Essay #1: close reading/response to short text(s) about happiness/well-being
Writing Task, Purpose, & Structure
In class and on OpenLab you have been using close reading to questions and ideas about a number of texts dealing with happiness/well-being in relation to various issues (such as money, and government/politics). For this first formal essay, you will build on this work, using analysis to write a 3 – 4 page argumentative/thesis-driven essay that presents a thesis (argument) about your response to/analysis of these texts and uses subsequent claims/evidence from the texts and your own experiences to explore and support this point.
You may use your own ideas/experiences but make sure they are relevant to (evidence/support for) your thesis/subsequent claims and contribute to the development of your argument. You should not consult outside sources: this essay builds from your own experiences and a close reading of the texts we’ve looked at this semester. You may discuss just one text, or related texts in conversation with each other (either the two texts about money/happiness, or others related to the government/politics/well-being): it is your choice.
Keep in mind that this short essay is argumentative. Therefore, your thesis should be persuasive (but arguable), and your essay should be driven by analysis (subsequent claims and evidence). Remember that the purpose of this essay is not to write about happiness, well-being (etc.) in general, but to critically consider how these abstract concepts are represented particular texts we have read/watched. Therefore, do not simply state the obvious/general (ex: “money doesn’t buy happiness”).
Your goal is to use critical thinking and analysis to demonstrate how these authors (or speakers) construct a particular meaning and view of happiness/well-being in their texts and to identify the (often hidden) values that inform such a vision. Happiness and well-being (both in general and in terms of how the authors/speakers specifically define/present them) are abstract and complex ideas, so it is ok if you don’t come to a definite position one way or the other … if your essay thoughtfully explores some of the complications that arise when dealing with trying to achieve (or create the conditions for) happiness/well-being, that’s great.
Make sure to construct an argument that is complex/interesting enough (the main claim is not straightforward or obvious) for you to be able to write a minimum of three full pages about it. Assume that your audience has already read (but not thought deeply about) these text Therefore, you do not need to (and you should not) spend a lot of space summarizing the texts. A close reading is not a line-by-line analysis of an entire text but rather a coherent argument based on such a painstaking examination. Choose specific quotes and examples from the text that are relevant to your claims and use them in the service of supporting these ideas. Remember that each quote/example should be introduced, explained/analyzed, relevant, and cited (using MLA style for in-text citations).
This essay should be written in the third person, and you should should not consult outside sources: this essay builds from a close reading of texts that we explored together in the first month of the semester.
This essay extends the thinking/writing you have already done on OpenLab and in class. As in your blog posts, you should work to make claims based on questions about the texts (make sure to examine the logos, ethos, and pathos of the texts), and to explain and support these claims with evidence (relevant quotes and close reading analysis) for your readers. You should also work to organize your paragraphs logically, each with one claim and supporting evidence. Unlike your blog posts, however, this essay should be organized around a clearly stated thesis that tells your reader the subject and thesis of your essay. All of your claims need to be logically related to your thesis and to one another. There is a much greater emphasis on analysis and structure in this essay than in your blog posts.
Structure the essay according to your argument, avoiding mere summary, on the one hand, and the five-paragraph essay, on the other. When arguing for your interpretation of the text, you should structure your essay according to your thesis about the text(s)/your experiences, not necessarily according to the order of the text itself.
Your essay should include: a focused thesis paragraph; body paragraphs provide additional claims and specific, concrete details/examples in support of both these claims and your overall thesis (do not keep repeating the same idea over and over again in different ideas); logical connections/transitions among sentences, paragraphs, and ideas (claims); a concluding paragraph.
*Refer the Essay Formatting, Guidelines, and Submission page (this applies to all of our formal essay assignments) as well as to the Writing Resources posted on our course site more details in composing and structuring your essay.
*Some difficulties you might encounter along the way & some suggestions for moving past them:
Thinking you have nothing to say: This is where close reading is so helpful! Dig beneath the surface of the text and explore possible connections and interpretations. If you run out of things to say, you probably have not asked enough genuine questions about the text.
Trying to explore every possible aspect of the topic/text: Instead, generate a thesis (and subsequent claims) that you want to make about your specific topic and discuss how particular details (evidence) contribute to your thesis.
Bringing in outside information: Do not do research on the text or consult outside sources for this particular essay. For this assignment, I am interested in your analysis of the texts/ideas themselves.
Assuming you “know” what the author “meant”: Remember that this is your analysis/interpretation of a text based on close reading. Therefore, avoid making pronouncements such as “Lyubomirksky means …” or “The author did this because … .”
Being too general or simplistic: Make sure that you focus your argument and that you have a series of arguable claims you are making. Don’t just make observations or give examples without indicating the significance (the “so what?”) of these facts.
Straying from the assignment/thinking that “anything goes”: Use the work as the basis for objective and relevant discussion. Do not move away from the particulars of the readings to generalizations and digressions.
Drafts & Due Dates
Use the ideas we have discussed in class (group work, class discussion, freewriting, workshops) and on OpenLab to brainstorm topics/arguments for your essay.
- Pre-Draft 1:
- Summary/response blog to “How Are You?: A Census Wants to Know”, due M 9/1
- Summary/response blog to “How to Buy Happiness,” due M 9/8
- Summary/response blog to “How to Buy Happiness: What Good is Money If It Can’t Buy Happiness” (Sonja Lyubomirksy), due W 9/10
- Summary/response blog to Bill de Blasio’s 2013 Mayoral Primary Victory Speech, due M 9/15
- Th 9/18: summary of “Why Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals” (Arthur C. Brooks)
- Pre-Draft 2: Essay 1 Pre-Draft (thesis paragraph), due M 10/7
- First Draft: Th 10/9
- Peer Review: Tu 10/14
- (optional conferences with Professor Belli weeks of 10/6 & 10/13)
- Final Draft: Tu 10/21
For the final “portfolio” that you bring to class on Tu 10/21, include your Final Draft with revised Cover Letter, first draft with Cover Letter, any pre-drafts (print out your relevant blogs) &/or freewriting, he peer review comments (the comments your group members gave you on your essay), and any feedback/comments from me. Make sure each draft is stapled, and that all materials are submitted in a folder, with the final draft/Cover Letter on the top.
You should include a cover letter (about one page long, typed, single-spaced) as the first page on each of your drafts (first and final). This letter should be addressed to your readers (me and your peers). In addition to responding to the questions below, you should also free to add any other questions/concerns you have about your essay or the writing process.
Cover Letter for First Draft
- What do you see as your main idea or point?
- What are the biggest problems you’re having at this point in the writing process
- What idea or point do you feel you’ve made most successfully? least successfully? why?
- What’s the number one question about your essay–its thesis, structure, use of evidence, persuasiveness, style, and so on–that you’d like your reader(s) to answer for you/provide feedback on/help you think more about?
- If you were going to start revising today, what three things would you focus on? how would you begin?
Cover Letter for Final Draft
This letter focuses on reflection about the revising process–moving from the first to the final draft of your essay–and should be addressed to me.
- What is your thesis? How has it changed from first draft to revision?
- What are you most satisfied with in this revision?
- Describe your drafting and revision process. What was most challenging? How did you approach those challenges? What was your experience of peer review and how did it help you to re-vision your work? How did you engage with (and incorporate – or not) my feedback and that of your classmates?
- What would you continue to work on in further revision?
- Choose two elements of your essay–one that you think works well, and one that feels less successful–and describe why.
Essay #1 is worth 10% of your overall course grade. Your final draft is what is ultimately graded. However, since you we are working on this essay in stages and since you are turning in a portfolio, the “process” counts for a large part of this final grade: your pre-drafts, revision, and reflection (as presented in your Cover Letters) are all considered as part of this “process.” You can/should revise throughout this entire process; however, there will be no opportunities for revision once the final draft is submitted.
Late work will not be accepted and will receive no credit. If you do not turn in a complete, thoughtful first draft on time, you also forfeit your right to any feedback on your essay from me (either written feedback or conferencing with me during my office hours) and your peers (for peer review).
*Since this is a close reading of the text(s), you should not consult outside sources, so there really should not be an issue with plagiarism, but just a reminder: Plagiarism, in all forms, will not be tolerated. Any essay that plagiarizes will automatically fail.
*Refer to City Tech’s Policy on Academic Integrity on the syllabus for more specific details on plagiarism.
Feedback and Peer Review
For this first essay, we will be workshopping your first drafts as a class and in small peer review groups (I will provide comments orally to student during these times). If you would like to discuss your ideas or drafts more fully, please schedule an appointment to see me during my office hours.
More detailed guidelines will be provided in class and are on the Peer Review page. But make sure you bring four stapled, printed copies of your work to class the day first drafts are due (Th 10/9). Peer review will give you a wider audience for your writing and helpful feedback for revision.
Peer review counts towards your Course Participation grade (worth 15% of your overall course site).