Cultural Event Assignment (Response Essay)
America’s reputation as the land of cultural diversity is tough to dispute. Terms like “melting pot” and “heterogeneous” are often used to describe American society. But what exactly constitutes a culture? This assignment is designed to help you understand the concept of culture and how it applies to you and your fellow citizens.
To complete this assignment, you must first figure out what the word “culture” means to you. I have listed a definition below to help you settle on your own idea of what culture is.
a : the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thought, speech, action, and artifacts and depends upon the human capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
b : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group (merriam-webster.com)
[For the record, I find the second definition far easier to process.]
Next, you need to figure out the cultures to which you belong. My list might look something like this:
Within these cultures could also be subcultures:
College English Instructors
Now that you have identified the cultures to which you belong, you are ready to find a cultural event to attend—but there is a catch. The cultural event cannot be related to a culture with which you already identify. In order to truly learn about culture in America, you need to choose a cultural event that will present a learning opportunity. Think about it; if you are a fan of heavy metal music and associate yourself with that culture, you will not learn much about the culture that you didn’t already know by attending a Metallica concert (although you could view the culture in a slightly different way). So try something new and become a more knowledgeable (i.e. cultured) person by investigating the “customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits” of an unfamiliar culture. The further you go from your comfort zone, the better.
If you attempt to use a cultural event that is not unfamiliar to you, the assignment will likely be more difficult for you to complete (see instructions below), and your grade will suffer as a result. There are many options for cultural events, and I encourage you to be creative and bold with your selections. You also do not need to spend money to attend a cultural event, as many events are free.
Ideas for Cultural Events:
Food festivals (ex. Chili Cookoff)
Parades (ex. Pride Parade)
Conventions (ex. DragonCon)
Exhibits (ex. Dialogue in the Dark)
Gainesville Theatre Alliance: http://gta.gsc.edu/Pages/default.aspx
Gainesville Ballet: http://www.gainesvilleballet.org/
Quinlan Arts Center: http://www.quinlanartscenter.org/
Atlanta Area Events: http://www.atlantaplanit.com/ (has links to free events)
Be sure to do a little homework before attending a particular event. For example, if you choose to attend a religious service that is unfamiliar to you, it might be a good idea to contact the church, mosque, synagogue, etc. to find out if they allow guests (most do) and if there any restrictions for dress, behavior, etc.
When you attend your cultural event, remain keenly aware of what makes the particular culture unique. It may help to take notes if possible.
After you have attended your event, you are ready to write your response essay. This essay is to be in MLA format. You may use first person language, particularly when describing your experiences. The length of your paper should not exceed four pages; there is no minimum length, but all essays must address each of the following topics/questions in the same order in which you see them:
1. What culture did you choose to investigate and why? How is it different from your cultural background? What preconceptions did you have about this culture? How did you feel about attending this event before you went? (**Include a thesis in this paragraph that expresses something about the event’s impact on you and/or the community and/or the event’s relationship to American literature.**)
2. Describe the event you attended in detail. What did you see, taste, hear, and smell. What were you thinking during the event? How were you feeling physically and emotionally? How were the people? What did the event remind you of, if anything?
3. How was the event cultural? Was it as “cultural” as you thought it would be? Did it change any of your preconceptions or did you gain any kind of appreciation for this culture? Why or why not?
4. How does the event you attended relate to either American literature and/or the literary movements we studied in class? What specific work(s) and/or period(s) share characteristics with the event you attended and why?
(Suggestion: the above four sections could work well as four paragraphs.)