BIDS 390 autobiography reimagined (2017)

“[She] writes essayistically who writes while experimenting, who turns [her] object this way and that, who questions it, feels it, tests it, thoroughly reflects on it, attacks from different angles, and in her mind’s eye collects what [she] sees, and puts into words what the object allows to be seen under the condition established in the course of the writing.”

from Max Bense, quoted in Theodor Adorno’s “The Essay as Form”

The challenge of this assignment is to transform the text you have created in the Autobiography Reimagined assignment into a video essay. As you were invited to experiment with structure, form and their relationship to content and to the self in your written essay, we invite you to do the same here.

Your written essay should provide a jumping off point for your video essay rather than an explicit map. We have analyzed and discussed the various ways that video essays experiment and play with moving image and sound formats and tools: we expect that you will experiment with them as well. We urge you to move past creating a simple narrated slideshow with a voice over. Use both the form AND the content of your written work to guide you as you produce your first video essay for this class.

This essay assignment is intended to challenge your concept of self as it relates to viewers, so transitioning from the written reimagined autobiography to moving image and sound text is your task. As we assess your work we ill will for three major criteria:

 1) Willingness to experiment with form in a way that’s innovative and effective in representing the content, meaning how you use the affordances of the video essay tool set should have a connection to your content

2) Stylistic excellence. The video essay has voice and attention to the way sound and image can be used for expression.

3) The video essayist is considerate of the needs of their viewer, including connecting their personal story to aspects of the world around them. The essayist explores self while seeing readers’ wishes.

original prompt

So in many respects it is about discovery. Your search. Your meaning. There is no way to be thorough in depicting your life, especially in 4-5 pages, so you should not attempt to capture the whole of your life. This assignment asks that you step beyond yourself in the typical narrative sense—I was born—I was raised—. The specific challenge of this assignment is to move beyond the plodding, chronological rendition of your life we typically think of as autobiography.

What you are after is a way to tell the story of you that represents you. In order to achieve the truest imaginative reflection you must search your story for the heart, or better, the vascular and skeletal structure that supports it. Along with imagining the content of the essay, we would like you to experiment with narrative form and structure.

Your search for the content of your essay should be paramount to the writing, but we encourage you to create autobiographies that are told through an interesting structure. Ideally, this structure should be relevant and integral to the story’s content, not necessarily chosen for its novelty. You may find these structures in the next episode of The Loveboat or the battles of the Spanish Civil War. Stories float out of forms we have yet to recognize, fake emails from kings in a Tajikistan prison, captions from Catalog Living, infomercials for The Snuggie or Forearm Forklift, etc.

All of these story forms could be sampled to organize your essay. Remember the five-paragraph essay? Well, this is its sacrificial burial. It is easy to be swept up in the excitement (as we are) of telling your autobiography in the structure of your handy Facebook page or a recipe, but please attempt to find a form that, ideally and in the best circumstances, parallels your story. We will brainstorm forms in which to tell your story. This essay assignment is intended to challenge your concept of self as it relates to the reader, so transitioning from personal content to the world around is the task of the essayist.

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