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Writing Project 1: An Object Study

Overview: Each person knows of at least one object that is personally important. This object could be kept on a shelf at
a parent’s home or used daily. The value of that item may come from its use, or it may come from what is represents (or
sometimes both). What object matters to you? How do you use it? What is the source of the object’s valuable? Is it
significant to you alone or to others also? What is its story, and what is yours? In Writing Project 1 you will answer
questions such as these, writing a personal essay that demonstrates the significance of an object and its use.

Content: Collected objects are a special kind of primary source, and there are many different ways to approach their
hands-on study. Items curated by museums represent diverse cultures and values, have been a part of multiple historic
moments, and have impacted many people during their journeys from communities of origin to museum collections.
You personal objects are similar: they represent you, previous owners, historic moments, cultural values, and a story. By
conducting primary research into an object of personal significance, you will appreciate the material and artistic
complexity of the artifact and artifacts like it, thinking critically about its personal and cultural meanings.

Genre: The personal essay is both an easy and a difficult form of writing. It is easy because, we are writing about what
we know: ourselves. It is difficult because we must work to communicate the significance of our experience to an
audience who may not care or understand. Making a connection between our own experiences and those of our readers
is no simple task. We must confront the hard truth that an object, practice, or event is not important just because it
happened. The writer must be able to answer the question “so what?” and “why should someone care?” The answer to
these questions become the primary insight offered by the essay and the ultimate point that you are trying to make.

For example, you might explore


● your skateboard. What is unusual or unexpected about it, the way you acquired it, its story or the way you use
it? What insight can you offer?
● baking cookies with your ex. What is unusual or unexpected about the cookies or context? What insight can
you offer?
● your mother’s hat collection. What is unusual or unexpected about the hats, the way she acquires/acquired
them, or the way she uses them? Is there a special one? What is its story? What insight can you offer?
● your first book. What is unusual or unexpected about the book, the way you acquired it, its story or the way you
use it? What insight can you offer?

Features of the Form

❏ Insight / Epiphany ❏ Reflection ❏ Repetition


❏ A symbolic object ❏ Flashback(s) ❏ Rhetorical questions
❏ Precise word choice ❏ First person point of view ❏ Rhetorical appeals: Pathos, ethos, logos
❏ Concrete language ❏ Dialogue ❏ A strong lead or hook
❏ Sensory details ❏ Character(s) ❏ Figurative Language (metaphors, similes,
personification, hyperbole, symbolism)

Style Tips: Whatever your topic, the essay should be informed by hands-on, close observation and provide enough detail
so that readers can relate to your understanding of the object and related practice. The essay should provide insight
how this object and practice informs your identity or helps you understand a related culture.
● Use figurative language sparingly. Too much figurative language can confuse the reader or give your writing a
sentimental tone, and too little will make the reader lose interest.
● Vary your sentence length and complexity
● Proofread and edit your work before submission. Even the smallest typo can hurt the authority of your writing.

Audience: Your essay should be written with an audience in mind. It should be organized in such a way that a reader
can follow your thinking and reasoning from sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph. This organization should
lead your reader to your primary insight in a clear manner; in other words, your insight should help structure the essay.

Requirements
1. The essay should be APA formatted (title page, abstract, header, etc.).
2. The essay must be at minimum 1000 words in length.
3. Your essay must include 2-3 photographs, preferably ones you have designed and taken. Appropriate
photographs may also come from a family or historic archive. Images pulled from the internet may not be
suitable. Make sure that the essay explains to your reader why these photos are included and why including
them enriches the essay.

Project Submission
● Rough Draft: Your rough draft will be submitted for peer review.
● Final Draft: Your revised draft will be submitted for assessment by way of a submit link on Blackboard.

Related Documents
● Object/Artifact Study Overview: https://suac.stanford.edu/faculty-students/guides-object-study
● Object Biography: Suac_2017_guide_to_object_biography.pdf
● Questions to ask objects: Suac_2017_guide_to_multi-sensory_study.pdf
● “A Guide to Looking” https://files-suac-stanford-edu.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/guide_to_looking-2017.pdf