Memoir Assignment

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The Odyssey: Memoir Assignment
On his journey, Odysseus endures, suffers, makes errors, and eventually overcomes the obstacles thrown in his path. As much as he is tormented by the gods, he is also supported and aided by the goddess Athena. His epic tale is one of epic strength, epic hubris, and epic endurance. The identical qualities also appear in the subplot, as loyal Penelope endures her husband's absence and cleverly fends off the hoards of suitors. Odysseus' journey is symbolic of the journeys we all take as we make our way through life.
For your own essay, you might write about a struggle or obstacle you have faced. You might write about your philosophy, hopes, or dreams as they relate to experience. No matter what topic you choose, your essay must reflect several aspects of The Odyssey. Make sure to include two of the following elements -- not literally, but figuratively. For example, you may include a difficult obstacle, which would represent the Cyclops, or you might include an Athena-like character, meaning a mentor or "guardian angel."
Include TWO of the following as part of your essay:
1. Ithaca: your external values, i.e., the ideas you value most outside yourself

2. Cyclops: the dangers and obstacles you encounter; your test of courage

3. Sirens/Lotus Eaters/Calypso: distractions and temptations; your "island of trouble"

4. Poseidon: People or things that block or redirect your path

5. Penelope: Those who remain loyal and faithful

6. Athena: People who help you reach your goal; mentors

7. Returning Home: reaching your mission or goal
In addition to including sufficient description and characterization (SHOW DON’T TELL), you will also make use of at least THREE OTHER literary devices in your essay. You will highlight each clearly for me. You may choose from the following:

  1. Metaphor/simile

  2. Epithet (a type of description; see below)

  3. Imagery/symbolism

  4. Archetype

  5. Other forms of figurative language

    *Writer’s annotations

    • Unifying concept or attention getter

    • Description of object, person, or place with vivid word choice and imagery

    • Other narrative techniques (dialogue, flashback, suspense, figurative language)

    • Intentional manipulation of syntax (sentence structure) for effect

    • Impact or meaning of the experience or connection to human experience

MLA style. (Except that you may use personal pronouns). ALSO, make sure to include sufficient description and characterization. 2 pages. DUE: April 11 +5 / April 22

Summative Assessment 100 points

EPITHET: A short, poetic nickname -- often in the form of an adjective or adjectival phrase -- attached to the normal name. The Homeric epithet in classical literature often includes compounds of two words such as, "fleet-footed Achilles," "Cow-eyed Hera," "Grey-eyed

Athena," or "the wine-dark sea." In other cases, it appears as a phrase, such as "Odysseus the man-of-many-wiles," etc. (2) The historical epithet is a descriptive phrase attached to a ruler's name. For instance, King Alfred the Great, Duke Lorenzo the Magnificent, Robert the Devil, Richard the Lionheart, and so on. (3) The generally descriptive epithet would appear in Old Norse and Germanic cultures to help distinguish individuals, giving us (in Njal's Saga) colorful names such as Hallbjorn Half-Troll, Ulf the Squinter, Hjorleif the Womanizer, and Ketil Flat-Nose. Do not confuse the epithet with the epitaph or epigram. (From Dr. Wheeler's website)

The Contemporary Memoir
A memoir is a piece of literary nonfiction, based on truth, in which a writer reflects on an experience in his or her life. What distinguishes memoir from personal narrative is the experience factor: ideas are purposefully arranged around the result of this experience rather than a chronology of events. In memoir, there is a distinct emphasis on how the writer remembers the experience rather than on a play-by-play of what literally happened.
Writers usually communicate their memoirs from the first person point of view. They strategically organize events, details, ideas, and reflections or observations to influence the audience’s emotions and understanding of an implicit or explicit theme.
The ultimate goal of this unit is to write a memoir that shares an experience from your life with your audience. Your readers should be able to see the movie version of your experience playing in their imaginations as they read; you must re-create the experience so your readers see what you saw, hear what you heard, feel what you felt, and even smell what you smelled. By the end, your reader should understand what the experience means to you.
Focus your writing around these guiding questions:

  • How do I find a personally significant topic, uncover its meaning to me, and present my understanding in ways the readers of my memoir can appreciate enough to form their own connections?

  • How does my choice of words control, color, and expand my communication with a chosen audience?

  • How do I compel my audience to visualize and comprehend the place, events, objects, and/or characters I’m unveiling in a memoir piece?

Writing Rubric

Contemporary Memoir







Partially Proficient (Approaching)



(Does Not Meet)


Ideas and Organization

Score: _________



  • Opening advances a unifying concept or metaphor that guides and sets the direction for the memoir as a whole.

  • Employs flashback and foreshadowing to identify, introduce, and develop a personal voice and the character of the narrator.

  • True meaning of the title is revealed as the piece unfolds.

  • The opening is clear and engages the reader.

  • The opening establishes a clear personal voice.

  • Intriguing title that hints at topic.

  • Opening is present, but may not engage the reader.

  • The opening does not establish a clear personal voice.

  • Title is simply a restatement of the topic.

  • Lacks a clear opening; beginning may be dull or uninteresting.

  • The opening does not introduce the narrator or establish a personal voice.

  • Title is not present.

Development of Ideas

  • Narrative techniques (e.g. description, details, characters and/or dialogue) are purposeful and directed towards creating a whole and unified vision of the author’s experience and its personal meaning.

  • The narrative includes additional or tertiary characters, events, or motifs that add historical and cultural relevance to the story.

  • The narrative accomplishes a personal reflection that ties the author to issues and concerns beyond the story—to a broader context.

  • The narrative techniques (e.g. description, details, characters and/or dialogue) develop experiences, events, and/or characters.

  • The narrative includes all necessary information (e.g. characters, events, details) for story to be clear and complete.

  • The narrative includes reflection of personal meaning. (e.g. theme or message).

  • The narrative techniques (e.g. description, details, characters and/or dialogue) do not develop experiences, events, and/or characters.

  • The narrative is missing necessary information (e.g. characters, events, details) for story to be clear and complete.

  • The narrative is personal and meaningful, but does not include reflection of personal meaning (e.g. theme or message).

  • The narrative techniques are absent and leave the reader disconnected or confused.

  • The narrative feels unfinished or unfocused.

  • The narrative lacks meaning or significance.

Development of Internal Structure

  • Transitions and organizational patterns reflect a clear and logical unity of theme and purposeful movement from episode to episode.

  • Crafting of paragraph length lends distinctiveness and clarity to author’s voice, persona, attitudes, and message.

  • Transitions guide the reader through narrative.

  • Organizational patterns (e.g. foreshadowing, flashbacks, reflection, dialogue, pacing, and description) and reflection are woven together in a logical sequence throughout the narrative.

  • Transitions may be present, but are obvious, trite, or occasionally distracting.

  • Organizational patterns and reflection are present but contrived or formulaic.

  • Transitions are used incorrectly or missing and may create confusion.

  • Organizational patterns or reflection are not evident.


  • Conclusion solidifies the overall narrative as a real representation of a personal experience that develops the impact and connects to the human experience.

  • Conclusion is clear and reflective, and the impact of the experience is suggested.

  • Conclusion is present, but does not include reflection.

  • Conclusion may be absent or confusing.

Craft and Style

Score: ______

Word Choice and Tone

  • Language integrates poetic or creative license with lucid and accurate detail that reflects the workings of memory.

  • Language helps to establish a voice that is distinctive and engaging.

  • Language includes poetic techniques (e.g. alliteration, and onomatopoeia) and figurative language (e.g. simile, metaphor, and personification) that engage the audience.

  • Precise and descriptive words draw the audience to the “remembered” experience.

  • Language helps to establish and maintain an appropriate tone

  • Language attempts to include poetic techniques or figurative language, but they are engaging.

  • Words may be used inappropriately or incorrectly.

  • Language does not consistently maintain an appropriate tone.

  • Language is awkward and/or distracting and does not include poetic techniques or figurative language.

  • Words are frequently used inappropriately or incorrectly.

  • Language produces no clear tone.

Sentence Fluency/


  • Creates and enhances cohesion with purposeful syntax.

  • Clarifies relationships among and within ideas with word phrases and clauses.

  • Supports organizational patterns and creates emphasis with varied syntax.

  • Contributes to readability with correct constructions.

  • Attempts sentence variety, but with some awkward constructions that require revision.

  • Syntax construction impedes readability at times.

  • Lacks sentence variety; structures are overly simplistic or repetitive

  • Uses syntax that causes confusion or interferes with message.


Score: ______


  • Errors, if present, are minimal and do not distract the reader; little or no editing needed.

  • Grammar usage and punctuation are deliberately manipulated for stylistic effect.

  • Errors do not impede communication and rarely distract the reader; minimal editing needed.

  • Grammar usage and punctuation are used for stylistic effect.

  • Errors impede communication in some portions of the response; editing needed.

  • Grammar usage and punctuation are attempted to be used for stylistic effect.

  • Errors severely impede communication; considerable editing needed.

  • Grammar usage and punctuation are not used for stylistic effect.

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