Home > Unit 2: Introduction > Essay 3 Assignment

handwritten textEssay 3: An Analysis of a Public Space

Write an essay of 1200 - 1500 words about a cultural landscape you care about. In your thesis you may choose to focus on answering one of the questions below:

  • What is important about the place? What makes it an important and inviting public space for the people who use it (or, alternatively, what makes it an unuseable, uninviting space)?
  • How might thisspace be read as an autobiography of American culture?

Whichever question you choose, be sure to carefully select and describe the "commonplace" details (Pierce Lewis' term) which help you "read" the landscape.

To support and develop your thesis, you should create a solid organizational plan. And don't forget, that plan will depend on the language in your thesis, so check the wording of the thesis, and see what is implied there.

Below is a list of some questions you may want to ask yourself and some things you may want to think about as you are developing your essay:

1. Description of the physical features of the place:

  • How is it laid out? (Think about the excerpt from McTeague; move your reader through the landscape, using some plan like near to far, or ground to ceiling, big picture to small details).  Be sure to describe only those features of the landscape that support your argument.
  • How is this place connected to the community surrounding it? (Think about the Rojas essay, or the article about K'Mart!)
  • What are some of the sensory experiences of the place? sounds? smells? touch? Include some of these where they can help your reader get the "feel" of the place; again, only describe those features that contribute to your argument.

2. Analysis of Features of landscape:

  • In what ways does the landscape create connection. Talk about significant ways that the landscape works or doesn't work in connecting people.
  • Is there sign of regional culture present? What autobiographical information is revealed about the people to whom this space belongs? Conversely, is there presence of a distant culture shaping the local space and lives of the people?
  • Is there a central, accepted way of using the space, and perhaps "resistant" uses (like teenagers using the mall as a social space, or seniors using malls as a safe place to get exercise before the stores open).
  • How do technology and/or economic systems affect the place?
  • How are people shaping the place, i.e., making their presence known, or making a mark?
  • Does the behavior of people in this space reflect a significant change in social behaviors? If so, what has changed? What might this change suggest about the culture?
  • Is this space unusual in the landscape, or typical? What place does this landscape have in the larger scheme of things in the community?
  • What needs are being met in this landscape? Do you see these needs being met elsewhere, in other landscapes?
  • Is one particular social group supported here, or is a large cross-section supported?

Use MLA document format. If you use any quotations or refer to the readings, you must document your sources.


In evaluating your writing on this essay, I will look at the following elements.  An "A" paper will meet many of the criteria listed below.

  1. Thesis: your thesis should be original and provocative (Remember the K'Mart essay!)
  2. Organizational Plan:  The plan should be logical; each new paragraph should add some interesting new piece to the argument.  Paragraphs should be unified around a single point, well developed, and coherent. Aim to create FLOW in your essay (see lecture on unity and coherence)
  3. Development:  The essay should include useful, well-chosen "commonplace" details to support your argument.  Be careful to avoid describing aspects of the landscape that are not really relevant to your argument. Also, be sure and attend to the human and the material aspects of the landscape (how are people using this space?).
  4. Analysis of features of the landscape:  Make sure you do more than describe.  Show me what is important about the features of the landscape.
  5. Sentence-level Clarity of Expression: Sentences should be clear and logical; word choice should be thoughtful.  Strive for correct syntax and sentence structure.
  6. Proofreading (spelling/punctuation):  The essay should be carefully proofread and virtually free of spelling errors and punctuation mistakes.