This semester, students have been invited to engage with reading a whole nonfiction book from a choice of three twentieth-century texts: Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son, and Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge. I chose these three books because excerpts from them are frequently anthologized in first-year essay collections, and each text deals with a still-contemporary issue of relevance to my students: decolonial theory (Anzaldúa); racism (Baldwin); and climate change (Williams). Students could chose to work individually or in groups on a creative project that would merge in-school and out-of-school concerns.
The assignment for the creative projects is copied later in this post. The general invitation asks students to create a multimedia piece that is not necessarily digital, but that can be digitally documented, such as a handmade collage or mural that can be photographed, or spoken word lyrics that can be transcribed to a document and uploaded to our institution’s eportfolio system.
A creative project, according to the assignment, is essentially a rhetorical act that asks students to seize the circumstances of the moment (kairos) to persuade audiences to move toward action, or at the very least to pay attention to issues that have long been ignored and that continue to provoke dire consequences.
One example of a previous creative project that I shared with students (and previously on Bedford Bits: A Single Story (audio file)) was a song based on Chiminanda Ngozi Adiche’s TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story.” The song riffs on the theme of Adiche’s talk, inviting listeners to consider the complexities of identity that resist stereotypes and that move beyond a “single story.” The three assigned books also address complexities of identity, and work rhetorically to persuade readers to consider everyday life as deeply embodied in its complications.
This semester, the introduction to the creative projects was preceded by a moment of silence for victims of gun violence. Our classes met the day after the walkout efforts initiated by the students in Parkland, Florida, to commemorate the first-month anniversary of gun violence and the murders of seventeen people at their high school. The walkout and activism surrounding the many recent occurrences of gun violence are examples of creative projects, as a student noted by drawing the class’s attention to a recent exhibit of murder victims’ shoes on the lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
At the end of this project, students will write an analytic essay that asks them to reflect on their processes of making their creative project and the insights gained from reading the book they selected. We are just at the beginning of this work. I hope to report back later in the semester.
Writing Project 2: CREATIVE PROJECT
For WP 2, you are asked to make a creative project based on the book you have chosen. The creative project contains two parts:
PART 1: Create a multimedia piece that shows your relationship with the book.
For the multimedia piece, you can create (alone or in collaboration with others in class):
photography, music, video, artwork, poetry, spoken word, podcast, interview, poster, collage, graphs, charts, experiments, blueprints, demonstration, performance, fiction, memoir, zines, graphic novels, service project, and so on.
The piece can relate to your major, to interests outside of your major, or to interests outside of school.
Post your piece on our eportfolio system. The original piece need NOT be digital, but make sure that you can make a digital record of your work to post online.
PART 2: Write an analysis that focuses on your relationship with the book, your process work for the multimedia piece, and your final multimedia product. Here are some questions to begin, but remember to go deeper as your work moves forward:
Your RELATIONSHIP with the book
What seems most significant?
What causes cognitive dissonance?
What connections did you find to 21st-century thought and action?
What points seemed confusing?
Your PROCESS work for the multimedia piece
How did you decide what to create?
What steps did you take?
What successes did you have?
What frustrations did you find?
Your final multimedia PRODUCT:
Does the multimedia piece truly reflect your relationship with the book?