The Exploratory Essay: In this assignment, students are asked to grapple with a challenging text selected by the instructor. Rather than a superficial reading and facile conclusion, this assignment asks students to investigate what makes the text complex. You will reflect on your own writing process as you explore questions or problems that arise during that process by finding relevant sources that contextualize the original reading.
Let’s break this down:
“grapple with a challenging text”
–read and come to an understanding of “The View from the Bottom Rail” This is a more complex process than it first seems.
“investigate what makes the text complex”
–give it a deeper reading and understand the connections and complexities of the whole and all its parts: the main topic of the piece, the various parts of that topic as presented by the authors, and sources, both those used by the authors and those available to you to further your understanding of the topic.
“reflect on your own writing process as you explore questions or problems that arise”
–as you write, consider the process of writing, be aware of exactly what you are doing as you write, and include descriiptions of that process in your writing.
“finding relevant sources that contextualize the original reading”
–go beyond the reading; using BOTH the Internet and various libraries (if possible,) find sources that help you to place this reading in time and history, and that help you understand this reading; make clear the connection between those sources and this text.
Remember that the reading itself is about not just what we know, but about how we know it. Your essay will consider the “history” that is the focus of the reading as well as the process by which we “know” that history and the problems with that process.
In summary, your task is to read the selection, “The View from the Bottom Rail;” determine what makes the text a more complex story than merely a history of freed slaves; further clarify the reading with material from additional sources; and observe, reflect, and comment on your own writing process as you complete the assignment. You ARE NOT writing a summary or review of this chapter. You ARE attempting to analyze and understand the text in a way that is “in-depth” rather than superficial and to understand the process of your coming to understand the text in a useful, meaningful way.
Your paper should be approximately 1000 words, typed in a clear 12-point font using Microsoft Word or ANY OTHER software that is compatible with Word.
All sources, including the main reading, must be listed in a “Works Cited” bibliography on the last page of your paper in standard MLA style.
All material from these sources used in your essay must be cited in the text using MLA style. [Example: (Davidson 155)]