ENVS 1800, Environmental Writing

Assignment #6: Culminating Personal Essay

Assignments are due on April 13, to be submitted via the designated eClass portal no later than 23:59.

Especially as demonstrated by Chee, the personal essay is a literary form in which you can blend personal story with political commentary, including reference to both public events and literary / research works that are relevant to your story as well as elements of your own life. This assignment asks you to create a personal essay, modelled on Chee’s work and other examples from the course readings, of approximately 2500 to 3000 words, that tells a story about your relationship to a specific climate-related issue and connects it to the large questions of environmental justice we have discussed throughout the course.

For this essay, you will need to think about the story you want to tell in and from your own life; do background research on the issues to which your story speaks; and also think about how you can use the course readings, substantively, and the writing assignments, formally, to help you tell your story. Personal essays generally do not employ formal academic citation conventions, but of course you still have to give credit to others when you make use of their ideas, and you are also encouraged to be in open dialogue with other writers on paper. This assignment will thus also require you to append a bibliography using MLA style that demonstrates your research (at least 2 external sources) and thinking (at least three sources from the course materials).

Your essay will be evaluated for both substance (demonstration of understanding of the issues, course readings, and other materials) and form (demonstration of ability to employ genres and techniques from writing assignments). You are strongly encouraged to use both your weekly Moodle comments and your writing assignments as raw material for this essay: these critical and creative compositions are an important record of your emerging ideas, and they will provide you with an important base on which to build your essay.

Steps to writing this assignment:

1.   Decide on a climate related issue that you would like to focus on. Do a 10-minute brainstorm where you write down examples of pathos, logos, ethos and kairos that you can bring to this issue. Put a star beside the perspectives, emotions and evidence you feel most strongly about.

2.   Using this brainstorm develop a thesis statement. What is your topic and what are you trying to tell us about this topic? Remember, this is a personal essay. Whatever your thesis statement is it must resonate, strongly, with your own experiences and beliefs. Take your time with this. Your thesis statement will be your sounding board as you write the essay. It will help you determine what to include, what not to include and how everything relates back to your specific topic. Feel free to send your thesis statement to your Teaching Assistant or Course Director for guidance.

3.   Think of a personal story from your own life that somehow relates to this issue. Do a 10- minute brainstorm where you write down important images, sensory experiences, characters, spatial characteristics and learning outcomes from that story.

4.   Do a 10-minute writing exercise where you write that story in detail.

5.   Review your past writing assignments and weekly paragraphs for pieces you might want to integrate into your assignment.

6.   Review class readings from first and second semester that you might want to integrate into your assignment.

7.    Outline a structure for your personal essay with headings and subheadings, detailing what arguments and stories you will use and where you will use them. Also include where you will incorporate evidence. The thesis statement will be useful in this process. Does this argument connect to my statement? Which are my strongest arguments? How should I organize my essay to best fulfill my thesis statement? What writing genres should I include?

8.   Using the outline and past writing drafts from this class, write your personal essay.

Make sure you thoroughly read the assignment outline (multiple times!). Explore when and why you have chosen to engage in different writing genres. Edit your essay for technical errors, style, literary devices, inclusion of narrative and overall message.

9.   Create a bibliography using MLA style with at least 2 external sources and at least three sources from the course materials for a total of five sources.

As with all writing assignments in ENVS 1800, please note the following:

-      Except for valid medical or compassionate reasons or pre-approved accommodation, you must submit your assignment on the due date, via the designated eClass portal, no later than 23:59 (for all but the culminating essay, the due date is a Monday). Assignments received after this date/time will be penalized 5% of the total weight of the assignment per day.

-      This assignment is worth 10 points, so you will lose 0.5 points (approximately one full letter grade for the assignment) per day. - You are expected to come to tutorial ("writing group") on the Tuesday after submission with a copy of your finished, polished assignment ready for discussion and workshopping, according to Laurence’s directions.

-     You are responsible for taking all workshop and other feedback seriously as you work toward your culminating essay. We expect that the analyses, skills, and techniques you develop in each assignment will inform the final essay, in terms of both content (your understanding and analysis) and form (the specific skills you are developing with each assignment). Don’t shelve this assignment and consider it “done”: work from it to revise and hone your thinking and writing skills.