Local Knowledge First Essay: Options

Due Tuesday, Oct. 19: 5 pages, double-spaced, typed. Also include (as 6th page) a bibliography in MLA form (or use other style sheet, but be consistent and thorough). Quotes should be footnoted, pages should be stapled together.

Choose one framing question and address it, drawing on the readings, films, presentations and experiences of weeks 1 and 2. If you wish, you may develop your own question. This paper is not intended to be a report but an integrated discussion, leading to a specific interpretation.

  1. Develop an essay that explores the significance of the IWW during the period 1905 to 1919 (approximately). Consider the national political context and debates. What was distinctive about IWW ideology? How would you interpret the significance of the positions taken by the IWW re: economic vs political action, for instance, or industrial vs. craft unionism? Other distinctive ideological stances? Discuss the strategies, symbols, and cultural icons developed by the IWW as a result of their ideological commitments. Finally, can you offer either a critique of the usefulness of this model of activism or a set of suggestions for how understanding the IWW might contribute to our understanding of the challenges and needs facing communities today?
  2. Develop a critical examination of the ways in which Break Their Haughty Power functions as history through its merging of the personal and historical. What could say about the form that Eugene Nelson develops in this book? What specific strengths does it offer? What in-depth understandings or insights would a reader develop about early 20th century American life and economic existence, the labor movement, the Northwest, or activism generally? What possibilities does it offer for thinking about collaboration, alternative sources, etc.? What are the limits or issues involved with this form (i.e., concerns about authenticity, authorship, accuracy? Or literary persona? Write thoughtfully and critically about the relationship between historical understanding, activism and the text, as a literary form and expression of a way of seeing the world.
  3. Frame your own question—be sure to state it clearly and succinctly.