Founders Assignment

The good news is that I am postponing the due date for the written part of this assignment to November 13. The first oral presentations will begin on October 30 and continue for several classes after that.

The idea of this assignment is to become well acquainted with the career and especially the writing of one of the key “founders” of the American Republic. For our purposes, the group consists of John Adams, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington, a list to which we can also add Thomas Paine.

The aim of your paper should be two-fold. You want to describe the career of the person you choose in a way that highlights his writing. Then you want to choose one particular piece of that person’s writing to examine analytically. Think of the first part of the assignment as background for the second: the heart of your essay should be what you are able to demonstrate about the piece of writing you choose. That “piece” should be short enough to include in your paper: It could be a few pages of an essay, an excerpt from a longer work, or even a letter. It’s as if you’re saying to your readers or listeners, “Here’s something that I’ve found particularly interesting in his writing; let me show you show you why.”

Although discussion and analysis of the writing is the most important, you should not neglect the “background” portion of this assignment. You may be able to get a helpful overview of your person’s writing from an encyclopedia-type article. But it would be better if you could push past that initial source and find some of your information from a particular scholar whose article you read. A very good idea is to consult and make use of a biography. You needn’t read the entire biography; you can work backwards from the piece you decide to write about, asking what you can learn from the biography about the circumstances that surrounded the writing.

Your paper should employ careful citations. In an English paper you should be following the guidelines of the Modern Language Association (MLA). That means basically that you need to include a Works Cited page at the end of your paper and that for each of the works cited there should be at least one place in your text where there is a citation of that work. If, in addition to the works you are able to cite in your paper, there are others that you’ve looked at, you can create another heading after Works Cited and call it Other Works Consulted and list them there. That’s a great way of making a good impression without having to force a reference that doesn’t really fit. For most of these writers, you will be able to find in the library or on line a Collected Works of X or The Letters of X. These look intimidating, but they can be consulted very selectively, and being able to list them either under Works Cited or Works Consulted can add authority to your paper by suggesting you’re aware of the scholarship surrounding your writer.

Next week I will be scheduling the oral reports. You should think of your oral report as a kind of show-and-tell of the particular piece that you will be writing about in your paper. You want to take your classmates through it in a way that contributes to their understanding. We’ll need hard copies to look at, and if you bring the piece to me a few minutes before class I can make copies for the rest of us to look at along with you.

Suggested Length of the Paper: 10-12 pages, including the piece of writing that you’re analyzing

Oral Presentations: Starting October 30

Due Date for Paper: November 13

Please use the book, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow in the citations when possible.

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