My name is Eri Hirashima and I am from Tokyo, Japan. Through this English 101 course, The Personal is Public: Writing with Archives and Arts, I was given many opportunities to hone my writing and researching skills, as well as developing my own writing style and being able to understand more about social issues on a global scale and in various genres. In high school, I was taught how to construct essays and the proper format, but I was simply learning the very basics and was not yet able to think and write in a manner that clearly conveyed my idea and connected to my audience. However, through this semester’s English course with Dr. Cooke, I was able to gradually develop important skills such as being able to complete process-oriented writings and rhetorical analysis that consist of many factors such as revision, decision-making, research of multiple modes, and being able to understand past mistakes for future improvements. There were many learning outcomes that I was able to achieve throughout this course to support my stance and express to the audience, such as the use of primary and secondary sources, visual logic, synthesis of multiple texts, the known-new chain, and analysis, but in this digital portfolio, I will primarily be focusing on idea development through analysis of given sources and connection to the audience.
Idea development is a creative process of generating ideas and opinions through critical thinking, analysis, interpretation and synthesis of information, situations, texts and visuals. This process is very much like a thinking cycle that starts off with collecting sources, then evaluating them to find connections to the arts, history, culture, or oneself, and finally composing appropriate claims.
Below is an excerpt from my first draft of my statement of purpose, in which the class was tasked to discuss about why the project is important by bringing connection the thesis and theme, that was derived from the central issue of our chosen play. Going back to this writing piece, I notice that a scenario of the play is mentioned, but it does not accurately link itself to the main theme, which shows that there has not been enough analysis and interpretation of the play. Thus, this seems incomplete and does not successfully display the significance and correlation between the play and the main thesis.
“As the Hubbard siblings have already had experience gaining money by cheating blacks in their store that they previously owned, they are once again trying to fulfill their materialistic interests without any sense of compassion or understanding for the workers.”
The following artifact is from the final draft of my statement of purpose, which shows the revision I have made to the excerpt above. Although I have not drastically modified the original version in my first draft, as it provides the necessary background information about the chosen play, I have added more by incorporating the central theme of the whole project, and linking it to the major social issue shown in manuscript. As the theme revolves around racial prejudice against African Americans and the unequal attitudes they receive, it is clear that I evaluated the play even further, to develop an idea and connection that explore the interrelationship between its main issue and the theme, and related it to the real world problem.
“As the Hubbard siblings have already had experience gaining money by cheating African Americans in their store that they previously owned, they feel no guilt and display no reflection upon their actions, and are once again trying to fulfill their materialistic interests and desires without any sense of compassion for the workers. In summary, “The Little Foxes”, emphasizes how a person’s morals can be greatly influenced by materialistic desires one holds to achieve ambitious goals, while how one also becomes ignorant of social aspects and issues that one is accountable of, such as racial discrimination and unfair treatment and attitude towards the quality of lives of minority groups, such as African Americans.”
Near the end of the course, I have become more attentive when analyzing texts and graphics, and have noticed myself, that I have been able to show more than simply tell the audience my thoughts and feelings. The difference between show and tell is that in showing, the text is very specific, evoking mental images and emotions, and making the writing piece more persuasive and concrete, while telling is simply informing the apparent and obvious facts. The artifact below, is a part of my narrative essay, in which I discussed about my interpretation of my curated exhibit from a second person point of view, and went in-depth with my analysis about everything I noticed. I started off with pointing out the visual parts of the exhibit that caught my attention, and later, moved onto presenting the emotions and thoughts as I started noticing subtle nuances in the images. This is part of the most recent work I have done, and best represents idea development through critical thinking and analysis. By going through my exhibit in great detail, I have noticed several new aspects of my project, and was able to understand the theme more than ever before.
“The exhibit starts off with a dramatic cover of a big ink-splatter and two black and white photos. Although displayed on the left margin of the slide, the solid black ink-splatter catches the attention first. It seems prophetic and foreshadows the possibly dark and depressing events that will be showcased in this exhibit. The ink-blot also triggers a sense of inhumanness and anguish, as deprived from the way it is splattered in an aggressive way that there is one big splatter and then small blots covering almost half way of the left side of the slide. Next, the two black and white images are very eye-catching. Embedded in silver rectangular frames, the images are apparent of displaying historical events, but what is interesting in their way of presentation is that the image one on the left side is placed in a more elevated position than the right-sided image is, and that the upper-left image is noticeably bigger than the other. Although presenting two different events, the images have one thing in common: the struggle of achieving racial fairness and the gravity of segregation of African Americans.”
My Curated Exhibit was definitely the most refined and well-developed work throughout the English course. This assignment required the most research on sources, which I derived from various fields, such as historical times, current technology, and even public figures, as I linked them all to ultimately support my theme. I believe that this project successfully fulfilled the course objectives, as I analyzed each source on a global scale, interpreted them in a detailed manner and was able to properly connect my main thesis to arts, history, and culture. Although the sources came in different forms, such as images, advertisements, figures and technology, I was able to evaluate each one and synthesize all of the given information to shape my final stance, thus enabling the reader to also get a clear view of my point and idea.
When creating a writing piece of any format, taking in consideration of your audience is very important, but it is a part of the writing process that many tend to overlook. In order to let your voice and opinion be heard, how you convey such messages to the audience and how persuasive or eye-catching are essential factors one must take into account of.
In the beginning of the semester, I did not really think about the “audience” and mainly focused on my own comprehension and understanding of texts. Because one of the first assignments was to write about what my first impression of my manuscript was, I thought I would write about my own review of what I thought about the play, resulting in very little consideration of the audience and not applying the given information to the bigger world. The below artifact is the first draft of my introduction for the proposal. Depicted from the paragraph, it seems as though my description of the play was quite bland, as it simply talked about the cards and were not well-explained regarding their possible reasons for their values, and lacking in detail of what other reactions I had, thus unable to arouse interest in the audience.
“The Little Foxes”, a play script written by Lillian Hellman was displayed in a rather interesting and unique way, compared to the other manuscripts and plays in the library. From first glance, I noticed an invitation card to an event, and when I opened the script booklet, there were even more cards. However, these cards inside were more formal looking than the one displayed outside of the script booklet. Enclosed in an envelope, typed and laminated, the cards inside were presented in a more intricate and sophisticated manner.”
After completing my proposal project, I realized that I was not thinking enough about the readers who would be going through my work, so when I was assigned the narrative essay, I took the time and effort to put myself in the shoes of others and analyzed my curated exhibit in second person. In order to allow the audience to enjoy reading my work, and catch their attention, I realized that being specific, and careful about my discussion regarding the sensitive topic of racial segregation were some of the important factors to consider. I believe that in first draft of my narrative essay, as shown below, I was able to connect to the audience by describing the psychological reactions I had as I read my curated exhibit from the second person’s perspective. However, this shown artifact was still not the best, and did not fulfill its requirements as the introduction paragraph. For a piece of writing to be impactful and eye-catching, a strong hook was necessary, and this excerpt was a good text for the body, but not quite suitable to start off the narrative essay.
“The exhibit that [examines] “the History of African Americans and Where They Stand in Society Today” starts off with a dramatic cover of a big ink-splatter and two black and white photos. Although displayed on the left margin of the slide, the solid black ink-splatter catches the attention first. It seems prophetic and foreshadows the possibly dark and depressing events that will be showcased in this exhibit. The ink-blot also triggers a sense of inhumanness and anguish, as deprived from the way it is splattered in an aggressive way that there is one big splatter and then small blots covering almost half way of the left side of the slide.”
Having realized that the first draft of my introduction above was not quite eye-catching to the audience, I changed the format of the narrative essay. I decided that I would start off my essay with a personal story, and then link it to my curated exhibit, as shown in the final draft of my narrative essay below. To begin with, I put personal questions that had a strong impact on me to induce a sense of curiosity and wonder in the audience’s mind, which ultimately functioned as the hook to grab attention. Then, I briefly mentioned the main theme of racism existing in modern society to my story, so that the audience can get some background information of what the narrative essay will talk about. With these modifications, I believe that I have put myself closer to the audience and was successfully able to deliver my message to them by implementing questions in the beginning, and with the connection I have made with my detailed life experience to a sensitive topic.
“So, what is your true ethnicity?” “Do you even consider yourself Japanese?” “Which culture are you more assimilated into?” “Which culture do you like more?” “Why do you have a Japanese name even though you look Chinese?” I have been bombarded with such questions since I was a young child.
Similar to the hostile attitudes that many African Americans still face today, I have a story that is so intertwined with me. Having lived in a homogenous nation, I was treated like an outlier. Throughout my childhood, I felt as though I was never truly accepted in the Japanese or Chinese community. Like the winner of Miss Japan 2015, Ms. Ariana Miyamoto, mentioned in the curated exhibit, I am also from a biracial background.”
My Curated Exhibit is an exemplary work that was able to connect to the audience, and strongly convey my theme in a convincing manner. As this assignment was an exhibit, I strongly believed that the visual aspects would play a key role in catching the audience’s eyes, so I put it in a powerpoint and put together my exhibit in various formats. The use of black and white and colored images, along with slides with previews are visually appealing for the reader throughout, and gives a smooth transition when going through the exhibit. In regards to the context, I implemented sources from multiple modes so that it can be relatable to the audience in various ways. For example, I discussed about the racial discrimination that is prevalent in the public’s daily transportation mode, and even the segregation against a renowned figure for standing up for her own right. In addition, I explored some of the many non-profit organizations, so that the audience can be more aware of the acts of certain minority groups, and to debunk certain social misconceptions and stereotypes. Thus, this exhibit was successfully able to assemble all of the diverse sources to support my them, and give the audience a much better understanding and bigger perspective of a global issue.
As I have completed the English 101 course, The Personal is Public: Writing with Archives and the Arts, I have acquired new skills in writing and have fulfilled the learning objectives. The six artifacts and my featured artifact above, all come together to display the gradual improvement I have made in areas such as idea development that consisted of synthesis, analysis and genre, and connection to the audience. The in-class hands-on experience of researching primary and secondary sources, writing and reading skills with letters, manuscripts from the Camille Billops and James V. Hatch archives of African American arts and culture, have definitely helped develop me as a better writer and guided me in creating texts with a clear focus. My curated exhibit, the featured artifact, is the highlight of my improvement in this semester’s course in which I am confident to say I have truly gained valuable skills, as it tested my “independent problem solving” skill of interpreting and synthesizing multiple modes and genres. By the end of the course, the mistakes I have made and learned from have taught me for the better to develop texts with smoother transition, eye-cathching phrases, and connection of my sources to a central theme. What I have learned from this course is of great value and I know that I will be able to apply them to my future endeavours in academic and professional settings.