midterm writing assignment

Your essay should present a clear, insightful central idea, should have a clear sense of order and logic, should be well developed with specific details to support your assertions, and should use effective language that is free of grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Avoid plot summaries and provide quotations from the text to support your ideas. Also, it is suggested that you spend ample time writing and revising your essay.

Your Assignment:

Write a 900 word essay, drawing upon at least three texts that we have read in Units 5 and 6. All reflections must be made in relation to the literature we have read in those units. If you have any questions about the assignment please email your instructor before you begin. Discuss the relationship between outside knowledge (gained through education and literacy) and self-knowledge (gained through experience). You should answer the following questions throughout your essay.

  • In what ways do these forms of knowledge—outside knowledge and self-knowledge—complement each other?
  • In what ways are they in tension with each other?


  • MLA. Access the Purdue OWL MLA Formatting and Style guide – https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/
  • Typed/printed, double-spaced, 1″ margins. Change them in “Page Setup” on the “File” menu.

  • Paragraphs indented 5 spaces at left; do not separate paragraphs by extra blank lines.

  • Quotations of 10 words or less should be integrated into the text; longer quotations should be indented 5 spaces at left and right margins, single spaced, and set off from the text of the essay by a blank line before and after the quotation. Be sure to include verse numbers or line numbers
  • All sources must be cited. Avoid citing college dictionaries, Wikipedia, or basic references such as the OED, Encyclopedia Britannica, etc. Instead, use the text, discussion postings, lesson notes, and any sources accessed from GALILEO for outside reference.
  • Your essay should have a specific title – one that suggests what is the most interesting or important about what you have to say. It’s worth taking a little thought over the title, not only because it creates the first impression of your essay; coming up with a phrase which encapsulates your argument can help in focusing that argument. One popular strategy is to use a key phrase from the text followed by another phrase of clarification.

Be sure to save the assignment in .doc, .docx, or RTF format.Save your file with your last name, first initial and “FINAL” (i.e., JonesP-FINAL.doc)


Unit 5

Letter of September 6, 1815, entitled “Rely of a South American to a Gentleman of this Island [Jamaica]”


Simón Bolívar (1783-1830) is perhaps the most widely known of Latin American historical figures. Numerous books and articles have been written about him in his native region, and works both translated and original abound in English and other major languages. He freed six countries from Spanish rule, traveled more than 75,000 miles on horseback to do so, and became the greatest figure in Latin American history. His life is epic, heroic, straight out of Hollywood: he fought battle after battle in punishing terrain, forged uncertain coalitions of competing forces and races, lost his beautiful wife soon after they married and never remarried (although he did have a succession of mistresses), and he died relatively young, uncertain whether his achievements would endure.

Part of the problem in understanding Bolívar is the sheer breadth of his thought and action. He was one of the few leaders of Latin American independence who remained fully engaged in the struggle from beginning to end. But he was more than just a soldier and founder of new nations or “Liberator” to use his preferred title. He was a thinker who probed the meaning of what he was doing in historical perspective and in a wide international context. He analyzed past and present conditions of his part of the world and speculated, sometimes with uncanny prescience, concerning its future. He drafted constitutions, orders, and decrees that he hoped would make that future more bearable. Amid all this, Bolívar found time to offer his ideas on questions of literary usage and educational method and a great deal more. Fortunately, his voluminous writings have been preserved, and the vigor of his prose style – almost always lucid even when presenting questionable theses, often trenchant or ironic, never dull – must be included among his claims to fame.

Bolívar’s speeches and correspondence were fiery, passionate. They represent some of the greatest writing in Latin American letters. Although much was produced in haste – on battlefields, on the run – the prose is at once lyrical and stately, clever, but historically grounded, electric yet deeply wise. It is no exaggeration to say that Bolívar’s revolution changed the Spanish language.

There is a remarkable consistency in Bolívar’s views of how Spanish America should be governed – or perhaps above all, how it should not be governed. The author whom he cited most often in support of his political thinking was Montesquieu, who in his Spirit of the Laws had argued so forcefully for the careful adaptation of any country’s laws and institutions to its immediate geographic and cultural environment. To Bolívar this meant that his compatriots should scrupulously avoid trying to create ideal types of government (“ethereal republics,” he called them) and, perhaps above all, should never yield to the temptation to copy the institutions of the United States, however successful they might appear to be in North America. He came to believe that Latin Americans were not ready for a truly democratic government; abject, ignorant, suspicious, they did not understand how to govern themselves, having been systematically deprived of that experience by their Spanish oppressors. What they needed, in his eyes, was a strong hand, a strict executive.

Bolívar’s glory did not last unto the grave. The politics of the countries Bolivar founded grew ever more fractious, and his detractor ever more vehement. He began making unilateral decisions. He installed a dictator in Venezuela; he announced to Bolivia that it would have a president for life. A series of downturns lead to Bolívar’s death at 47 in poverty, illness, and exile.

Now, read the Letter of September 6, 1815, entitled “Reply of a South American to a Gentleman of this Island [Jamica]” – http://faculty.smu.edu/bakewell/BAKEWELL/texts/jamaica-letter.html.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass c1855

Frederick Douglass was renowned as an African-American intellectual, civil rights champion, orator, writer, and statesman of the Nineteenth century. Best known as an Abolitionist leader, Douglass also actively supported women’s suffrage, held several public offices, and was the first black citizen to hold a high U.S. government rank.

Douglass was born into slavery in February 1818 on a farm in Tuckahoe, Maryland. The date of his birth, like that of most children born into slavery, is not known. Douglass’ mother, Harriet Bailey, was a slave of Captain Aaron Anthony. His father, whose identity remains a mystery, was probably a white man and possibly Captain Anthony himself. On September 3, 1838, Douglass escaped slavery. It was his third attempt at escape. Dressed in a sailor’s suit and carrying a seaman’s protection paper borrowed from a retired sailor, he boarded a train to New York City. There, he found the home of David Ruggles, a key figure in the Underground Railroad. From Ruggles’ home, Douglass wrote his fiancée Anna Murray, a free black woman. After she joined him a few days later, they were married. They had five children together.

Douglass’s career as an abolitionist began in 1841 at a Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society Convention. Asked at the convention to tell of his experiences as a slave, Douglass delivered such a moving account of his life as a slave that he was offered a job as a lecturer for the Society, a position he accepted and held for four years. He became increasingly prominent in the organization, despite being heckled and beaten for his views.

To silence skeptics, who doubted that anyone so articulate could have been a slave, Douglass published a narrative of his life as a slave in 1845. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave was an extraordinary success. Within three years, it had been reprinted nine times, with 11,000 copies circulating in the United States. It was also published in Europe. Above all, Douglass’ Narrative is a political document, which tells of wrongs and injustices done to slaves, as well as sounds a warning to the nation of serious turmoil if slavery is not soon abolished. After publication, some skeptics doubted that a black man could have written so eloquently about his experiences. Douglass, therefore, stood as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. In the years that followed, Douglass continued to add material to his Narrative, republishing it in two later, expanded versions. He also wrote several other books.

Revealing in the Narrative his status as an escaped slave put Douglass’s life in jeopardy, and so, to avoid recapture by his former owner, Douglass set sail in 1845 for the United Kingdom and Ireland. He spent two years lecturing against slavery, winning the British people’s support for the abolitionist cause, and money was raised to purchase his emancipation.

Upon his return to the United States, Douglass continued to promote the Abolitionist cause in various ways. He produced some abolitionist newspapers: The North Star, Frederick Douglass Weekly, Frederick Douglass’ Paper, Douglass’ Monthly and New National Era. Following the Civil War, Douglass became the first African American nominated for vice president of the United States. Nominated to the Equal Rights Party ticket in 1872 without his knowledge or consent, Douglass never campaigned. Nonetheless, his nomination marked the first time that an African American appeared on a presidential ballot. In addition, Douglass was appointed to several political positions. He served as president of the Freedman’s Savings Bank and as chargé d’affaires for the Dominican Republic. He was later appointed minister-resident and consul-general to the Republic of Haiti, a post he held between 1889 and 1891.

Douglass died in 1895 in Washington, D.C. while attending a meeting of the National Council of Women.

Now, read the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – http://www.gutenberg.org/files/23/23-h/23-h.htm.

Unit 6

“The Home and the World”

Rabindranath TagoreRabindranath Tagore was a poet, writer, humanitarian, educator, musician, and the first Indian to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1913). He also played a key role in the renaissance of modern India.

Tagore was born in Calcutta in a wealthy and prominent Brahmin family. The Tagores were pioneers of the Bengal Renaissance and tried to combine traditional Indian culture with and Western ideas. The youngest child in the family, Tagore started to compose poems at the age of eight. His first book, a collection of poems, appeared when he was 17; it was published by Tagore’s friend who wanted to surprise him.

In addition to his various literary activities, Tagore managed the family estates, which increased his interest in social reforms. He also started an experimental school at Shantiniketan. Tagore was awarded the knighthood in 1915, but he surrendered it in 1919 as a protest against the Massacre of Amritsar, where British troops killed some 400 Indian demonstrators protesting colonial laws. His response is unsurprising, although perhaps his reputation in the West as a mystic has caused his Western readers to ignore his role as a reformer and critic of colonialism. Between the years 1916 and 1934 he travelled widely, attempting to spread the ideal of uniting East and West. He died on August 7, in 1941.

“The Home and the World” by Rabindranath Tagore is a story of Indian nationalism and religion in the early twentieth century that exemplifies the conflict between realism and idealism. As the novel begins, Nikhil introduces his young wife, Bimala, to Sandip Babu, a charismatic leader in the Swadeshi movement, to encourage her to participate in the larger world outside of the home. Bimala soon becomes immersed in the revolutionary fervor of Swadeshi and finds herself torn between competing duties to family (home) and country (the world).

The Swadeshi movement (Swadeshi means self-sufficiency) arose in Bengal as a protest against British rule. In its simplest form, the movement was a boycott of British goods in favor of Indian made ones. However, as the movement quickly spread from Bengal to the rest of India, it grew into a strong belief in the possibility of an independent India run by Indians for the Indians without foreign rule or influence.

Within the novel, the action shifts between the three main characters: Nikhil, his wife Bimala, and Sandip. Their innermost thoughts are explored. Nikhil, whose views are strongly influenced by his religious beliefs, realizes that even though the Swadeshi has good intentions, the methods of implementation, and it’s initial and long term benefits are not so righteous and not necessarily the best foundation for nation building. Bimala is swept away by Nikhil’s passion, the passion that she has never before seen out of Nikhil. Bimala’s name in Bengali means “without mal or blemish,” but this is merely because she has little worldly experience. During the course of the novel, Bimala learns of her own inner potential, that she can have an effect on the world. Though Sandip realizes the movement has the potential to become violent, he believes freedom is worth the cost. Sandip’s perspective is based upon his belief in nationalism. Each of these three characters perceives the movement differently, and large socio-political events have an impact upon each individual’s private life.

Now, read “The Home and the World” – http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7166.

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