Language, meaning and power

PROMPT: Choose a word that you find to be problematic. For example, the word �nigger.� Define the word in terms of its actual definition (you may look up the definition and etymology of the word online or in a dictionary). Then, throughout your essay, expand that definition and give examples of how the word is used in other ways (basically do what Naylor does in her essay in the paragraphs where she defines the different meanings of �nigger� based on context and speaker). You also want to discuss how and why those differences arise in regards to how the word is used. Discuss the connotation of the word, if and how the word is used politically, what social significance it has, if it�s morally correct to use the word, etc. Who/ What gives power to the word? Who uses it? Who does it target? The word you use can be in relation to a group of people, a nation, a religion, an ethnicity, or a social/ political movement. You are NOT allowed to use the words �nigger�, �colored�, or �bitch.� If you�d like to do some research online about the word you choose, you may do so, but I do not want a research paper� I want YOUR ideas. Make sure not to plagiarize ideas or words from the sites you use (I will show you how to cite correctly on Tuesday).

Your essay should be 3-4 pages, typed, in MLA format. You should follow a three-part structure for your essay (intro, body, conclusion). Establish what your word is in the introduction of your essay, and provide its definition. If you�d like to give a brief history of the word or its etymology, do so in the intro, but be brief (a few sentences). Your thesis should establish your claim about this word and how you�re going to approach discussing it. Each body paragraph should cover a separate aspect of the word. For example, Naylor�s text starts a new paragraph every time she gives another definition of the word �nigger.� You can also separate your paragraphs by discussion of the word. For example, in one paragraph you might talk about the political implications of the word and in the next paragraph about the social implications. However you decide to structure your body paragraphs, make sure to cover the discussion of the word extensively (see possible questions above). Avoid repetition and empty statements.

Your essay should also make use of at least one of the three texts we read. You may either directly quote or paraphrase the text and/or author�s message, but you must incorporate it into your essay. This means you will have to find a comparison or contrast between the word you choose and the words and concepts discussed in the readings. This is NOT a textual analysis essay. You should be writing YOUR ideas and observations first, and then incorporating the text as support or refutation of your claim.


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