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Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglas Case Study

First, please read the three excerpts you will find at the end of this document from Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. Choose one that you would like to work on for this assignment.


I. At the top of your assignment page, please indicate which passage you have selected (Passage 1, 2, or 3) and tell us why you chose that passage. This is your opportunity to articulate a personal relationship to the passage you will be analyzing. What grabs you about it? What do you find interesting in it? Does the passage affect you in some way? Be specific! (Write 1-2 sentences.) (2 points)

II. Next, list three formal elements of the passage you selected. Then (a) tell us exactly where you see that formal element and (b) briefly speculate about its purpose or effect in the passage. Here we want you to think about Frederick Douglass as a writer, focusing not only on what he says but also on how he says it. (2 points for each formal element including at least one brief sentence of explanation; 6 points total). Types of formal elements on your list could include, for just a few examples:

  • An image or figurative comparison (e.g., metaphor, simile, personification, synecdoche—-but you don’t have to know/use these technical words to identify an image or figurative comparison!)
  • The choice of a specific word or combination of words (diction)
  • Sentence structure or length (syntax)
  • Paragraph structure or breaks
  • The repetition of a word or sequence of words
  • An implicit allusion to a word or phrase usually used in other contexts
  • Some element of sound or rhythm
  • etc.

Please make a numbered list, so that we can clearly see that you have listed three separate elements. If you list more than three elements we will assess only the first three.

III. [NOTE CHANGED DIRECTIONS] Now list two specific and relevant aspects of the external context in which Frederick Douglass wrote. For each aspect of the external context that you list, write at least one sentence explaining how it helps us to better understand the passage you are analyzing. Remember that a relevant context may be historical, biographical, and/or cultural. Try to list contexts that are more specific than, for example, “slavery.” Instead, tell us what specific aspect of American slavery you have in mind.

Please make a numbered list, so that we can clearly see that you have addressed two aspects of context. If your list includes more than two items we will assess only the first two. (up to 2 points for each aspect of context you list, including at least one sentence explaining its relevance; 4 points total)

IV. [NOTE CHANGED DIRECTIONS] Now it’s time to bring it all together! Your task is to explain how formal elements in this passage combine with aspects of the text’s external context to help forward an overall meaning, theme, or purpose that you see in Frederick Douglass’s Narrative as a whole. Your response should include at least two formal elements within the passage and two external contexts (historical, biographical, cultural, etc.), but you are also free to cite additional evidence that you find elsewhere in the text. The best answers will explain how the listed formal elements and external contexts work together to forward an overall meaning, theme, or purpose that you see in the work as a whole. Please write 4-6 sentences in total (6 points available).

V. Last but not least, tell us something you learned or began to think about more from doing this assignment. Please write approximately two sentences (2 points available).


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