***NOTE: This syllabus was completely updated and revised in 2015. The aim of the revision was twofold: First, to reflect a more contemporary understanding of cultural identity formation; and second, to foster more interdisciplinary modes of writing and research.
** PRIOR to 2015:
How do you identify yourself culturally? How is cultural identity important to you (or not) and to your peers and family? How does this cultural identity aid or limit you in understanding yourself and advancing your goals? This writing course explores questions of cultural identity through consideration of individual and collective memory, the literary and popular imagination, and the sociology and history of racial, ethnic, and class relations. Students enter debates about identity politics by reading and responding to memoirs, essays, and articles from scholars and writers across the disciplines. In order to examine and critique dominant patterns of relations between cultural groups in society at large and on campus, students investigate beliefs, historical events, and voluntary associations and how they intersect individual experience. Since writing is an important tool for asserting and clarifying cultural identities, assignments include the opportunity for students to reflect on their own cultural backgrounds and to expand the range of their individual voices.
Rationale for Assignment Sequence
The semester begins with an assignment that asks students to transform memories from their upbringing into a short narrative memoir following guidelines from the popular website identitytheory.com. The assignment gives students a way to connect the theme of the course to their own lives and experiences. The second assignment builds on the reflective nature of the first and asks students to use library research to expand their consideration of their own cultural identity. Linking their family history to broader cultural events and social movements, students will practice posing a research question, identifying and accessing courses, and incorporating evidence in their writing. This practice prepares students for the focused research and writing required in the third and fourth assignments. In the third, students move from personal reflection to critical analysis, applying Stuart Hall’s theory of “cultural production” or Mary Louise Pratt’s theory of “contact zones” to a literary text. In addition to providing more practice with summary, paraphrase, and quotation, this assignment prepares students to integrate multiple sources of different kinds in order to support an arguable thesis. The culminating assignment for the course asks students to advocate for the importance of student organizations in affirming cultural identity at Queens College. Through a staged research process that includes in-person observation, students reflect on their own experiences (as they did in the first essay), connect a specific group’s activities to broader trends and events (as they did in the second essay), and apply theories of cultural identity in a practical context (as they did in the third essay).
The materials and description for this course, originally designed by Nancy Agabian in 2009, were revised in 2012.
- Course Overview and Assignments (doc)
- Pre-Draft Assignments and Activites (doc)
- Syllabus (doc)
Previous versions of the syllabus (2009):