Origins Final Project ✦ Fall 2020


By now, you know a little bit about me. But you still might be guessing how I became the historian you’ve interacted with every week: committed to facts and eager to defend people whose voices are overlooked, someone who finds satisfaction in intellectual rigor and who believes that a knowledge of another language can open the door to other people’s cultures. Books taught me to be this way. They shaped the person I’ve become, introducing me to experiences I could never live, people I might never know. Poggio Bracciolini wasn’t the first or last to be compelled to hunt for one.

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For your Final Project, write a 750-word letter to yourself in which you imagine—and describe—three books you would like to discover when the class is over. Focus on explaining why our class has compelled your interest in these topics.

750 words is roughly three double-spaced pages. It will be tempting, after so much driver’s education, to race down the open road by putting the top down, feeling the wind in your hair, and blasting the sophomoric sounds of One Direction. But don’t. Structure, polish, and a smart story are your goal. Channel your inner book hunter.



Essays will be evaluated on the following criteria. 50 points are possible:





Range of Examples Discussed *


Quality of Examples Discussed ✪


The thoughtfulness of the Conclusion


Overall Quality of the Writing


10 points


10 points


10 points


10 points


10 points


* Your letter must explicitly engage with The Swerve, Origins Chapters 4–7, and digital material from Unit 2. But when you describe what book you’re hoping to find, have fun. Does your imaginary book have a title? What kind of author do you think will have written it? Do you think it has been written yet? Do you want to find a work that would be shelved with the history of science section, like Dartnell’s book; or a novel, shelved with fiction? Or a set of poetry, a biography, a cookbook, a comic book, a graphic novel? Your only limit is what you can imagine.


Excellent essays will draw from a range of inspirations (i.e., the Unit 2 assignments) and avoid a narrow focus on only one source.


✪ As you explain what inspired your hunt for these books, be sure to leave yourself some notes about what motivated your quest. What passages of The Swerve inspired you? Talk about what you’ve read and watched, but be sure to leave page numbers behind (Example: The Swerve p. 40), if in Greenblatt. Adapt the same style for Dartnell, if appropriate. Put the video or podcast episodes in parenthesis. Be as concrete as possible when sourcing the inspiration for your ideas. Your future self will appreciate how well you can reconstruct your life when it’s documented the way a historian would wish.


Excellent essays will reference specific moments of inspiration and avoid speaking in generalizations.

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