WRT 303: The Personal Essay Digital Stories
The personal essay is a form that has recently come back into fashion. In this class we will engage the form by writing our own personal essays as well as reading and responding to the work of writers who have come to define the genre: examples include E. B. White, Langston Hughes, and Raymond Carver as well as more contemporary writers such as Joan Didion and Gene Shepherd. We will explore the differences between shaping experience as truth in a personal essay or memoir and as a work of fiction. As a definition of personal essay evolves, we will consider whether personal writing and essay writing (or 'essaying') have a place in academic writing. Students in this class will also be able to prepare a personal statement for their application for graduate or professional school.
Here are some Stony Brook Student examples from two WRT 303 courses:
2012, Cynthia Davidson's WRT 303 Class:
Maggie Huynh - The ground beneath my white sneakers is a rough pavement submerged in a sea of black spots. Surely, when the cement was first poured into this part of the Earth it was a smooth gray texture but today, it is neither smooth nor gray. Instead, there are deep cracks and black circles cover the area like spots on a Dalmatian. What was once smooth has aged with time, trampled on by the hundreds of pairs of legs walking on it every day.
Perry Minkoff - I want to live by this list. I have a laminated copy of it on my wall. The ways to stay creative are great, some hit the nail on the head while some are outlandish. I know I can't be the only person that wants to write and be more creative because of reading books. So go read some, gather your thoughts and ideas, and be creative. Only viewable within the Stony Brook Community.
Joseph Cavera - In my Digital Story, I wanted to take a more general approach to interacting with the environment. Where my essay about a place focused on how I changed personally at Jones Beach, and my Final Project Essay explored the relationships developed between two people (specifically, brothers) in a place, my Digital Story was designed to engage viewers more directly; making them think about what runs through their head either consciously or unconsciously as they prepare to enter or interact with a new area. This was supposed to be an emotional reach with a couple dashes of humor, progressing through the major environments on Earth, and ultimately ending with a push to go out and explore.
Annie Bernberg - Hi there. That’s me. Annie. Painted by yours truly. (Self Portrait) I was never really that good. Yeah and there we go. (Pictures I drew when I was little) I was and always will be a doodler. I have been drawing for as long as I could grasp a crayon. Art has been a continuous passion in my life. And I as I grew older, well you can see, I got a lot better. (Now recent images of my art).
Jim Davis - Overall I was very happy with how this project came out. It was a lot of fun going back through my old photos and retelling my story. There was a bit of difficulty always finding images to line up exactly with the narration, but the dialogue bit in the beginning seemed to be a real hit. The biggest challenge was probably trying to make sure that I kept it interesting and informative for people who did not know anything about the game.
Hyesun An - I'm not a professional in musician. I just love listening to music and seeing pleasure of the people listening to my songs. All I do is to follow my heart. But my parents do not like the idea of me joining this choir club because sometimes I spend too much time in things related with this club. They think that the 'water pool' I landed in was too small. Most of the time I sing, practice and talk with my club member.
Christina Chahalis - I was never the most attentive kid. Actually, I could barely pay attention to anything. I always had trouble in school, and completing seemingly easy tasks was basically impossible. At 11 years old, I was diagnosed with ADHD. Of course, this explained all the years of struggling to get by in my life and school. I had a choice: I could let a learning disability determine my success..or I myself could determine my success. Only viewable within the Stony Brook community.
Vishwaja Muppa - Christmas is every 6 year old American child’s favorite holiday. But, what’s my favorite holiday? My favorite holiday is Holi. Holi is one of the most widespread holidays in India. When I was younger, I had no idea why this holiday was celebrated. All I knew was that everyone was so happy and that’s why it is my favorite.
Yae Ji Kim - When Professor Davidson first told us that we have to make digital stories about ourselves, I was so scared because I had no idea what a digital story was or how to make it. However, while I was making it I had so much fun that I would do it again for other stories as well. This digital story was an wonderful experience and a bridge to reconnect with my host family. I am so happy to have such an amazing host family and my host sister, Natalie. Only viewable within the Stony Brook community.
Deepa Nair - The digital narrative has made me realize even more how much I have grown as a person. From a simple girl who was dependent on her parents for everything to an independent young lady who can decide for herself what she wants to do. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to go about the digital narrative as I wanted it to be connected to my final essay in some way. I did not want to talk everything about my life so I decided to talk about my life in India first and how it changed after I came to America. It connects with my final project as I talk about how I am the same person no matter where I am and can connect with both the cultures while I find my inner peace and content when I visit my homeland. Only viewable within the Stony Brook community.
Marley Solomon - My first draft was horrible. Absolutely horrible. I was trying to change my writing style from dialogue heavy and short punchy descriptive sentences to something like a mockumentary style of interviewing people to get their idea at adulthood. My peer reviewers, correctly came to a unanimous decision that it wasn't working. So I scrapped most of it and went back to basics and writing what I think I do best and I think it worked out better this way. Lesson learned, that some things we can't fundamentally change about ourselves.
Satwoka Yalamanchili - I have loved working on this project. Doing the digital story let me look back in time when I was a child and really understand what it is that defined who I am today. Building my Lego house was one of my proudest moments as a child. Back then it was just an object, but today it represents me and all the pieces that make me who I am. My biggest challenge was trying to find the one thing that meant this much to me. I did not think of the idea till after my first draft. After the idea came about, the process of making the digital story and writing the paper was pretty simple. Only viewable within the Stony Brook community.
Brenda Nguyen - As I was outlining my final project, I realized that all of my reasoning's to become a doctor were rather selfish; I was focusing more on myself and my happiness rather than thinking about others. I said that I liked and wanted to help people but that sort of thinking is rather common among medical school applicants. I began asking my other pre-med friends on why they wanted to become a doctor and received answers that were shallower than mine. I thought how selfish we all were in trying to become doctors and that we were losing the true meaning of being civil servants. Physicians are there to serve the people, not themselves. Only viewable within the Stony Brook community.
Tim Ferris "My plans for life after college were simple. I saw myself travelling the world, locating treasure, and fighting Nazis. I wanted to be Indiana Jones. Unfortunately, college has done nothing to prepare me for dodging bullets, cracking a bullwhip, or running away from rolling boulders."
Faiza Chowdhury "I'm a Political Science major with a knack for making the world a better place."
2013, Kristina Lucenko's WRT 303 Class:
Sonya Khan - I felt that I successfully communicated my message of the need to belong, as a child of a diverse ethnic background. I feel that people in the class could sympathize with my feelings as I was discussing my feelings of not belonging in my homeland, nor America, I could see some nods in the audience. Only viewable within the Stony Brook Community.
Julie Lavallierre - I started my digital story off with my history of swimming from when I first started and what teams I joined. The overall point of what I wanted to convey didn’t come up until the middle of my digital story. This is when I talked about meeting coach Brian when I switched swim teams my senior year of high school. The whole reason why I switched was because I wasn’t improving and wanted to try something new. Only viewable within the Stony Brook Community.
Helen Chao - Although I initially took this writing class as a requirement for medical school, making this digital story helped me realized that medical school might not be my future goal. Crazy, huh? Only viewable within the Stony Brook Community.
Yarden Segal - I wrote my second assignment essay about my visit to Poland and finding my roots through the rubble that the Holocaust left behind. I felt I conveyed myself very well in this essay and I was able to truly express my feelings through words. During Thanksgiving weekend, I finally decided that my Digital Story should be about my experience in Poland. I felt like it would be a lot more meaningful to me, and aroused strong feelings that were easily put to paper and clearly heard on the sound of my voice. Only viewable within the Stony Brook Community.