As we’ve discussed thus far, our class (and everything outside of it, for that matter) focuses heavily on the signs of life – symbols that express a variety of denotative and connotative meanings. These symbols, in turn, come together to create culture, and thus our individual identities may be seen as an amalgamation of various culture-derived symbols. This assignment will challenge you to consider your own identity within our mass culture and the symbols upon which it is built.
In an essay three to four pages in length, you are to create a Signs Profile in which you identify and analyze key signs that comprise the identity of a specific person in your life, such as a sibling, parents, or close friend. You will want to avoid simply writing about yourself – avoid using first-person (and even second-person) pronouns.
As you craft your essays, consider the following questions: What do these signs say about this person? Do you think they provide an accurate reflection of who they are? Do the cultural connotations of these signs contrast with your personal connotations? Remember, a sign (or symbol) includes just about anything that possesses meaning: hairstyles, clothing, language, cars, pets, music, movies, fields of study, hobbies, and sports are all types of symbols, each with their own value and meaning. As such, you should have no difficulty accumulating signs for discussion, but be sure to focus on the signs that you feel to be most indicative of (or influential to) this individual’s identity.
Note that, as with every essay you’ll be writing in this class, you are expected to abide by basic essay structure when performing your analysis. In order to receive the highest possible grade, your essay should include the following:
- An introductory paragraph that briefly defines the signs of life and the significance these signs have on culture and the individuals therein. Once you’ve done this, you’ll want to conclude your introduction with a thesis statement that describes who this person is according to the various signs you’ll be discussing.
- An appropriate number of body paragraphs that identify, analyze, and explain the significance of at least four different signs. (Note that it is better to provide an in-depth analysis of fewer signs than to provide vague or superficial information about many signs. Good writing starts with solid details!) You’ll want to begin with a clear topic sentence that names the particular sign you’ll be examining and how it connects to who your subject is as an individual. From there, you’ll want to discuss the denotative and connotative meanings behind this sign (note that there are technically two connotative meanings – personal and cultural). Once you’ve done this, explain whether this sign’s various meanings accurately reflect who your subject is as a person. Are the cultural connotations accurate? Explain your reasoning.
- A conclusion that briefly summarizes the symbols you’ve discussed. Once you’ve done this, explain the important of this individual’s signs and their bearing on this person’s identity.