This project asks you to use the analytical and research skills learned in the course to provide a rich description of the meaning and importance of a primary source or group of sources to a particular time period or social group. What can we learn about America or American attitudes by examining these primary sources?
Produce a 10-15 page analytical research essay that contextualizes a primary source or set of primary sources of your choosing. In essence, you should treat the source(s) as evidence of what it was like to live in (a segment of) US society at a particular moment in time. The essay should focus, in particular, on how the primary source(s) reflect or challenge prevailing assumptions (ideologies) about national, racial, class, gender, or imperial relations AT THE TIME OF THE WORK’S INITIAL APPEARANCE. Possible questions might include:
• How do the sources illustrate common attitudes of the day, or common features of social relations then and there?
• What political or ideological impact might the sources have had at the time (did they affirm traditional values, challenge traditional values, or try to introduce new values)?
• What historical changes made the texts necessary (as a reaffirmation of traditional values) or possible (as a challenge to those values)?
• How (well or poorly) were the messages received at the time? How did people react to the texts and what does this tell us about their impact?
• What have relevant historical sources had to say about these questions?
Use at least FIVE secondary sources of your own discovery to flesh out the relevant historical, social and cultural contexts and at least ONE course reading to inform or support your analysis of the text(s). For example, you might use the essay on gender by Lorber to discuss what the term “gender” refers to, and why it might matter to a reading of a particular set of advertisements from the 1920s. How do the ads “do gender,” and what might this tell us about social attitudes at the time?
• Essays should identify a very specific historical or social context (i.e. a finite time or place), research the particulars of that time/place, and make a case for how the primary source or sources are relevant to an understanding of that time/place.
• Essays should incorporate information from AT LEAST 5 LEGITIMATE SECONDARY SOURCES that we did NOT read in class. At least 3 of these sources must be books or peer-reviewed essays in scholarly journals or from scholarly anthologies (NOT online blogs or web sources).
• Essays should make liberal use of course readings to frame the analysis, but the minimum requirement is to engage with at least ONE course text in-depth. You are encouraged to do more than that in order to show me what you learned in the course.
• Essays should present an original contribution to knowledge on the subject, i.e. the essay must represent more than just the quotation of other sources; it should provide a synthesis of these sources into a new whole (that’s how “analysis” differs from “description” or “reportage”).
Choosing Primary Sources: Primary sources should be (a) related to an event, individual or subject of historical significance to the US and (b) different from the primary sources we have already discussed in class. You may use class sources to inform your analysis or as a point of comparison, but what matters is your analysis of a NEW primary source. Likewise, you may use the photo you analyzed for Essay 1 as part of this new project, but only as a supplement to an analysis of new primary sources. So, for example, you could compare your photo to other photos of the same event/person/subject/time period, or you could discuss your photo in relation to other texts or objects of the period (e.g. How does a photo of a nuclear blast over Las Vegas relate to other examples of “atomic kitsch” from the 1950s and 60s? What do all of these objects tell us about American attitudes to nuclear power at that time?). On D2L, there is a list of links to various digital archives where you might discover relevant primary sources. The Links on the American Studies website might also prove helpful: http://amst.okstate.edu/links.html.
Format: This is a formal writing assignment. It should be typed, double-spaced, written in a legible font size and style (12 pt, no more, no less), and use 1 inch margins on all sides (no more no less). It should be free from spelling and grammatical errors and express ideas clearly and succinctly.
Cite both primary and secondary sources whenever you refer to them in the text and include a bibliographic entry in a Works Cited (or Bibliography) at the end of the paper. You may use either MLA or Chicago style for your citations, but DO NOT MIX THE STYLES and FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES DOWN TO THE LAST COMMA. See the “Writing Tips” module of D2L for handouts that explain the mechanics of both MLA and Chicago Style.
There will be several components to this project:
• You will write a brief proposal (1-2 pages) that identifies your object of study (your primary source or sources) and explains how and why it is relevant to the study of “America.” What argument do you plan to make about the meaning and/or social impact of the primary source(s)? This part of the assignment will be worth 50 pts.
• The proposal must be accompanied by an annotated bibliography of 7-10 secondary sources related to your object of study. This part of the assignment will be worth 50 pts. See the assignments folder of the D2L for full details of both the Topic Proposal and Annotated Bib.
• You will produce a complete draft of your project and meet with me individually to discuss it. You will also submit your draft for in-class peer review on Dec. 4. This portion of the assignment will be worth 50 pts (25 for meeting with me; 25 for peer review). Your draft must be COMPLETE (8 pages min.) to receive full credit