We hold these truths to be self-evident…that not all texts speak for all people. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence asserted the rights of British American colonists to live independently from a tyrannical monarchy, effectively severing ties from the crown and instigating the Revolutionary War. The Declaration is regarded as a masterpiece in argument and political philosophy. However, its claims only stretched to a specific demographic—white men who owned land—leaving a large percentage of the population in a prolonged state of inequality (for women) and enslavement (for most African Americans). Seizing on the language of the Declaration, first-wave women’s rights activists wrote their own version in 1848, called the Declaration of Sentiments. Written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Declaration of Sentiments outlines women’s lack of rights in the same way the original Declaration outlined the faults of the British monarchy. Similarly, the famous abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, a formerly enslaved person, gave a speech in 1852 that called out white Americans who thoughtlessly celebrated the nation’s independence from Britain but who didn’t question the enslavement of millions of Americans in human bondage. In his powerful speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?,” Douglass acknowledges the importance of the American Revolution and even admires its principles, but he points out that it is hypocritical to celebrate independence when so many millions are enslaved in that very same nation. Importantly both of these two latter texts draw on rhetorical strategies and argumentative styles of the Declaration in order to argue for liberty and equality that the very same Declaration failed to grant them. Assignment: In this assignment you will analyze each of these three texts for their treatment of the concept of liberty. Show how each document defines liberty, tracing the similarities and differences among them. What does each document argue about the right to liberty? In what ways are some people not actually at liberty, according to the documents? What hypocrisies exist in the so-called right to liberty in a free land, according to the documents? Explore the arguments each text makes regarding the right to liberty. An analysis is not a summary. In an analysis, you pick apart the major elements of a text, look at them closely, and then show how the piece works as a whole. Analysis necessarily involves evaluation and judgment. Though it is widely accepted that all three documents are examples of successful arguments, you should evaluate why they are successful. On the other hand, there are serious blind spots in the Declaration. What does the Declaration of Independence fail to consider? What demographics does the Declaration fail to address? In other words, while all three are examples of effective arguments, there is still room for critique. Refer to chapter 11 of the Norton Field Guide for instructions on how to write a t write a textual analysis; examples of textual analyses are also provided in the chapter. Structure of Textual Analysis: Introduction (1 paragraph) o Puts the texts in context o Summarizes the texts in only a few sentences o Offers an evaluation or assessment of the texts (this is your thesis) Analysis (as many paragraphs as necessary) o Analyzes the strategies used in each text o Refers to moments in the text in order to provide support for your analysis o Paragraphs can be separated by text or by textual strategy (e.g. similar language, rhetorical questions, argumentative style) Conclusion (1 paragraph) o Restates thesis in different words o Suggests some greater insight or take-away from studying the texts CAUTION: Avoid the three-part thesis statement that often goes something like, “I argue A because X, Y, and Z.” Break away from that formulaic mold. While these types of thesis statements worked in high school, you can advance beyond that stage now. Requirements: • 1000-1500 words • 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced lines, 1-inch margins • APA formatting and citations, including a References page • Study the essay rubric below for assessment criteria
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