Disruptive Narrative (Brett Seekford)

from ENGL110 : Writing Identities (General Section) – Spring 2020--Brett Seekford - See full syllabus here. 


For this first essay, I want you to craft a “disruptive narrative.” This term comes from Joy Ritchie’s and Kathleen Boardman’s essay “Feminism in Composition,” and they use it to discuss the narratives from groups of people whose experiences have been historically marginalized. They find that this form of writing disrupts what we think we know about society by bringing focus to new perspectives. According to Ritchie and Boardman, the “problem is not [that] these narratives are personal or that they are experiential, but that they are often untheorized.”

While their project focuses on issues of gender, I want you to use your own disruptive narrative to think critically about the implications of your own identity. What about you is especially different? What are the challenges (or advantages) you face as a result of this aspect of your identity? How do you negotiate these consequences—or do you? These foundational questions will help you discover both your own intervention in society and your relationship with a specific culture and its set of values. 

After narrowing your focus to one part of your identity, you will use your disruptive narrative to balance your personal history with research on the chosen topic. Consequently, two-to-three scholarly, peer-reviewed sources must be used in crafting this essay. You should use these sources to put your experiences in a broader frame of reference. They offer you a means of comparing your experiences to larger scholarship on the subject at hand. This balance between the personal and the scholarly will prove challenging, but it is essential to the drafting of a successful disruptive narrative. Above all, though, this paper should center your life. Your research should help you place your experiences in a larger conversation, but the primary form of evidence in this essay should be a discussion of moments from your life that have been influenced by the part of your identity under study.

This paper does not require you to choose a part of your identity frequently associated with this word, such as gender or race, although it certainly can relate to those forms of identity. The possibilities are endless. Whatever you decide, it is incredibly important that you incorporate a central argument or claim to guide your work while narrowing the scope of that claim to satisfy the short space provided in this assignment. For instance, it would be impossible to question what it means to be black in the United States in this essay, but you could consider what it means for you as a minority student to attend a predominantly white university in the University of Delaware. Above all, keep your focus manageable.

We will be reading sections of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me to help us understand the genre of the disruptive narrative. His use of rhetoric and provocative ideas about the connection between police brutality and anti-black violence serve as a productive point of reference as we attempt to grasp the implicit conventions of this ill-defined genre. It will be important to consider his book a guide as you unpack the nature of one part of your identity. As you think about his work and draft your paper, I encourage you to be creative in organizing your narrative. I hope that you use this assignment in an inventive, exploratory manner while still adhering to a central claim. It will help introduce you to academic discourse at the same time as you begin locating yourself within these debates.

Along with the criteria listed above, your final grade will be based on the effectiveness of your overall argument, the organization of your narrative, and your use of sources. Additionally, essays that are more original in nature tend to be more successful. See the loose rubric below for greater guidance.

Length: 4-5 full pages

Draft #1 Due: Sunday, March 8th (via e-mail to me and peer group)

Peer Letters Due: Tuesday, March 31st (via Canvas)

Final Draft Due: Sunday, April 5th (via Canvas)

30 points

Grading Criteria

“A” Paper

  • Successful balance between personal narrative and two to three secondary sources
  • An original, clearly-stated, and focused central argument or claim
  • Organized creatively and effectively
  • Clear demonstration of intensive revision
  • Polished, concise, and engaging style

“B” Paper

  • Strong use of sources alongside personal narrative
  • A clearly-stated and narrowly-constructed central argument or claim
  • Organized sensibly and deliberately
  • Revised according to class comments
  • Occasional mechanical errors but consistent voice

“C” Paper

  • Lack of meaningful engagement with sources in conjunction with personal narrative
  • Use of a central claim but lacking in specificity
  • Disjointed organization
  • Halfhearted attempt at revision
  • Prevalent and careless mechanical errors and inconsistent voice

“D” Paper

  • Fails to meet required number of sources or engages little with the ones chosen
  • No detectable central claim
  • Incoherent organization
  • Little to no revision
  • Ridden with senseless errors and lacking in any distinctive voice