Works of art refract their cultures rather than simply reflecting them, and even the most ‘realistic’ painting or story is a stylized and selective representation.—David Damrosch.

                 The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like.—E.L. Doctorow,

Building on your work for Unit 3 “Complete,” you are to show how the historical/cultural information you have researched shapes your understanding of the selected text (poem or short-story). You do not need (and should not try) to read an entire historical period into the text; rather, select a significant practice, event, or other element significant to the text with which to support your thesis. You may discover that, after further research, the tentative thesis you have proposed as part of your previous assignment needs to be refocused and/or refined. Important note: You must analyze the relationship between the historical/cultural information and the text, not just summarize each of them.

  • For instance, you may want to discuss the historical context for “I Stand Here Ironing,” examining the era of the 1930s Great Depression through the 1950s, spanning Emily’s lifetime. Examine the events and attitudes and opportunities that impacted the narrator’s life and the way she raised her daughter Emily and subsequent children. Consider the continual interference of outsiders in this mother daughter relationship. Address the title’s image as a symbol in the story. Pay particular attention to the last two paragraphs and to how the story ends.

To inform your literary argument, think beyond our course and use the expertise that you have been acquiring in the Criminal Justice and/or Emergency Management fields. Your literary thesis can certainly address a socio-political, socio-economic, or socio-cultural question concerning one or more of our course texts and bring in the theoretical expertise you’ve acquired in your profession or discipline. 

The researched essay must be 3+ pages (900+ words) in length and must include, at the very least, your primary source and a minimum of two (2) secondary sources, including the scholarly source you have annotated in the previous “Complete” assignment. Feel free to include more sources.  Your argument must include a minimum of 7-10 short, but significant, carefully selected details (key words, phrases, or short lines) from both the primary and scholarly sources.  Remember not to let long quotes dominate argument. Always explain your evidence with regard to the point you’re making and/or your thesis, as a whole.

Your researched focus needs to be grounded in the work you’re doing for this course.  You may not reuse or rework a paper from previous course.  You need to start fresh.  Have fun with this endeavor!  See where your scholarly pursuits lead you.


  • Your essay must have a clear thesis (an informed argument) with strong researched evidence and expert opinion.
  • Your essay must be 3+ pages (900+ words).
  • Your essay must incorporate a minimum of 2 secondary sources, 1 of which must be scholarly/peer reviewed. Feel free to include more.
  • Your essay must incorporate and analyze a minimum of 7-10 specific quotes from your research (i.e. both primary and secondary sources). Use direct quotes to support and illustrate the claims.  Remember the significance of close textual reading, and don’t let long quotes do the work for you.
  • Use MLA for in-text citations).  See resources in our CM folder and use Smarthinking.

Additional resources

  • Refer to pp. 40-43 in LIT for tips on writing about a work’s cultural context.
  • See also the sample Point-by-Point Outline Template in the Course Materials folder for Unit 3. In the same folder, you will also find a sample cultural analysis.

REQUIRED: You need to submit your essay in two places.  First, please upload your Researched Essay into the V-Camp Dropbox. Second, you must submit your essay in Turnitin by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, January 22. See syllabus for our Turnitin course ID and password. Paste a copy of the grading rubric below at the end of your document (immediately following the References page/entries).  Failure to do so will result in loss of points. 

For ease of pasting the grading rubric, a Word document of the “Historical/Cultural Analysis” is located in the Unit 4 Course Materials folder.  The grading rubric, along with Turnitin tools, will allow Dr. Walker to provide you with extensive, detailed commentary on your writing.

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