Assignment Ideas

Assignment # 1: New York Stories

This is an assignment for a writing class based on the first two chapters of The Cosmopolitans

1) Choose a story you know well that is set anywhere EXCEPT for New York City—you can use the plot of a novel, short story, folktale or fairytale—and reimagine the story set in New York City in the year of your birth.* Write 2-3 pages of the story.  Include a brief “Note on Style” to introduce your work (see Sarah Schulman’s “A Note on Style” as an example).

2) Choose two neighbors (loosely defined) who are “underdepicted.” You do not need to know anything about them—they may be composite images of people in your neighborhood but they should be based on people you have observed well enough to write about them believably. Write 2-3 pages of a story about these two people set in the year of your birth.*  Include a brief “Note on Style” to introduce your work (see Sarah Schulman’s “A Note on Style” as an example).

For either assignment, you should:

  • Think carefully about the form and style you choose to best convey the story you want to tell. Before you begin, write a few sentences as a ‘Note on Style’ for your own work that can help guide (and explain) your creative choices
  • Incorporate specific details about the setting, including descriptive language, sensory imagery, and specific historical references and detail that help to place the story in New York in the year of your birth. In your “Note on Style,” include references to these sources.
  • Consider how, in Schulman’s words, your story helps us “see and internalize how different kinds of people experience the world in a desire to open ourselves to the broad variety of humanity” (“A Note on Style” 376). This too can be explained in your ‘Note on Style.’

*Note: if you would rather choose a different year in which to set your story, you may BUT you should have a clear reason and explain it in your ‘Note on Style.’


Assignment # 2: The Hard Sell

This is an assignment for a writing class based on an excerpt from pages 118-128 of The Cosmopolitans.

Imagining the “Hard Sell”

For homework, you read an excerpt from Sarah Schulman’s novel, The Cosmopolitans, in which Valerie demonstrates the concept of the “hard sell” to Bette and Hector. She explains how to convince consumers that they need to buy a product even if they don’t really need it. She says, “If I need to sell it more than you need to buy it, you will buy it” (Schulman 128).

For Essay 1, you have been analyzing a print advertisement or commercial that is trying to sell something to its audience, and you have thought a lot about who that audience might be. Now I want you to imagine what was going through the minds of the people who created the ad and write a scene, poem, song, narrative, or graphic image modeled after this scene from The Cosmopolitans that shows your readers how you imagine they came up with the idea for the ad and why they thought this particular approach would best convince consumers to buy the item.

On March 7th, we will get a chance to hear Sarah Schulman talk about her book and read some selections from it! Instead of meeting at the classroom, we will meet in the Atrium Amphitheater on the Ground floor of the Atrium Building (at the bottom of the ramp). I will be taking attendance, so be sure to arrive on time. To receive credit for the day, you should be prepared to either share what you have written/created OR ask a thoughtful question.

Requirements:

  • Focus: Write or design a scene, poem, song, narrative, or graphic image that imagines and conveys the behind-the-scenes process that went into creating the ad you have been writing about. Show how you think the creators developed the idea and why they thought it would work as a “hard sell.”
  • Length: One page, minimum
  • Submission: Post your completed assignment on OpenLab. If it is a song or graphic, you may attach a file or link out to an external site. Before you submit, categorize your post by clicking “The Hard Sell” on the right side of the page.
  • Due: March 7th before 2:30 p.m.
  • Participate: Class on March 7th will meet in the Atrium Amphitheater. Arrive on time, listen respectfully, and either share what you have written/created OR ask a thoughtful question.

 

 

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