Project II

Cultural Artifacts: objects, places, and values that give us meaning


“No people come into possession of a culture without having paid a heavy price for it.”

James A. Baldwin


“No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.” 

Mahatma Gandhi



This project will explore our communities, the things they value, and how these values are represented through cultural artifacts. An obvious example of a cultural artifact might be a sports trophy, which represents the value of winning. It is also connected to teamwork, determination, physical fitness, and endurance. Athletes who play to win usually accept these values, which connect them with the community of their teammates. Essays we read, films we view, and places we visit will explore cultural artifacts in personal, conceptual, and critical contexts, so that you have models to apply to your own writing. 



Compose a full 6-page essay (about 1800 words, which does not include any images or a Works Cited page), in which you investigate the values of one of your communities, how those values are conveyed, and whether or not you share those values. Choose one or two cultural artifacts from a community that you are a part of, and analyze the values that the artifact or artifacts convey. What hopes, preferences, or ideas of success do these artifacts communicate? What do these values (and thus these artifacts) reveal about your community? About society as a whole? Next, critically consider whether or not you agree with the values conveyed by your artifact or artifacts, and why. Explore where these considerations place you in relationship to your community.


Note: A cultural artifact is something produced for a specific community and possibly by the community itself. It could be an object, a text, a piece of art, a place, a piece of media, or some combination of these. Remember, artifacts represent the values of the community. Cultural artifacts are usually, although not always, intended for or connected to public consumption.


Developmental Tasks:

* Engage in critical analysis of self and community

* Consider the thematic and rhetorical impact of readings/films discussed in class

* Maintain strong voice

* Employ integration of various sources



You will use 4 sources in the essay.  The sources should be applicable to your analysis, and you should consider articles, books, and dependable web sources. Only one of your sources can come from in-class material, and no more than one source should be a website.




This essay will make up 20% of your final grade. I will evaluate essays according to the “Grading Criteria in UK Writing Courses” outlined in The St. Martin’s Handbook and the ENG 104 University and Writing Program Guidelines, Fall 2009, available on the course website.

*more on back


The final draft should be at least 6 full pages in length (excluding any image and Works Cited page). Essays that do not meet this length expectation will be assigned an “E.” All formal writing should be in MLA style, which means that the essay will be double-spaced, have 1-inch margins on all sides, and be in Times New Roman 12pt. font (or equivalent). Your surname and page number should appear in the right header of your essay.


Final project drafts will be submitted on the day that they are due, in class, unless there is an arranged alternative or documentation of an excused absence.  Late final drafts will be docked one letter grade per day (10 pts.).


When you turn in your final project draft for a grade, the mini-essay, any drafts, and peer reviews must appear in your folder as well. Be aware that these things are mandatory; a failure to complete them will impact your grade for the project assignment.



Tentative Due Dates for Project II:

Reflective Mini-Essay: 6 Oct.

Full Draft for Peer Review, Day I: 13 Oct.

Peer Review, Day II: 15 Oct.

Final Project Draft, with Peer Reviews and Drafts: 22 Oct.


Readings and Films for Project II:

Tremblay’s “Seeing Red” (AWE 41)

Jones’s “Being Strong” (AOC 400)

Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (Film)

Cusac’s “Watching Torture in Prime Time” (AOC 109)

Kozol’s “Preparing Minds for Markets” (AOC 530)


Critical Questions to Consider for the Project II Essay:

1. What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world is?  Or, about the way that it isn’t?
2. What does this artifact assume about the way the world should be?
3. What does this cultural artifact make possible?  All of the possibilities may not be positive.  For example, think of the places we visited; consider a positive and negative “possibility” for each.
4. What does this cultural artifact make impossible (or at least very difficult)?
5. What new forms of culture are created in response to this artifact?

6. Whose culture or community is championed through the artifact?  Who is excluded by it and why?