Fourth Writing Assignment:
uva & me

PURPOSE: to give us a different way to think and write about the theme of "being somebody"; to share with each other our first encounter with Virginia as an environment
LENGTH: 250-400 words
Carrie leaves home to go to Chicago at the same age most of you left home to come to Virginia. When Carrie first gets to the big city she struggles to figure out who she can and should be in this new place, and listens eagerly when Drouet coaches her on how to "carry herself" -- how to look and dress and act like "somebody."

My first idea for this assignment was to have you, as experienced Wahoos, play Drouet's role and advise incoming first-year students how they should look, where they should go and what they should do in order to "be somebody at UVa." But that plan was voted down by the class. The new assignment is to write a brief essay on your own experience when you first arrived at UVa, and began to wonder (as Carrie does when she first finds herself walking in Chicago) at the relationship between, on the one hand, the person you were and wanted to become, and on the other, this place and the people who were already here. The essay must be short (250-400 words is a page to a page-and-a-half), but try to tell some part of the essential truth of that moment. You can choose to focus on what you felt you should do to fit in, or belong, or succeed, or (to use a word we wince at, but that nonetheless describes much of our behavior) to conform. You could focus instead on feelings of distance or difference, and what you felt you should do to resist the environment, or (to use a phrase we all admire, but that may seldom describe our actual behavior) to be yourself. But whether you focus on being excited by the possibilities of a new identity or insecure about measuring up (or fitting in) or challenged to resist or impatient to find alternatives, try to give the gist of what you felt when you first arrived at this place as the scene of your own identity.

Instead of a "how to" essay (how to Wahoo), you'll be writing a first-person narrative of your experience -- telling a brief and pointed story about some part of your first days here. But I think those essays will be at least as valuable to incoming first-years, each of whom will re-enact that moment of wonder or anxiety or alienation. So we'll put the essays up online, in a website we'll create together. You'll bring drafts of the essays to class on
MONDAY, OCTOBER 1, then you'll revise them, hand them in and send me an electronic html-tagged version on MONDAY, OCTOBER 8. To see how to tag it, CLICK HERE. When the sections are all done, we'll talk about how we want to organize them and display them in a site.