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Have you ever lost someone in your family to death, such as a parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, or child? If so, what was your experience with losing this person, beyond the inevitable grief?

English 1102

Fall 2017

Professor Bennett

 

Major Writing Assignment #1

Writing a Memoir about Death

 

Background

 

Writing about death, or any of life’s experiences, allows us to examine our feelings and beliefs through the filter of memory. A memoir functions as a kind of synthesis, allowing the author to see the experience within the context of his or her life as a whole, often bringing hidden meaning to light. A father writes about the death of his teenaged daughter and learns to celebrate her wild, untamed spirit; a man writes about coming to terms with his own mortality and discovers comfort in the knowledge that he is a part of the chain of life; a scholar dying of cancer gains strength from writing a scathing denunciation of the medical profession she hopes will nonetheless save her life. Memoir writing is as valuable to the author as it is to the reader in that both learn from the process of writing about real, lived experience.

 

A number of authors in our textbook write about their own personal experiences with death, from Anna Belle Kaufman and William Allen White—who both write about the loss of a child—to Mitch Albom, who writes about the loss of a beloved professor. What personal experiences have you had with death? How did they affect you? What did you learn from the experience?

 

Assignment

 

Read, or refresh your memory of, a few of the works by Mitch Albom, Anna Belle Kaufman, E.B. White, Audre Lorde, and William Allen White. Using these pieces as models and inspiration, write a memoir essay that uses dialogue, dramatic pacing, and descriptive language to convey a specific experience you have had with death. While the topic of your memoir does not have to be about the death of someone you knew, it does have to be about your personal reaction to some aspect of death.

 

Questions for Invention

 

  • Have you ever lost someone in your family to death, such as a parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, or child? If so, what was your experience with losing this person, beyond the inevitable grief?
  • Have you ever lost someone close to you, like a friend, teacher, or coworker? If so, how did their death affect you?
  • Today’s technology allows us to see and hear events from around the world almost as fast as they occur—often in graphic detail. Have you ever seen or read about deaths in the media that affected you strongly, such as the tragic deaths at the Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre, the attack on the World Trade Center, or the wreck of the Costa cruise ship off the coast of Italy? If so, how did you react?

 

About Memoir Essays

 

As you begin to draft your experience with death, keep in mind that a memoir should:

 

  • Focus on one specific incidence or memory;
  • Use vivid, specific language that describes and recreates scenes, people, and meaningful dialogue;
  • Provide an indication as to why this memory is significant to you.

 

Other Requirements

 

This first assignment should contain between 800 to 1500 words and must adhere to correct MLA format. If you need MLA reminders, refer to our Praxis textbook.

 

Some Examples from our Text:

 

Kaufman—49

E.B. White—71

Lorde—55

W.A. White—171

 

 

 

From page 185, Death, Fountainhead Press, Edited by: Rachelle M. Smith

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