discussing. You may use either the informative of directive method, but keep in mind that your explanation of the process should demonstrate the larger point you are making about your culture.

For example, if you were discussing the importance of arrangement and presentation in Japanese culture, your discussion of how to prepare a meal or a particular dish should illustrate the importance of presentation. Or, if your essay were exploring the importance of family in Mexican-American culture and you chose to explain the process for making tamales, your explanation of that process should, in addition to your explanation of the process, exemplify the importance of family.

Division and classification — In a division and classification paragraph or essay, you gather items, ideas, or information into types, kinds, or categories. Division and classification will likely prove useful for your essay about your cultural artifact. In American culture, we tend to use very broad systems of classification for various cultures — for example, Asian food, African art, or European art. These systems of classification are so general that they tell us very little. For instance, China is a nation of over one billion people, over fifty ethnic groups, nearly three hundred languages, and dozens and dozens of distinct food traditions. “Chinese food” does little to describe this complexity. In your essay, I ask that you move beyond this kind of generality by devoting one separate paragraph to dividing and classifying your subject into a more meaningful category, one that helps the reader better understand your subject

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