“Bleeding Borders”: A Practice in Autoethnography

In communications professor Bryant Keith Alexander’s article on critical autoethnography, he defines it as a practice of telling one’s own story from the multiple perspectives of one’s own self. He notes that “critical work” involves looking for the “hidden forces” that operate in our lives–be they school, family, religion, sex, sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity, class, ability–and exploring how those forces influence who we are and, in addition, how we act back upon them through self-expression (114). These “variables” are categories of being, markers of identity, that allow us to situate ourselves at the center of an intersection where multiple worlds cross each other, hence Crenshaw’s (1995) notion of “intersectionality.” “Intersectionality” is a research method and a way of life that involves a knowledge and understanding of those things that make us different from each other and, through this knowledge, allowing our politics–our social life in the world–to reflect that knowledge and understanding and engage it for the purposes of social transformation (making the world a better place in which to live for all).

Give an example of one time in your recent past in which you experienced yourself as embodying a specific identity. Consider your own “positionality”–where did you stand within this experience? Where do you stand in looking back on it? Do you still identify in the same way? Has anything changed about the way you identify as a result of the experience? In observing yourself as performing a specific identity, what observation could you make about the broader society? In the spirit of “critical autoethnography,” deconstruct your experience as a method of “social criticism” (Alexander 119).

You may write this in any format you wish–essay, stream of consciousness, poem, dialogue, monologue, journal entry, etc.

For instance, note Alexander’s conclusions about his experience of embodying multiple identities that “bleed” out in multiple directions: towards expressions of Blackness, maleness, gayness, brotherliness (. In life, he sees himself as caught metaphorically in a “glass borderless frame” in which he performs a gay, Black, male, brotherly identity. His viewing himself in his mantel picture prompts him to reflect on the ways in which the “heteronormativity” of broader society both constricts who he is at the same time that it pushes him to break out of the metaphorical frame, to find creative ways to express his queer identity.

We will discuss your responses at the end of class.  DUE as part of portfolio: November 21, 2017. 




Unit Four: Narrative Persuasion

For your final assignment you will be responsible for extending the research you began in Unit Two with the Annotated Bibliography to include one additional popular article, scholarly article, and book source as well as one non-text source such as an interview, documentary, or video. In other words, you will build off of research you have already begun in order to write your final essay (as opposed to an additional Annotated Bibliography; that is, you are NOT writing another annotated bibliography, you are just adding more sources to your Works Cited).

Through this research you will craft a seven to ten page persuasive essay that engages narrative, personal or otherwise, to illustrate an argument concerning your topic of research.

You can consult the “Anecdoting” section of Adios for examples of how to engage story in making a thesis. In addition, you can revisit essays from throughout the semester for further “examples of others,” which may help you in structuring your own work.

Lastly, we will be exploring work by other authors in the coming weeks who write persuasive academic essays through personal narrative. Pay close attention to how these writers deploy “autoethnography” as a method to help them frame their personal narratives–using anecdotal evidence, first-hand experience, sociological field research, and secondary source research to support the claims they are making about culture and identity.

Your essays should include the following:

  • Style Techniques: Echoing, Freighting, Telescoping, Colon, Semicolon, Comma, Dash, Dash Skewer, Parentheses, Melted-Together Word, Metaphor, Simile, Super-Literalism, and two of the four lenses (Personalizing, Humbling, Distancing, Martianing)
  • Form Techniques: Quote Sandwiching (i.e. direct quotations and paraphrases)

Please type your essays according to MLA Guidelines, including proper formatting for quotations, citations, and Works Cited. Your essay should include at least one direct quote and/or paraphrase from each source you list on your Works Cited. Please indicate your use of style techniques (not form) using footnotes. Please indicate your thesis statement, using bold font. 

Lastly, please print out and attach the following rubric to your essay: ENGL 100_Unit 4 Essay Rubric

DUE: Monday, May 21, 2017

Unit Three: Portfolio of In-Class Essays

Worth 40 points overall, at five points per assignment, your portfolio is to be submitted in-class November 21, 2017, typed, in MLA format, with heading and title for each assignment according to the title of the prompt for the assignment, including:

And one annotation on one of the four following articles:

  • German Lopez, “America’s Gun Problem, Explained”
  • Coates, “The Case for Reparations”
  • Coates, “The First White President”
  • Coates, “My President Was Black”

I will distribute file folders for each student the Thursday before this assignment is due. You will be assessed on the basis of style, substance, syntax, and format for each assignment.


  • 5 points: Demonstrates satisfactory completion of the assignment; no errors.
  • 3 points: Demonstrates completion of the assignment; some errors.
  • 1 points: Demonstrates an inconsistent engagement with the assignment.
  • 0 points: Demonstrates a lack of adequate engagement with the assignment.



Breaking Open “The Case for Reparations”

Following the tutorial from Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL), review Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article from The Atlantic and begin your annotation, including both direct quotations and paraphrasing, of “The Case for Reparations.” Be sure to talk about Coates’ main arguments and what he uses as evidence to support those arguments. You annotation will be at least three paragraphs.

Please use parenthetical citations written according to MLA format. In addition, at the top of your summary, please cite the article as you would write it in a MLA-formatted works cited page:

Author – Last Name, First Name. “Title of article in quotation marks.” Title of publication in italics, date article was published, link to article on website. Date accessed.

In this case, including a “hanging indent” of five spaces for all subsequent lines following the first line of your citation:

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The Case for Reparations.” The Atlantic, June 2014, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/. Accessed October 19, 2017.


Throughout our discussion of Victor Villaseñor’s Burro Genius, we discussed a number of themes which emerge from his life story, including those of family, gender, perseverance, religion, spirituality, race, class, etc.

In a five paragraph essay, discusse one theme that you find important in Burro Genius and what message you believe Villaseñor is trying to communicate through that theme. 


Some questions you might ask yourself as you go along are: How does this theme show up in Villaseñor’s memoir? Through scenes? Through personal reflection? What is his stance, or opinion, in relation to that theme? How does he illustrate his argument?  

Be specific in citing where Villaseñor addresses the theme and in what way (through scene? through personal reflection?) and be sure to cite the page(s) in which the scene and/or personal reflection is taking place by using parenthetical citations

For example, you might write, Villaseñor addresses the theme of ethnic pride in the scene where  he decides to stand up to his teacher in the military academy (#). Or, Villaseñor reflects upon the the notion of ethnic pride when he writes, “……………..” (#).

Lastly, to begin your essay, you must start with a thesis statement, such as:

In Victor Villaseñor’s memoir, Burro Genius, he argues for the importance of ethnic pride by celebrating his family’s involvement in the Mexican revolution, standing up to his teacher in military school, and telling his story before a crowd of strangers at the literature conference.

Your body paragraphs would then unpack each of these examples by summarizing  them, citing them, and stating why these illustrate the theme of ethnic pride. Please incorporate one direct quotation and one paraphrase per example. For a tutorial on quoting and paraphrasing, click here.

Your concluding paragraph could then address whether or not he is successful in communicating this theme of ethnic pride.

For help in developing a thesis statement for an essay about literature, see the OWL: Writing About Literature tutorial.

Due as part of portfolio, November 21, 2017. 

Gun Violence in America: Annotating German Lopez’s “America’s gun problem, explained”

Pistols for sale at Target Masters, an indoor shooting center, in Garland, Texas on March 3.
 Cooper Neill for The Washington Post via Getty Images – VOX

As part of this next unit on expository writing, we will be engaging with each of the four articles assigned, including this first one from Vox contributor German Lopez.

For this assignment, please annotate the article according to MLA guidelines.

First, cite the article as follows:

Lopez, German. “America’s Gun Problem, Explained.” Vox, October 2, 2017, n.pg.

For your summary, restate the author’s thesis, or main argument, in your own words. In other words, paraphrase the claim he makes. In addition, state how he goes about developing his main claim through multiple points that help support his major thesis. Include in your summary at least one direct quote to illustrate his thesis.

For your evaluation, detail what sources he relies on in order to substantiate his claim. Are these sources reliable? Consider the source through which he is publishing this article. What are its credentials? Is it reliable? Explain.

For your reflection, argue whether or not you find his thesis convincing. Do you notice any gaps? If so, upon what evidence do you rely in order to fill those gaps? In addition, how does this article relate to your own thinking about the topic? Consider whether or not it has changed your thinking and explain why or why not.

Due as part of portfolio, Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Unit Two – Annotated Bibliography: Evaluating Research as Expository Writing

At its most basic, expository writing explains, describes, and/or offers information about an event, idea, or another person’s point of view on any given topic. It is often used in crafting argumentative essays by which a writer situates his or her thesis through background information that s/he uses as evidence to bolster his or thesis.

As noted on EssayInfo.com:

Such an analysis requires

  1. reading with understanding the ideas developed in an article by clearly stating another’s thesis, outlining the facts used by the author to support that thesis, and the “values” underlying the ideas

  2. putting what is read into a larger context by relating another’s article or book to other work in the field

  3. clearly and effectively communicating this information to a defined audience. In other words, you must write clearly and fully enough for your readers to know how you have arrived at your analyses and conclusions. They should never have to guess what you mean; give your readers everything they need to know to follow your reasoning

A good way to practice expository writing is to summarize another person’s claims about a specific topic and then weigh in on that author’s argument through your own evaluation and reflection–or through an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is a list of research sources with a summary for each source, typically revolving around a single topic. In addition to summary, an annotation can also include an evaluation of the source’s usefulness, reliability and how it compares to other sources concerning a specific topic. Lastly, an annotation can include a reflection as to how it might be used in a research project, how it has changed what you think about the topic of research, and whether or not you find the source convincing.

For more information, see Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) at: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/01/.

As part of this next unit on expository writing, you are responsible for conducting research on a topic of public debate, engaging THREE (3) SOURCES  that must include one book, one scholarly article, and one popular article. 

For each source, please include:

  1. summary;
  2. an evaluation;
  3. and a reflection. 

Your submissions should be typed and formatted according to MLA guidelines, and they should include techniques such as paraphrasing and direct quotations, both of which you will cite parenthetically. We will review formatting guidelines over the course of this unit, as well as techniques for paraphrasing and direct quoting (or “quote sandwhiching”).

For a student examples of an annotated bibliography,                                              see: ENG 100_Student Annotated Bibliography_Example One  or ENG 100_Student Annotated Bibliography_Example Two

For more on how to paraphrase, quote and summarize, see: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/563/1/.

For more on how to format quotations, see: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/03/.

For more information on formatting a Works Cited page, see: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/05/



DUE DATE: Thursday, November 2, 2017

Sharpening the Lenses: “Personalizing,” “Humbling,” “Casting,” and “Distancing” in View of “The Donald”

In their chapter on “Opt: Ways to Wield Point of View,” Gary and Glynis Hoffman describe different techniques for speaking from various perspectives–that of first-person (I, we), second person (you), and third person (he, she, it, they)–in our writing. One way of engaging in first-person narration is through the use of what they call the “personalizing lens,” in which a writer deploys first-person point of view to recreate a past event, as if a fly on the wall, or to explore the emotional world of another being, as if a psychic (Hoffman and Hoffman 71-73). In other cases, the personalizing lens is simply a way to speak about one’s experience of the world from one’s own perspective, which we witness in a lot of autobiographical writing, but which can also be used for academic writing.

Another technique, the “humbling lens,” refers to writing in second-person point of view, often for the purposes of establishing a closer personal connection between the writer and the reader–sometimes to disapprove, other times to instruct, and still other times to place the reader into the life-world of another living being (as in the excerpt from Sally Shapiro’s “How to Create the Collection Winesberg, Ohio: An Analysis” in Hoffman and Hoffman 77).

The “casting lens” “[assigns] a long list of identifying particulars–habits, traits, behaviors, expressions–to a single ‘he’ or ‘she’ that in reality exists among a handful of individuals in the target group [so as to magnify] those […] qualities” (Hoffman and Hoffman 82). It is of course written in the third person perspective, using the singular third person pronouns “he” or “she” in order to describe a group of people.

Lastly, the “distancing lens” functions as a means by which to “[level] social criticism or [reveal] the absurdity of certain cultural rituals” through an “‘alien’ point of view,” or, more simply, an “outsider’s perspective” (Hoffman and Hoffman 87). The tone of the narrator using “Distancing Lens” is very flat in this regard, taking on the manner of a scientist observing and recording data for research (see examples, Hoffman and Hoffman 90-93). It typically uses the third personal plural pronoun, “they,” to describe a culture or group of people.


Take a close look at the picture above, featuring President Donald Trump addressing his staff. Interjecting yourself into the scene depicted in the portrait, recreate the scene by describing what is going on using ALL FOUR lenses. 

First enter into perspective using the personalizing lensWrite a paragraph of at least five sentences in which you describe what is going on through first-person narration.

Next, enter into the perspective of one of the characters in the scene by using the humbling lensWrite a paragraph of at least five sentences in which you describe what is going on using second-person narration.

Then, stepping out of the frame a bit, engage in casting lens to describe the group of people in this frame using the third person singular “he” or “she.” Again, write a paragraph of at least five sentences in which you describe what is going on using third-person singular.

Lastly, in order to offer a description of the scene as if an “innocent” or “expert” martian, use distancing lens, to describe the scene using third person plural, “they.” Write a paragraph of at least five sentences in which you describe what is going on using third-person plural. 

This will be due as part of your portfolio, due November 21. 

“C’mon ride the train…”: “Freighting” and “Telescoping”

The Hoffmans describe “freighting” and “telescoping” as two grammatical techniques that enhance the FLOW of an essay.

Visualized as a series of linked freight cars, “freighting” brings together various modifying phrases that are attached to a main sentence through the use of commas, semicolons, and/or connecting words such as that, which, who, when, where, while, with, among others (Hoffman and Hoffman 17).

Telescoping” meanwhile refers to the method of focusing (or “zooming” in) on a particular detail from a preceding clause or sentence through a connecting device such as a comma (Hoffman and Hoffman 24). A writer can also “telescope” by “panning over” to a new idea or thing through the use of a comma, semicolon and/or a connecting word (and, but, or, besides, because, since, while, when) that links two sentences together, creating a compound sentence (Hoffman and Hoffman 24).

Choose five of the sentences below and expand each sentence you choose into a multiple line compound sentence using “freighting” and “telescoping” techniques. Please note that making use of “Hieroglyphics” techniques aids in this process. See the following examples for assistance.

The hills are parched.

e.g. The hills, once green with fertility and teeming with wildlife, are parched like the desert, its surface stark and rough.

Life is suffering. 

e.g. Life, a narrative of birth and decay, is suffering–an experience of pain that is also pleasure, the pleasure of knowing that so long as one can feel, one is truly alive.

Love is a river.

e.g. Love, an upsurge of compassion at the sight of another’s pain, is a river that flows from the heart, an organ where the mystics believe wisdom is found.

Computers create access.

e.g. Computers–machines housing networks of information communicated through electronic channels–create access to new worlds, some of which are virtual, such as the internet; physical, such as a city; and extra-terrestrial, such as the planet Mars.

Freedom of speech is a human right.

The addict is a victim.

There are skeletons in the closet.

Tony defended the animal.

Lighting a candle saves electricity.

The guru meditates with his students.



Essay One: Personal Narrative

Consider Lee Gutkind’s insight into creative nonfiction. As he says, essays are constructed of an interchange between “scenes” (narration) and “information” (exposition, or setting the scene, as well as personal reflection) that draw the reader into the life-world of the narrator (you). As he notes in his introduction to a compilation of creative non-fiction essays, In Fact, creative nonfiction involves some combination of “facts, plus story and reflection or contemplation” on the story itself (xxix). These narratives–a combination of story, information (or exposition), and personal reflection–are meanwhile framed by a message that communicates the major thesis (main argument), as well as theme, of the essay. For more info, see the video below.

For your first essaywrite a personal narrative in three scenes that involve some degree of personal reflection from which a theme–a message, a main idea–emerges.

For guidance on narrating your scenes, please refer to the sections “Anecdoting,” “Pulsing the Tense,” and “Splitting the Second” of the same chapter.

Your story should be told through the “personalizing lens,” while incorporating one additional lensFor guidance, see Hoffman and Hoffman’s chapter, “OPT: Ways to Wield Point of View” (70 ff).

Lastly, please incorporate at least one of each of the following style techniques into your overall essay:

  • Freighting;
  • Telescoping;
  • Very Short Sentence;
  • Melted-Together Word;
  • Parentheses;
  • Dash;
  • Colon;
  • Semicolon;
  • Dash Skewer;
  • Super-literalism;
  • Metaphor;
  • Simile.

Please indicate by footnote which style technique you are using at the end of each sentence where you use a specific technique. 

This essay should follow MLA format: Typed, Double-Spaced, 12 pt. Times New Roman Font, 1″ margins all around, Header and Page Number, Heading (we will review these in class). For guidelines to MLA general format, click here.

For a student example from a previous composition class, click here.

NOTE: There is NO PAGE REQUIREMENT; however, I would suggest that your narrative fall somewhere between the three to seven page range. 

It is due at the beginning of class on Thursday, October 5, 2017.