Expressive Essay (Observation, Ethnography or Memoir)
ENC 1101 – CR Junkins
Purpose: What do I want the student to do?
In this course, we will explore the two most commonly used forms of writing for college students: expressive writing and academic writing. Expressive writing captures what is important to the writer. In order to succeed, writers must understand themselves. Such writing is deeply personal.
Expressive writing is designed to prepare students for writing outside academics—communicating feelings and observations, beliefs and opinions, community and individuality—all skill sets that will enable students to succeed in any discipline or career path.
Students may also choose to write about the nature and environment of Polk County. Topics include citrus groves; hunting or fishing camps; the Green Swamp; cypress trees and other timbers; or any type of native wildlife or plant.
Students may choose to focus on cultural festivals, food, traditions, religion or music in order to capture the character of Polk County. Examples include downtown Winter Haven Bike Night, mud races, water skiing, golf courses, particular churches, and the local music scene.
This topic is a detailed description of a place with which the writer is deeply familiar. No, you may not write about a place located outside Polk County, regardless of how intimately familiar with that “other location” you may be. The heart of this assignment is to fully understand what makes Polk County so unique. Polk County is often unfairly mocked for being “Polk County”: now I am asking you to explain why that is.
With an observation, often the narrowest topics provide the most startling insights. I have read incredibly well-written essays detailing a single tree in a backyard; chasing a black rat snake from inside a house; buying tomatoes at a roadside produce market; playing a single song at a local club; fighting off mosquitoes at a backyard party.
The secret to a well-written observation is to focus on the sensory details (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell).
Students could consider ethnography—the individual’s place within an ethnic group. How do you fit into Central Florida’s white cracker culture? How do you fit into Central Florida’s African-American culture? How do you fit into Central Florida’s Cuban, Mexican, Puerto-Rican or other Latin cultures? How do you fit into Central Florida’s First Nations/Native-American culture, or Central Florida’s Asian-American culture?
Consider also that ethnography does not necessarily have to involve an ethnic group but could discuss socially-constructed groups as well. Examples include emo, hipster, punk, skinhead, cos-play or LARP-ing, jock or redneck subcultures; the gay/lesbian/transgendered community; or non-mainstream religious or political groups.
Remember that in doing so, students will need to first define and describe that culture in detail. Also, students who choose ethnography will have to use first person to some extent but will need to use it carefully. One focus for this topic will be to describe the culture in detail, then describe oneself and how one does or does not fit into one’s own culture.
Do not be sidetracked by stereotypes! Simply listing stereotypes is not an ethnography. Instead, examine critically why such stereotypes exist, where such stereotypes began and why such stereotypes are incorrect.
Recall a moment or event from your past or an aspect or detail about yourself which you consider significant. To help identify a focus/topic, consider the following prompts:
• A specific memory/scene from your...