Project #157651 - Essay

English Tutors

Subject English
Due By (Pacific Time) 12/01/2016 11:00 pm

Library of Congress: 

In order to get the credit, you are being asked 1) to visit the Library of Congress, 2) to document your visit by taking a selfie at a readily identifiable location inside the building,  3) write a narrative response to your visit in which you share your general impressions, discuss aspects of the Library that you find interesting of intriguing, and engage with James Tuslow Adams' ideas about the LoC as an architectural manefestation of the American Dream. Responses should be 4 - 5 pages . in length and are due 

Serious, thorough, and thoughtful responses will earn students an increase of one letter grade on either their a) aggregate quiz scores, b) final exam, or c) final essay. Since each are worth 20% of your final grade, this represents a fairly significant significant opportunity, and I'll apply the credit to whichever category that will most benefit each student's final grade. Note: responses that are sloppy, thoughtless, and perfunctory will not receive full credit. 

See below for more detailed instructions:

Context: in James Truslow Adams’ The Epic of America (1931), the author identifies the Library of Congress as the perfect physical embodiment of the America Dream. He writes:  

            I often think the [institution] which best exemplifies the dream is the greatest library in this land of libraries, the Library of Congress. . . . The Library of Congress . . . has come straight from the heart of democracy, as it has been taken to it, and I here use it as a symbol of what democracy can accomplish on its own behalf. . . . As one looks down on the general reading room, which alone contains ten thousand volumes which may be read without even the asking, one sees the seats filled with silent readers, old and young, rich and poor, black and white, the executive and the laborer, the general and the private, the noted scholar and the schoolboy, all reading at their own library provided by their own democracy. (413-415) 


Assignment Description: your task for this assignment is to write a narrative essay building on Adams’ above contentions. Your primary task is twofold:

  • Present an argument as to why you feel the Library of Congress is or is not a concrete manifestation of the American Dream
  • Using vivid descriptive prose, describe prominent features of the building in such a way as to “paint a picture” for an imagined audience of readers who are unfamiliar with the library, its purpose, and its history  

Given the paper’s relative brevity, you will not be able to describe everything you see. As such, you should select several features that most resonated with you and use them as a platform to argue about the ways that you feel the library does or does not embody the American Dream

Process: pay close attention to what you observe and consider how what you learn relates to Adams’ claims. While you should not feel pressure to memorize everything you observe, you will want to make note of a few matters that spark your interest. It is probably a good idea to take a few notes (or photographs, where permitted), but you should not feel overly compelled to write everything down: you are essentially trying to capture enough to jog your memory when you sit down to compose the essay. After the trip, it will be in your best interest to write while the visit is fresh in your mind (preferably later that day). 

Things to Consider:

  • What information is presented via the library’s exhibits, architecture, or ornamentation? How does this work to confirm or deny Adams’ assertions regarding its inherently democratic nature?
    • How are you defining “democratic” for the purposes of this assignment?
  • In what ways does the library embody and/or defy the American Dream as you’ve come to understand it?
    • How are you defining the American Dream?
  • Who is making use of the library and how are they occupying the space?
  • How do the temporary exhibitions on display contribute to your sense of the library’s character?
  • How will use most effectively use sensory details to help put readers into the scene and provide evidence for your assertions


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