The Autobiography Assignment, Xianfeng Mou

Xianfeng Mou, 09 Fall, 106

Writer’s Autobiography: Creating Yourself, Naming Yourself

What this project is about:

This autobiography is not a simple account of what you have experienced from your childhood to young adulthood. In other words, it is not a simple listing of events.

This autobiography asks you to create yourself with words, images, sound/music, and other elements that you consider significant for you to tell your life story. You can be as creative as you wish. But if you choose to use images or music, you still need to explain how readers shall interpret them. Do not be surprised. Sometimes a short poem or a song can express what a three-hundred-page book is trying to tell.  If you want to investigate, you can search on Youtube for a song titled Paint the Sky with Stars by Enya, or The Eyes of Truth by Enigma to see how much information those songs can convey.

What kind of image you present of yourself to the world matters to you. Your self-representation also matters to your immediate cultural environment. Furthermore, it also influences what kind of future you might have. Be true to yourself. Compose carefully.

In essence, this autobiography asks these following questions:

How do you present yourself to the world?

What kind of image do you want readers to have of you?

Which side of your character do you want to convey to the readers?

What is the Dominant Impression–the single most important impression of yourself–that you want readers to have of you?

For instance, regarding qualities, do you want readers to see you as arrogant, courageous, diffident, or cowardly?

In interpersonal relationships, do you want readers to see you as compassionate, considerate, indifferent, or downright cruel?

In terms of creativity, do you wish readers to see you bubbling with original ideas or a boring copycat stuffed with hackneyed or borrowed ideas?

Between you as an individual and your community, do you wish to see yourself as able to sacrifice for the greater good, on certain occasions, or do you always put yourself forward?

Real life examples:

Still not sure what you are asked to do? Think about your college application materials. Were you asked to write Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose?  If you were, what did you write in this document? Did you successfully present yourself as a highly-motivated, high-disciplined, hard-working, and cooperative individual considerate of other team members when needed? Since you are all admitted, you must have convinced university officials that you are a joy or a valuable asset to have, that the university would suffer a loss if you were not chosen.

However, at the same time you also want to present yourself in ways to show that you play within the rules, that you accord proper respect and professional honor to your superiors and university authorities. No institute or corporation wants a student or an employee who tends to rock the boat. Even if you rock the boat unintentionally sometimes, it still will not work for your benefits. You need to negotiate with your environment carefully and wisely.

Now think about a celebrity in our lives. Take Michael Jackson as an example. What is the Dominant Impression he presented of himself to the world? How did he negotiate with his environment? In your opinion, has he negotiated successfully?

How the project shall be approached:

  1. First, think about your life and decide on your desired Dominant Impression. Your Dominant Impression shall be your thesis.
  2. Second, pick the significant events or people who have influenced you to become who you are today. Remember all the events and the peoples shall contribute to your development of your Dominant Impression. Be focused. You can switch the order of the first two steps if it works with you personal style.
  3. Third, when narrating those events or peoples, bring out their significance to you then, as well as their significance to you now. Often we do not realize how they influence us and in what specific ways long after the events have happened.
  4. Fourth, pay attention to how you organize your paragraphs. Most often we organize them chronologically. Of course you can also organize the events according to their increasing significance.
  5. In your conclusion, reinforce your Dominant Impression so that the reader will never forget you.

Specific requirements:

  1. State your Dominant Impression at the end of the first paragraph.
  2. Each new paragraph or event needs to build upon the previous one(s).
  3. Pay attention to your topic sentence, which usually refers to the first sentence of a paragraph. Each topic sentence shall continue the flow of the preceding paragraph while indicating clearly what the new paragraph is talking about.
  4. Conclude your autobiography strongly.
  5. If you use the scene-setting technique (e.g. Mike Rose’s approach in “I Just Wanna Be Average”), remember to state your main idea at the end of each paragraph. In comparison, John Gatto’s writing technique in “Against School” is traditional, and in my view, more academically favored.
  6. The length of your paper is 3.5 to five (5) pages. Please do not exceed 5 pages.
  7. Your first draft is due September 4.

Download Project materials (with password protection)

Autobiography Materials

Created on 08/28/09 by Xianfeng Mou. All rights reserved.


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