Jiawen Zhang



My name is Jiawen Zhang and I am from Nanjing, China. This is my fourth year in US and I went to high school in Greensboro, North Carolina. Through this semester’s The Personal is PublicWriting with Archives and Arts, other than library researching skills and appreciation and deeper understanding of racial issue through African American literature, I have learned various writing techniques which contribute to helping me better expressing my idea and connecting with my audience. It was never hard for me to put up a piece of writing, no matter it’s a 150- word short answer or 1500-word argumentative essay. However, I did not manage to always interest my desired audience or have strong logic in my writing. This portfolio is going to lay out my step-by-step improvement in specific rhetorical areas, which in particular are the use of Known-New-Chain through idea development from different genres of contexts and the connection with audience by summarizing the information from primary and secondary sources. Here we go to start the journey of my writing improvement path!



Artifact 19-2-daily-writing Paul Robeson Othello.

This is an in-class writing from the beginning of the semester that talks about the actor Paul Robeson and him being the first black actor to play the role of Othello. It is not organized and jumped back and lforth between random ideas. When I look back on this piece of writing, I notice that I was not thinking about the big picture of the perspective I wanted to present. Instead, I was just typing down whatever content that came up into my mind.

Developing Know-New-Chain is a process of connecting ideas with strong logical sense. In most cases, it means deriving a new concept from facts the audience already know. This is a step-by-step procedure usually starts off with a lay-out paragraph that introduces the “common sense” and naturally building up and branching out ideas using thoughtful analysis. Eventually, the audience will be leading to the ultimate point the author would like to present.


“And the interracial marriage did not become fully legal in all US states until 1967. With no doubt that Paul Robeson carried arguments throughout his acting career including “How could a black actor kiss a white actress?”. In acting, it is often helpful for the actor to relate their personal memories to the role they are playing to conjure the necessary emotion.”

Above is an excerpt from my first artifact. These three sentences are not tied to develop an idea. Although the first sentence is introducing a piece of fact about the legalization of interracial marriage, and a question about Paul Robeson’s related behavior is raised, the following contexts suddenly transfer to another topic about the importance of relating personal experience to acting.

Artifact 29-12-daily-writing 1st edition of the introduction to The Little Foxes

This is the very first introduction we created for the proposal. By then,  I was not nearly as familiar with the play as I am now. However, there was still an obvious improvement in this piece of writing from the above in-class writing. I started off with a quite broad and general sentence that is considered a “common sense” which is the fact that gender inequality is still prevalent in our society. Then new information is provided—introduce the author of the play Lillian Hellman who was unique and brave enough to reflect the social issue in her works. A supplementary sentence follows to further explain how special Lillian Hellman is. After these lay outs, I briefly talked about Lillian’s signature work—-The Little Foxes and the conflicts presented in the play. Lastly, I ended the introduction for the proposal with a connection I made personally with the play. Below is the last three sentences in my writing.


“The Little Foxes as Lillian’s signature work that sets the background in the Industrialization period, presents the struggle of a family in which every member has his/her greedy and selfish thoughts. So called “good family” concept is mixed with all kinds of moral conflicts in the play. Born and grow up in a loving and harmonious family, I am more than interested in exploring the imperfect family Lillian created.”

As you can see, although new information was branched out step-by-step from a broad idea, the logic is still not strong enough. I was trying to give out useful context so that my conclusion idea is easier to understand. Context helps the reader to understand what they otherwise would not be able to comprehend as well as making sense of “unknown” terms. It is determinant to develop thoughts.

However, the “Known” part in the Known-New-Chain application process, which is the opening sentence, is too generalized. Instead, a strongly backed up fact from a reliable resource would be preferred. And since it was the introduction for the proposal that features the play, I should introduce The Little Foxes more significantly to be clearer about my theme.

Artifact 3narrative-essay The Tour of The Twist of Social Inequality & Greed Presented in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes

This is the most recent piece of writing we’ve finished, representing my finest level of applying Known-New-Chain. By analyzing my own curated exhibit in the most detailed way, I cannot know the play and the themes any better. Idea development is a technique I used frequently in this writing to show how I understand each artifact from the exhibit based on the the information and caption provided.

Idea development is a derivation from Known-New-Chain that it is the process of generating ideas through discussion of known content to construct new thoughts. In the review for each artifact in my narrative essay, I described in details of what I observe, and what I consider the curator wants to present through the artifact. Then I summarized the captions and generalize a further understanding to the exhibit, from both the original intention of the curator and my own perspective, just like the excerpted paragraph below:

“The proceeding photograph renders visual impact with the face of a lost woman holding two children. Her face self-explains the hard life she is living. All I see is hopelessness in her confused eyes. The curator uncovers the background story of this photo taken in 1936, revealing the ugly social trend during which countless men unscrupulously applied violence to their partners. By presenting the fact that countless unplanned or undesired children became huge burden of the women who got raped by irresponsible husbands, the curator draws the audience to the derivation of the desperate situation of women—the seamy side of human nature. Therefore, the theme of greed in The Little Foxes is well explained by the accumulated gender inequality. I am impressed by the connection the curator created between the social issue in reality and the “barely related” twisted personality of the characters in the play.”

I first introduced the “Known” part which is the description to what I see in the picture and then branched out a little to talk about my feeling about the figure in the artifact. Then I laid off more background information of during when the picture was taken and the difficult situation for women by them. From there on, I analyzed the curator’s intention and how she reached her point by step-by-step throwing out ideas. And at last, I interpret my own thoughts and insights into the exhibit—accomplished the process of generating new ideas from a general theme and information already known, provides better flow in writing and shows more-advanced application of Known-New-Chain than in the last artifact.


Artifact 18-29-daily-writing step-by-step instruction of how to reach the blog and journal pages on Blackboard.

This the first piece of writing I did in this class when I was still not sure what English 101 class I wanted to take. The one and only requirement for this in-class writing assignment is to put audience into consideration as if we were writing to someone who knew nothing about computer. With this  requirement being said, audience is our first priority to consider when writing the instruction. However, as the prompt for the assignment is relatively easy, leaves little room for creativity, I did not have to connect the audience with complicated ideas or paving the path for them to understand. So this in class writing was at the most primary level as referring to audience, just giving out instructions straightforwardly.

8-29-snap4. On the main page of your blackboard, in the middle-left area, your courses are listed as Courses: Quick View. You can also have access to your list of classes by simply choosing Courses over My home on the top right of the main page.

As you can see in this paragraph, the sentence is a little bit awkward. Just coming back from summer vacation and had not written anything serious for more than 5 months, my writing skill was depressing. “You can also have access to…” should be reversed to “You can also access…”. It was the first time that I learned to build a connection between my audience, but there’s a lot to improve in every aspect of writing.

Artifact 2first-draft the proposal for my curated exhibit

After trying my best to adjust to college academic life, this is the first big writing assignment I turned in but did not end up with a satisfactory grade. However, it paved the path to my success in the following essays that I paid extra attention to all rubrics. My only audience of this assignment was Dr. Cooke but I failed to meet up all his requirements in the guideline. It was important to not only delivering my ideas to the audience, but also to meet the expectation of audience. Although I did not have the required format, I had improved in connecting with my audience to make sure they have are able to understand my thoughts. Below is excepted from the Statement of Purpose section.

“The abuse of power and gender inequality is still present: this year’s Forbes report indicates women are normally paid less than men even for the same job position… In The Little Foxes, the background was set in a time during which girls did not have the right to inherit family properties.The suppression of the dissatisfaction towards unfairness twisted the idea of what family meant to the Hubbard. The sister Regina, in order to ensure equal footing with her brothers, who are heirs to their father’s fortune, had to rely on marrying a sickly, wheelchair-using husband. Under the circumstance that social inequality, more or less, forced everyone to achieve what they want by whatever means…”

I used the technique of idea synthesis in this paragraph to reach my conclusion. To synthesis is to combine multiple elements together to form a new one. In the abstract shown above, I combined the situation women nowadays face, which is the disadvantage in paid jobs, and the fact that women could not inherit family properties back in old days, to conclude the behind reason for Regina—the sister in the play to be indifferent and selfish. I aroused sympathy within audience by presenting the social-issue that’s still prevalent today to attract their interest.

 Artifact 3narrative-essay The Tour of The Twist of Social Inequality & Greed Presented in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes

(*The description for this most recent writing assignment can be found above in the section of discussing the 3rd artifact of the Known-New-Chain. ) I improved a lot in conducting powerful analysis to keep my audience interested.

“… as I moved down the next section which the creator starts to acknowledge the audience with the history of the Great Depression and how gender inequality day by day was shaped to be a more prominent social problem. The analysis of the gender roles naturally leads me to look upon the nowadays division of household labor in a more objective way. Not until I read though the context did I realize that though the social stereotype imposes more pressure to raise the family on men, the women, in fact, are the ones expected to undertake not only the housework but also jobs outside. The introduction is paving the path for the audience to further gain empathy of the positions of women back in time. I started to get a little sense of where the hatred and rage came from.”

Analysis is the practice of looking closely at small parts to see how they affect the whole while focusing on creating meaning. I began with talking about the history of Great Depression discussed in the curated exhibit and extended the content to a higher level of understand of social phenomenon, bringing out a unique personal perspective that’s against the traditional thought. Instead of men being the ones undertaking more pressure, women are actually expected to do more. The unusual analysis relate to the audience and naturally make them rethink what they originally might believe. The paragraph shown above also presents the audience the detailed thinking process of how I connected the ideas the curator wanted to deliver with the artifact and caption provided.

Featured Artifact: curated-exhibition —The Twist of Social Inequality & Greed Presented in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes

This is the assignment in which I achieved the objective of practicing writing as a whole with in-depth process of research, revision and editing is involved. I read through a lot of critiques and play review as secondary sources to learn about other’s perspective on the play and combined it with my own to create this assignment. *Secondary sources are information posted after an event happened/ a piece of work is published, created by someone who did not participate in the event/work. And I the five primary sources I incorporated in my exhibit, including four pictures and one video clip, are used to connect my insight into the social problem revealed by the play. *Primary sources are first-hand information that was created during the time of the study.

I applied the Known-New-Chain through my entire exhibit, starting from the opening paragraph by providing chain information.

Lillian Hellman, as a female author who was brave enough to reflect all kinds of social issues in her play, created the story of The Little Foxes—a play about a family falling apart to fight for properties & legacies. ⇒⇒⇒The play was a microcosm of the avaricious atmosphere of the society back then because of gender inequality.

The Little Foxes was created right after the Great Depression, during when because the job opportunities were too scarce, the states passed the law against hiring women. However, as the jobs were not highly paid for working men, the “bread-winning” responsibility also fell on women—resulted in women illegally working long hours for low wages. Meanwhile, women were still expected to fulfill their traditional gender role according to social norms which was to undertake all housework as well as keeping the whole family together.

 I step-by-step evolved the main theme of my exhibit, from introducing the author Lillian Hellman to her signature work. And I talked a little about what the play was about to lead-out the my perspective that the play was a microcosm of gender inequality in society. Then I branched out from the play itself, laying out the background information of during which the play was created and identified the veracious situation of women being underprivileged in labor market. Following sentence is an update—my own analysis of how this situation had put women in a plight that was extremely unfair, which potentially was responsible for shaping the avaricious personality of the characters in the play.

The above excerpt from my curated exhibit also shows my application of connecting with audience. I tied my sentences with strong idea-development logic that the idea was easy to follow and understand. The history of Great Depression is what everyone knows a thing or two. So my audience could easily connect with my description and be attracted. The analysis moved up a ladder of our common understanding of Great Depression and what situation it had put women into, might arouse the resonance from some audience. And the very last sentence of the whole exhibit is a question raised for the audience to continuously think about how each one of them can do to fight against gender inequality, extending the meaning of this exhibit to my audience’s life.


The six artifacts along with the featured artifact, all represent the progress in writing I made through the semester, mainly in the application of Known-New-Chain and connection to audience, combine with the idea development, context, synthesis, primary and secondary sources. My writing now flows much better and is more captivating as I am aware of the importance of using hooks to attract audience and building strong logic. I am much more confident about my writing after accomplishing all the assignments for this semester. And I am thankful for what I’ve learned because I know for sure that they will impose impact on every piece of my future writing.

Reflection Letter: reflection-letter