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The American War in Vietnam 1


Students are expected to write a 3-4 page analytical essay on one of the assigned American
cultural texts listed below. Your short essay should present a clear, focused thesis-driven
argument about how your chosen cultural text narrates the war in Viet Nam and to what end or
purpose. You should pay attention to specific rhetorical and formal strategies deployed and
critically engage with at least two assigned historical/secondary readings to support your overall
Your paper will not be able to address all of the following questions but one or two may serve as
a generative starting point for developing your thesis:
How does the text reinforce, subvert, complicate, and/or critique official historical
accounts of the war in Viet Nam? Which perspectives are privileged and which ones
continue to be marginalized or forgotten? How is difference (e.g. racial, gender, class,
sexual difference) represented in the text? To what extent are those differences resolved
or overcome? What larger social or political commentary does the author offer about the
war in Viet Nam? How do the specific rhetorical and formal strategies deployed help to
enhance the overall message/vision of the work? What are some limits to the narrative
presented? Put differently, what alternative perspectives, positions, and ideas does this
narrative eclipse?

Possible Cultural Texts:

• Mark Baker, “Grunts” from Nam
• Wallace Terry, Selections from Bloods
• Keith Walker, Selections from A Piece of My Heart
• Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried,” How to Tell a True War Story,” Sweetheart of the
Song Tra Bong, “The Man I Killed,” Style, and “The Ghost Soldiers” from The Things They
Carried Chinaman,” “We are the Children”
• Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now
Essays will be evaluated on four main criteria: (1) thesis and argumentation; (2) Critical analysis
and evidence; (3) organization and structure; and (4) formatting and style.
Things to Keep in Mind
• Have you provided a clear, explicit and focused thesis? What is the main point that you
are going to be arguing? How does the paper support, explain and elaborate this main
point? In other words, what is the structure of your argument?
• Have you used textual support to bolster (as opposed to pad) your essay? You want to
quote at least three well-chosen pertinent passages/scenes for close textual analysis.
When you quote from the text, you want to be sure to provide an analysis of why that
quote is relevant – explain fully how that particular quote supports your argument at that
particular point.
• Your paper should be focused. Do not say everything you can think to say about the
works, but focus on making a strong point via concrete analysis of the texts.

The American War in Vietnam 2


• 3-4 double-spaced pages, typed, in standard 12-point Times New Roman font, with 1-inch
margins, and page numbers in the upper right-hand corner
• Include a heading in the upper-left hand corner that lists your name, TA’s name, course
number, and date
• Give your essay an informative and, if possible, engaging title
• Include proper parenthetical citations in MLA/Chicago citation style
Submission Guidelines
Refer to your TA for specific instructions.

Lateness Policy:

The final grade for a late paper will be dropped one whole letter grade for each day it is late,
including weekends. For example, a paper that merits a “B” will result in a “C” grade if it is turned
in one day late. Deadline extensions, though rare, may be granted for extenuating circumstances.
Students must consult TAs for an extension at least one week before a paper is due.

Last Updated on January 30, 2018

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