Assignment: Draft and Rewrite of Major Essay #4—Applying Pratt



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Assignment: Draft and Rewrite of Major Essay #4—Applying Pratt

Instructor: Michael Pulley

Class: English 1A, Sec. 17

Due Date for First Draft: Friday, Nov. 19 (Bring 2 copies for peer review, turn in one)

Due Date for First Rewrite: Monday, Nov. 22 (Bring 2 copies for peer review, turn in one)

Due Date for Final Rewrite: Monday, Nov. 29 (No peer review, turn in essay)


Essay #4 is essentially based on Bartholomae and Petrosky’s first assignment for writing at the bottom of page 620 in Ways of Reading. You will “conduct your own local inventory of writing from the contact zone,” collect an “archive,” and then finally choose one piece from your archive to interpret in a four-to-five page, double-spaced essay (MLA format and 12-point font). You can choose either historical or contemporary documents (See “a” and “b” choices on page 621). As Bartholomae and Petrosky suggest, “present [your document] carefully and in detail (perhaps in even greater detail than Pratt’s presentation of the New Chronicle). You might imagine that you are presenting this to someone who would not have seen it and would not know how to read it, at least not as an example of the literate arts of the contact zone.” Since you are presenting your document in detail, you might want to consider following Pratt’s lead in the way she presents the New Chronicle by seeking out some additional info about your document and its topic from other sources that you could present in your essay and include in the works cited.

More Thoughts on Contact Zones and Essay #4


On page 620 of Ways of Reading, Bartholomae and Petrosky provide two extended quotations from Pratt’s essay to help students understand the kinds of writing one might find in the “contact zone.” I reproduce them here to help you think about the ways in which your own example of writing from the contact zone embodies such characteristics and to consider how you might begin to discuss your example by using Pratt’s ideas and terminology:
Autoethnography, transculturation, critique, collaboration, bilingualism, mediation, parody, denunciation, imaginary dialogue, vernacular expression—these are some of the literate arts of the contact zone. Miscomprehension, incomprehension, dead letters, unread masterpieces, absolute heterogeneity of meaning—these are some of the perils of writing in the contact zone. They all live among us today in the transnationalized metropolis of the United States and are becoming more widely visible, more pressing, and, like Guaman Poma’s text, more decipherable to those who once would have ignored them in defense of a stable, centered sense of knowledge and reality. (613)
We are looking for the pedagogical arts of the contact zone. These will include, we are sure, exercises in storytelling and in identifying with the ideas, interests, histories, and attitudes of others; experiments in transculturation and collaborative work and in the arts of critique, parody, and comparison (including unseemly comparisons between elite and vernacular cultural forms); the redemption of the oral; ways for people to engage with suppressed aspects of history (including their own histories), ways to move into and out of rhetorics of authenticity; ground rules for communication across lines of difference and hierarchy that go beyond politeness but maintain mutual respect; a systematic approach to the all-important concept of cultural mediation. (618)
As you work on Essay #4, you should quote sections from Pratt to assist in explaining to your readers how your example or primary source is writing from the contact zone. I’m not referring specifically to the summary passages above but to the various sections of Pratt’s essay where she provides a more detailed explanation for such concepts as autoethnography, transculturation, critique, collaboration, bilingualism, etc. For example, if you felt that your example of contact zone-writing was an autoethnographic text, you might want to bring Pratt’s discussion of Guaman Poma’s New Chronicle into your essay and compare the autoethnographic aspects of the New Chronicle to your own specimen of writing from the contact zone. Is your author a minority or member of a subjugated culture? Are they responding to and dialoguing with mainstream or dominant cultural representations of their minority group? Do they employ transculturation? In other words, do they borrow from and make use of the idioms of the dominant culture?

Just as Pratt turns to other sources for additional information on Guaman Poma and his New Chronicle, you should also research your topic and locate additional sources that could be used to provide more context and understanding of your written artifact. Pratt provides something of a mini-biography of Poma with details on his noble Andean ancestry, his adoption of (“at least in some sense”) Christianity, and his learning to write from a mestizo half brother. She tells us that his New Chronicle was actually a letter intended for an audience of one: King Philip III of Spain. What can you find out and share about the author of your contact-zone writing? Was the writing itself a letter like the New Chronicle? Who was the intended audience? Did the document get ignored or suppressed in some way by a dominant media or conquering civilization that desires “a stable, centered sense of knowledge and reality”?


Other suggestions for Essay #4:
*Literacy: What kind or kinds of literacy are at play in your document? You might look back at Pratt’s discussion of how Sam and Willie developed literacy in so many ways through baseball cards. Does the author of your contact-zone writing display or learn unique literacies like those acquired by Sam and Willie?
*Bilingualism: Was your document originally published in English? Or is it a translation from another language? Does the writing employ more than one language in the way that Guaman Poma writes in both Spanish and his indigenous Quechua?
*Vernacular Expression: Does your contact zone-writing use the vernacular of some subculture? How would you describe that vernacular? What are some examples? How does such a vernacular relate to Pratt’s idea of the contact zone?
*Critique, Parody, Denunciation: Guaman Poma’s collaborative text uses all three of these elements to criticize the values of the conquering Spanish and their treatment of the indigenous Incas. Think about his captioned line drawing on page 610, which satirically displays a representation of a Spanish conqueror actually eating gold. Does your specimen employ any of these three critical strategies to represent the values of a dominant culture?
*Benedict Anderson’s “imagined communities”: Does your contact zone-text attempt to represent its community as a “self-defined,” “utopian,” or “homogenous” entity, or does it portray a culture as heterogeneous and multifaceted?
*Education: If your document is related in someway to education itself or schooling or the university system, you might want to employ Pratt’s discussion of the contact zone in the last four pages of “Arts of the Contact Zone,” where she considers issues such as teacher-pupil language in secondary education and a multicultural course that creates a contact zone in the university classroom. Do any of these issues in this section compare in any way to the issues of education at play in your own document?
Do not attempt to see this list as some kind of all-inclusive roadmap that must be duplicated. Remember, many student writers fall into the trap of trying to do too much. Look at Pratt’s ideas as individual elements in a possible wardrobe. Go through the store and try on the pieces that look inviting. Take what you can use and create your own wardrobe, your own essay, your own piece of writing in the contact zone.


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