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Memorial Cultures

English 101: Expository Writing

MEMORIAL CULTURES/ Bop It: Practicing Memory, Telling Stories

Fall 2013, Emory University



“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”                               

- Joan Didion, “The White Album”    


“We tell stories not to die of life.”                                            

- Antjie Krog, Country of My Skull


What is memory? Unless we do active work ourselves, memory cannot happen.  If you look around you, you will find sites of memory—from the official to the unofficial.  Officially, in the Atlanta area alone we have the Margaret Mitchell House and the Atlanta History Center, Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, the APEX Museum, Stone Mountain, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, the William Bremen Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum, The Wren’s Nest, the NAMES Project- AIDS Memorial Quilt, to name a few.  Many of these function as both sites of memory and historical archives, as storehouses of “official” history.  However, the work of remembering is also the work of forgetting.  Implicit in memory is the forgetting of “secret” histories in the official historical record.  One example is our very own University: built by slaves on the stolen land of the Cherokee.  Another is less dramatic yet no less important: the changing and conversion of various spaces, such as the historic Atlanta LGBT bookstore, OUTwrite, recently becoming a restaurant, 10th &Piedmont or a former Ponce Ave. Sears becoming loft-homes.  In this course we will “tell stories,” using the framework of memory—from the personal to the collective—as our guide.  Becoming storytellers, we will reflect on both individual memories and collective memories of historical traumas, like Slavery, the Holocaust, and the AIDS pandemic, through the act of composition.  We will compose a personal memoir, a memory game, a comic strip, a proposal for a cultural memorial, and a research paper based upon our cultural memorial proposals.  We will also blog post regularly.  We will work to actively engage in understanding how we remember and memorialize.  


Generally, the course has two main sections.  In the first unit, we will compose via personal memory, writing and investigating the self and memory in the digital “social network” world.  In the second half, we will move to a broader discussion of cultural (or collective) memorial practices and sites.   



This course serves as an introduction for first year college students to college-level expository writing, critical reading, basic citation, and rhetorical tools in order to prepare students to participate successfully in the Emory University discourse community and the world at large.  It follows the philosophy of the WPA outcomes statement for first year composition, found online here:

In summary, by the end of the semester, students should be able to:

  1. Compose in various medias and genres, including digital environments.

  2. Engage in a Personal Process of writing, such as draft, revise, review, and submit.

  3. Collaborate in a collective process of writing via Group Work, peer review and overall effective critical response to others’ work.

  4. Illustrate knowledge of standard conventions, formatting, and mechanics.

  5. Critically engage the narration of memory through composition.

  6. Articulate developed values for personal and cultural memory in your discourse community and the world at large.

  7. Continued developing reading and research skills.



You (and your writing) are the primary texts for this course.  As this is a writing course, we will place readings secondary to the act of composition.  However, there are two other required texts for this course from which we will draw numerous readings throughout the semester. We will read in order to jostle our own imaginations and familiarize ourselves with ways of thinking about memory-work and guiding ourselves in the writing process.  Please order the texts. 


  • Theories of Memory: A Reader, Michael Rossington and Anne Whitehead, eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.  ISBN: 978-0-8018-8729-1

  • The Norton Field Guide to Writing (with Readings) 2nd Edition, Richard Bullock and Maureen Daly Goggin, eds. W.W. Norton, 2010.


Additional articles and readings accessible online or to be provided by instructor, available on blackboard.




Throughout the semester you will produce 3 main written papers, the Memoir (or Personal Narrative), the Cultural Memorial Proposal, and the Research Paper.  However, there will be many in-class writings and blog posts, as well as composition in other media. 


  1. Memoir (Personal Narrative) (4-5 pages) 10%

  2. Mnemonic Exercise (In-Class) 5%

  3. Social Networking Memory Game 10%

  4. Memento Exercise 10%

  5. Cultural Memorial Proposal (5-6 pages) 25%

  6. Comic STRIP 5%

  7. Archive/ Research Paper on Cultural Memory (Cultural Narrative) 30%

    1. Annotated Bibliography (10%)

    2. Presentation of Topic/ Research (5%)

    3. First Draft (6-7 pages) (5%)

    4. Final Draft (6-7 pages) (10%)

  8. Regular Class Blog Posts and Participation 5%



A grade of D or above in the course satisfies the requirement for first year writing.  Each paper will be graded on a scale from A to F, with pluses and minuses assigned when appropriate. These grades will be determined by the coherence, depth, consistency, and clarity of your argument, its relevance to the course, and the amount of effort your work displays.  You must complete every major assignment to pass this class.


General Scale: I will grade on a ten-point scale. 

A: 90-100

B: 80-89

C: 70-79

D: 60-69

F: < 59


  • “A” papers have an original compelling thesis that is clearly articulated and supported effectively with relevant evidence.  The structure is logical and engaging, and the paper is free from grammatical and mechanical errors.

  • “B” papers meet the requirements of “A” papers, but fall short in one or two respects.

  • “C” papers have a thesis of average quality, an argument that is fully presented to the reader, but obscured by problems with grammar, mechanics, and/or organization.

  • “D” papers have a poor thesis or do not have a thesis at all, lack organization and clarity, and contain many stylistic, grammatical, or proofreading errors.

  • “F” papers have no thesis, poor organization, and many grammatical, stylistic, and proofreading errors.




  1. LATE WORK AND REVISION: All late work must be pre-approved by the instructor except in extenuating circumstances, i.e. a medical emergency.  Extensions will not be granted the day an assignment is due.  All late work is due the next class meeting after the original date posted in the syllabus unless otherwise stipulated by the instructor.  Late work will be deducted a letter grade for every day it is late unless otherwise specified by the instructor.  Unapproved late work will not be accepted.  However, during the semester, you are allowed to revise one assignment, with no guarantee for a higher grade, per the instructor’s approval. The lectures, class discussions, group work, or other daily class work or homework exercises in a writing class cannot be reconstructed for a student who has been absent; therefore, daily work missed due to tardiness or absence (for any reason) cannot be made up.  Students may arrange to turn in major-grade work in advance or online only if allowed by your instructor.

  2. RESPECT: All students are expected to be respectful of others and their opinions and to act with decorum. 

  3. ATTENDANCE: Students are expected to attend class with thoughtful and active classroom participation.  In a writing heavy course, in which we will often engage in in-class writing workshops, it is imperative that you come to class.  More than 5 unexcused absences results in class failure, and I recommend no more than 3 course absences.  However, if you must miss class, please email me in advance. 

  4. TARDINESS: Students are expected to come to class prepared with tasks completed, texts, homework, and pen in hand, ready to go on time and awake. If you arrive to class after roll has been taken (and I strongly advise you do not), it is your responsibility to approach the instructor and make your presence known.  Otherwise, you may automatically be counted absent.  If your presence is noted after arriving late, points will be deducted from your class participation grade. Such late arrivals disrupt class and prevent both the late student and his/her classmates from benefiting from the entire period of instruction and workshopping.

  5. ELECTRONIC DEVICES I: I strongly discourage the use of cell phones, even for texting, during class time.  If you are experiencing a special circumstance, the birth of your child, etc., that requires that you leave your phone on during class, please inform me before class begins.

  6. ELECTRONIC DEVICES II: At various times during the semester, we may be working with laptops or the in-class Mac computers during class time.  Please observe the following policies regarding laptop use.

  1. All laptops should be fully charged before class begins.

  2. All laptop sound should be turned off before class.

  3. “Screens down” policy: Unless instructed to open/ use your laptop by the instructor, you laptops should remain closed.

  4. Non-class related surfing, gaming, social networking, chatting, and working on other class materials are prohibited during class time.  Doing so will result in a failure for the day’s class participation.  Repeated offenses will be more harshly sanctioned.


Policy on Academic Misconduct

Emory University and the English Department take plagiarism cases and all academic misconduct very seriously.  The full College Plagiarism Statement from the Emory College Honor Code can be read here:



Writing Center

The Emory Writing Center is located in Callaway Center North 212.  The Writing Center provides a broad range of services related to writing, including thinking through writing assignments during the planning phase and advising regarding many aspects of writing, including brainstorming, organization, thesis, style, wording and revision.  The Center can also help you in your digital and multimodal texts.  The Writing Center is a wonderful resource for students, and I encourage you to take advantage of it.


Office of Disability Services

Emory University complies with the regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and offers accommodations to students with disabilities. If you are in need of a classroom accommodation, please make an appointment with me to discuss this as soon as possible. All information will be held in the strictest confidence.  Appropriate documentation from the Office of Disability Services is necessary for all accommodations.  You may contact ODS via telephone at (404-727-6016).


Emory Counseling Center

Free and confidential counseling services are available at the Emory Counseling Center.

(404) 727-7450,

Class Calendar

Note on Syllabus Changes: Everything in this course calendar is subject to change at the instructor’s discretion, especially during the early weeks of the semester.


(TM Reader = our class text, Theories of Memory Reader)

Week 1

Thurs, 29 Aug.

Getting to know you: Introductions and course overview.  (Neon Note Cards)


 “BOP-IT” Handout/ YouTube video.


Review your syllabus carefully. Sign Course Contract.


Joan Didion, “The White Album” (11-15). TM READER: Annette Kuhn 230-236; Write 500 words on the readings, Bring in to class.


Week 2

Tues, 3 Sept.

Discussion of Assigned Reading.


What is memory? What is history? Make a metaphor or simile for memory, for history.  Free writing and discussion.  Class Blog Introduced.


Memoir Assignment (Personal Narrative) Introduced.


Begin Invention of personal narrative. Read Kandel, “Personal Memory and the Biology of Memory Storage”; Solomon,“Good Words: A Mind is Forgetting”; “My Mom Has Alzheimer’s”



Thurs, 5 Sept.

Memoir cont’d.  

Drafting/ Drawing Life Maps exercise  


Read: Yagoda, “Author’s Note: By Way of Definition” and Chapter 1.  Blog Post 1.


Welty, from One Writer’s Beginnings (72-77)

Week 3

Tues, 10 Sept.

Memoir Draft Due for Peer-Review: Groups of 3.  Discuss Effective Peer Review and Feedback Strategies.

Revise Drafts.  Read: Yagoda, Chapter 11, “Truth and Consequences”


Thurs, 12 Sept.

Memoir Due

Mnemonic Exercise


“A Million Little Lies”:

“James Frey’s ‘infuriating’ return to Oprah”

Listen: Tracy Chapman, “Telling Stories”


Blog Post 2


Week 4

Tues, 17 Sept.

Memoir: Fact or Fiction?  Responses to Reading (and Listening)


20 Minute Damage Exercise  


Introduce: Social Networking Memory Game.


Read “Generation Why?” Zadie Smith;

“How the World Mourned Whitney”


Collect and Gather Materials for Social Networking Memory Game

Thurs, 19 Sept.

Play Social Networking Memory Game. Share the experience in groups of three.   

Write 500-1,000 words reflecting on the experience of the Memory Game.  Bring formatted document to class.

Week 5

Tues, 24 Sept.

Watch first half of MEMENTO.  Live tweeting. 

Blog Post 3: Imagine an ending for Memento.   Read Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others selections (86-94)



Thurs, 26 Sept.

Finish MEMENTO.  Live tweeting. Introduce MEMENTO (or Flip It) Assignment.

Draft / Blog Post 4: Memento movie review. 

Read TM Reader: Plato, Aristotle (25-38)

Week 6

Tues, 1 Oct.

Group Activity: Brainstorm a movie.  As a group, recount its plot.  Flip it.

Continue drafting “Memento” paper.

Review your group’s movie on IMBD.



Thurs, 3 Oct.

As a group, discuss the changes to the film in your “flipped” version.  How has the flipped version affected things other than plot?

Continue Drafting.   Rough draft due Tues.


Read: TM Reader: Bergson, Freud, Benjamin (109-131)

Week 7

Tues, 8 Oct.

Rough Draft Peer Workshop

Revise and Edit your “Memento” paper.


Thurs, 10 Oct.

Final Draft Due.

In class reflection on the writing process.

Explanation of the Memorial Proposal Assignment. 

Readings: (Subject to Change, all will be available online via the blackboard site)


Christopher Reed/ Christopher Castiglia, “For Time Immemorial: Marking Time in the Built Environment”


Michael Moon, “Memorial Rags”


Joan Gibbons, “Postmemory: ‘The Ones Born Afterwards’”


TM READER: Maurice Halbwachs (139-143); Pierre Nora (144-149); John Frow (150-156); James Young (177-184)


Week 8

Tues, 15 Oct.

Fall Break

Blog Post 5: Pick One of the Readings and come up with a list of 5 discussion questions.


Thurs, 17 Oct.

In-class viewing and discussion of memorials.  How do they work?

Review the memorials we have discussed so far. “Visit” a memorial we have not discussed in class.  Decide which historical event/ trauma you want to memorialize.  Be prepared to tell why if asked. 


Blog Post 6


Peruse Suggested Readings on Blackboard for inspiration


Week 9

Tues, 22 Oct.

Continue discussion of memorial project. Group practice with an assigned memorial task.

Draft a paragraph explaining why you have chosen the event you have picked.


TM READER:  Cathy Caruth (199-205); Dominick LaCapra (206-214)


Thurs, 24 Oct.

Peer Workshop of explanation paragraphs.  Discussion of how to work this into a proposal for memorializing the event.

Research your historical event and the memorials already dedicated to it.  Bring a print out of at least 2 existing memorials to class.

Week 10

Tues, 29 Oct.

In groups divided by historical event, brainstorm possible memorial options.  Discuss existing memorials and their media.  What are the gaps or the things left out of the existing memorials?  What do they “forget”?

Draft Memorial Proposal.  Partial draft due Thurs.  Using the “explanation paragraphs” from last week, consider why it is important to memorialize this event and how your memorial will add to out collective memories.


Thurs, 31 Oct.

Workshop Partial Drafts

Continue drafting.


TM Reader: Chedgzoy (215); Hirsch and Smith (223-229)


Week 11

Tues, 5 Nov.

Peer Workshop of Full Rough Draft

Edit and Revise Rough Drafts


Thurs, 7 Nov.

Final Draft of Memorial Proposal Due. View and discuss Maus, Incognegro, Jon Lewis’s March, Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For, and Stuck Rubber Baby in class.  In-class practice with a familiar memorial.


Write a one-paragraph blog response to the “memorial” comics.


Blog Post 7.


TM Reader: Gilroy (262-270)


Week 12

Tues, 12 Nov.

How to make a comic workshop.  Discuss adaptations.  Introduction of research paper.

Create your “memorial” comic.


Thurs, 14 Nov.

Comic assignment due.  MARBL visit and introduction to research.

 Read: Toni Morrison, “Memory, Creation, and Writing”; “Writing from Memory,” Stacey Mickelbart (online resource):


Week 13


Tues, 19 Nov.

Research/ Archive Day.


Continue Researching/ Drafting Research Paper

TM Reader: Burgin, Brah, Said (276-297)

Lookover Southern Spaces links:


Thurs, 21 Nov.

Research/ Archive Day 

Continue Researching/ Drafting Research Paper

Week 14

Tues, 26 Nov.


Partial draft of research paper due. (4 Page minimum).  Peer Review. 


Research Presentations/ Unveil Cultural Memorials.

Draft, edit, and revise research paper.


Thurs, 28 Nov.



Week 15

Tues, 3 Dec

Annotated Bibliographies Due. Continue Presentations.              

Edit and Revise Papers.


Thurs, 5 Dec.

Research Paper Due.


Final Blog Post: What have we learned about memory and memorial practices?


Week 16

Tues, 10 Dec.

In Memoriam. 

View Southern Foodways Project (Talk About “Food Memories” while we eat and reflect).

Last Day of Class.


Week 17

Tues, 17 Dec.


Thurs, 19 Dec.


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