For this course, you will be required to submit THREE short critical essays of 4 to 5 DOUBLE-SPACED pages in length. Please keep font sizes reasonable, preferably 12 point Times New Roman. Assignments should be written in essay format. Assignments do not require a cover page but should include a title, date, course number, and your name at the top of the first page.
You may use whichever citation format you are most familiar with. Be sure to reference any and all citations, direct quotes, or closely paraphrased portions of the source text.
For each assignment, you will be asked to pick ONE essay for purpose of critical analysis.
- Berger & Luckmann, “The social foundations of human experience”, in Cahill, chapter 2
- Sandstrom, “Symbols and the Creation of Reality” in Cahill, chapter 3
- Zerubavel, “Islands of Meaning” in Cahill, chapter 4
How to approach the critical essays
The objective of a critical essay is to thoughtfully engage with the point of view, observations or arguments covered in an essay, book or presentation. Most of us do something like this when we give others our impressions – positive or negative – of something we have seen, read, or otherwise experienced and that we feel merits communicating our impressions to others.
With a movie, for example, we may have liked the set up but felt that the movie dragged in the middle and had an unconvincing ending. We might have liked one actor’s performance but not another`s, we might question casting choices, the naturalness of the dialogue, or the visual effects. A good movie critique will take note of how the entire movie is put together with attention to both good and bad elements, and of course sometimes we might want watch the movie again to catch things we may have missed the first time around.
A critique of a scholarly book, essay or article is basically the same thing. It typically begins with a synopsis of the key ideas or points (like a “plot summary” for a movie), and then examines points that stood out and that you feel merit particular attention – i.e. what the author or authors get right, what concepts and ideas you consider to be particularly interesting or insightful, or what points you might consider problematic or unconvincing. Basically, you want to make sure that you explain the main point of the essay as well as "highlights".
You will most likely find that the essays, if read on their own, can be a bit confusing or use words in unusual ways. Unlike movies, scholarly articles are rarely "stand alone" products -- they build on other sources and presume that the reader has a basic grasp of technical vocabulary. You may feel poorly equipped on your own to comment on scholarly essays written by professionals in the field. The Hewitt text and course notes are meant to help you with these challenges, as both are designed to give you a comprehensive background in micro-sociology and to present some of the difficult or important ideas in the field in more accessible terms. You will find that your comprehension of the assignment essays is much greater after having read the Hewitt chapters and the lecture notes, and you should to refer to these in your critical essay assignments.
Keep in mind that these critical essays are meant to provide you with an opportunity to think through and respond to the course material, to give you a chance to put your own ideas on paper, and of course to provide the instructor with a basis to evaluate your comprehension of core concepts and your progress in the course. They are much skill building exercises as they are a basis of evaluation. To get the most out of the exercise you should link up the essay you have selected with related concepts covered during the course, these essay selections were chosen because they demonstrate applications of theoretical concepts.
I`m often asked if it is permitted to use "I" in an academic essay. The short answer is yes, however there are some basic guidelines for how and when its o.k. to do so. Here is a very good link that explains the how and when:
FYI: writtingcommons.org is an excellent (and free) resource for essay writers, the contributors give pretty much the same advice I would and in greater detail.
Short Critical Essays Name Course number Date In the “islands of meaning” Eviatar Zerubavel, argues that people construct reality through mentally lumping together what they know, but separating what they do not know or understand. This implies that through socialization people have perceptions about different boundaries and this may result in stereotyping. Both historical and social developments influence perceptions of different phenomena, and it is the separation and distinctiveness hat people attach meaning to the environment. In any case, it is through separating entities, that there are clear boundary lines where the entities are then classified. Human beings create meaningful social entities and placing them in classes while downplaying their uniqueness. People seek to get meaning, and people who share similar experiences and cultures are more likely to classify their experiences based on the meaning of these experiences (Zerubavel, 2006). It is through the islands of meaning that people perceive their experiences into symbols. However, Zerubavel argues that people live in continuous worlds but they can explain their experiences in discrete terms. The notion of lumping and splitting assumes that the social cultural impulses have a more a more profound impact on social construction of meaning than individual experiences. Hence, Zerubavel overemphasizes the role of