Argument Essay Assignment Guide Erasure and Visibility: Media, Art, and the Politics of Historical Representation
In her essay, “Memory, Erasure, and National Myth,” Tricia E. Logan evaluates the historical narrative of Canada, particularly in relation to what stories are prioritized, and which are minimized or hidden. Speaking particularly in the context of representation of Indigenous histories in popular culture, she makes larger claims about what history is, how it is sustained, and why this matters.
As a researcher at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Logan ultimately argues that the hidden colonial narrative is one of genocide – something that is painful to recall as part of a nation’s history, but which must ultimately be reckoned
with, particularly in the context of human rights. By contrast, “Unsettling,” an exhibit currently on display at the gallery , attempts to make visible that which Logan perceives as being erased: the history, legacy, and tenacity of indigenous persons, their histories, and their traditions.
Constructed in part as a response to Canada 150 celebrations, which have been rigorously critiqued by Indigenous groups, “Unsettling” aims to disrupt popular narratives, to engage the uncomfortable, and to provide an outlet for artists and viewers to explore what representation and commemoration mean in a Canadian/Indigenous context. With heavy emphasis on display, monument, and memory, the works collected in this exhibit may act as reclamation: using art, media, and various historical narratives to supplement the very narratives critiqued as lacking by Logan.
As indicated by the title of this assignment, your goal in this essay is to construct an argument related to the primary claim(s) of Logan’s essay, by putting these claims into conversation with the “Unsettling” exhibit. With your precis assignment, you isolated the main argument(s) of a particular work, and now it is time for you to make and defend your own claim(s) in response.
You are putting Logan and a work or works of art into conversation with one another, and then entering into that conversation yourself. Consider Logan’s claims, as well as the (possibly implicit) claims in “Unsettling,” and construct and support an argument that speaks to the theme of this assignment: “Erasure and Visibility: Media, Art, and the Politics of Historical Representation.”
In constructing your argument, consider why you are or are not convinced by the claims under investigation, and why your audience should come to a similar evaluation. Your argument should be supported in such a way that a disagreeable audience can still acknowledge your points as valid.
– A thesis claim that is directly related to the main argument(s) or claim(s) of Logan’s text and/or the exhibit
– Summaries and/or paraphrases that orient an unfamiliar reader to the ideas under investigation, including descriptive elements for a reader who may not have viewed “Unsettling”
– Quotations that are related to the claims you are engaging, and that are unpacked in a way that shows how you are engaging in conversation with the author of your text
– A clear presentation of your argument – Do you agree with the author’s claims or disagree? A little bit of both? Why? What rationale and research can you use to support or refute the claims being made in your chosen text?
– Prose that shows how and why you think Logan’s arguments are or are not agreeable, sufficient, valid, convincing, etc.
– Specific engagement with the “Unsettling” exhibit – you may choose one work of art, one series (e.g., Lori Blandeau’s photographs), or the exhibit as a whole
– Incorporation of support for your argument through careful, nuanced argumentation and support from additional sources, if needed
– An indication of what is at stake in the argument you are making – this should be alluded to in your introduction/thesis claim, and then expanded upon in your conclusion
Some additional research may be necessary in order to support your arguments, though it is not required. If you do outside research, please ensure that you are only using items listed through only using scholarly texts.
You can look up other works by the same author, responses to that author’s work, essays on similar topics, etc. In any case, all referenced items, including Logan’s essay and the work(s) you engage from the exhibit, must be cited properly in MLA8
Length: 4-5 pages, plus a separate Works Cited page. Do not include a title page.
Format your paper per MLA guidelines – a complete resource for MLA essay formatting and citation guidelines is available here: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/.
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