Due Dates: Thesis statement due on Thursday, March 4th – be prepared to write it on the board. Outline of essay due on Tuesday, March 9th Rough draft due on Thursday, March 11th Final draft due at 10: 00 a m



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Memories and Memoirs, Winter 2010
Grinley & Clapp
Analyzing a Memoir Through Cognitive Psychology: Paper #3

Due Dates:

Thesis statement due on Thursday, March 4th – be prepared to write it on the board.


Outline of essay due on Tuesday, March 9th
Rough draft due on Thursday, March 11th
Final draft due at 10:00 a.m. in class on Tuesday, March 16th

Write: For this paper (7+ pages) you’ll be writing an analytical essay that interprets a memoir through the lens of Cognitive Psychology. This will be a thesis driven essay that uses what you’ve learned all term about Cognitive Psychology to explain how you see memory at work in a memoir. The idea is to totally integrate the two disciplines (English and Psychology).

Here’s what you need to do:



  1. Choose one memoir from this term to write about. This might be one of the full-length books we’ve read, or, if you’d like, it could be your own Short or Long Narrative that you wrote. You could also choose another memoir (one of the short pieces handout out during class, or a full-length memoir you read on your own, for instance), provided you get approval from JC and Melissa, first.

  2. Develop a thesis that makes an assertion about what is occurring (or not occurring) in terms of memory processes in the memoir you chose. What elements of memory do you see at work in the memoir? You are required to reference at least one of Schacter’s sins of memory and at least three Cognitive Psychology terms/concepts in your paper.

  3. You’ll need to find detailed examples from your chosen memoir to back up your assertion. Of course, since this is an analytical essay, it needs to be in MLA essay form with an introduction (including thesis), supporting examples, and a conclusion. Use language appropriate for an academic audience. Unless you’re referring to your own memoir, please don’t write in the first-person “I” voice.

  4. You are required to cite your sources using in-text citations and a Works Cited page.

Grading Standards: Melissa and JC will both be reading/grading your paper together. Your grade will be based on how thoroughly and thoughtfully you respond to the assignment and how closely you meet the below criteria. What we are expecting is this:

  1. A unique and defendable thesis that identifies and explores a particular aspect of memory in one of the memoirs we’ve studied in class.

  2. A paper that is focused on one main idea, but incorporates at least one of Schacter’s sins of memory and at least three concepts from the Cognitive Psychology textbook (the assumption is these would all be related to each other under one cohesive thesis).

  3. A paper that uses quotes and examples from the memoir to support the thesis. All sources are cited using MLA in-text (parenthetical) citation and there’s a properly formatted Works Cited page attached to the paper.

  4. A paper written in academic MLA essay form, complete with a clear introduction, conclusion, and transitions.

  5. A clear understanding of who will be reading the paper (instructor); therefore, no plot summary.

  6. An analysis only: no ranting or raving or discussion of whether or not you liked the book. You’re analyzing, not reviewing or responding.

  7. A paper that is about 7+ pages long, double spaced, with 1” margins and 12 pt. font. (If your paper goes more than 8 pages, then rein yourself in!) The Works Cited page is in addition to the 7 pages of prose.

  8. A carefully edited paper with attention paid to editing, syntax, grammar, and punctuation.


Samples and Ideas: To get you started, here are a few ideas to illustrate what we want. Of course, you’re going to come up with your own ideas, but this should get you headed in the right direction:
Sample Thesis #1:

In Floyd Skloot's, In the Shadow of Memory, he addresses many long term and short term memory problems; however, despite numerous neural deficits, his writing expresses purity found in the intensification of his emotionality and other heightened sensory experiences, all attributing to a new and much more meaningful life.


Sample Thesis #2:

The “Sin of Bias,” as Daniel Schacter refers to it, is composed of five different categories: consistency, change, hindsight, egocentric, and stereotypical biases. Throughout Lauren Slater’s memoir, Lying, the two biases most obvious are consistency bias and egocentric bias. Although she uses blatant bias, Slater’s credibility is not undermined as her metaphor sustains itself because she addresses her bias head-on.


Sample Thesis #3:

In Lucky, Alice Sebold explicitly talks about committing the “Sin of Misattribution” when she was identifying her rapist in the line-up; however, there are many other instances where shifts in perception appear in her memoir which bring home the impact of the rape on her world view.


To further assist, full-length samples will be available via our class blog. A grading rubric is attached, as well, to give you more specifics.


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