entails tracing a literary genealogy of Between the World and Me i.e., writing an essay that argues for a
particular set of formal and thematic influences on Ta Nehisi Coates. To write your paper, you will draw on our
shared reading, and you will be in conversation with others who have written about Between the World and Me.
Audience and Rhetorical Situation:
The actual, real audience for this essay is me, Kathryn Warren, your professional ssor. I am grading your work
on this assignment and will take into account how well you execute the requirements listed below.
The implied/imagined audience for your paper is general readers of a mainstream but semi scholarly publication
such as The New York Review of Books. Your readers will likely be familiar with Coates and may be
conversant in the language of critical race theory.
What Should You Write : They Say, I Say
Your task is to join a conversation about Between the World and Me, adding something new to what others have
said. Below are three unique takes on the book. Read them all. You must engage with at least one of them in
Brit Bennett, Ta Nehisi Coates and a Generation Waking Up, The New Yorker, 15 July 2015
David Brooks, Listening to Ta Nehisi Coates While White, The New York Times, 17 July 2015
Darryl Pinckney, The Anger of Ta Nehisi Coates, The New York Review of Books, 11 Feb. 2016.
What do you have to contribute You are a literary scholar; you have your knowledge of African American
literature. The major premise of this assignment is that no work of literature, no matter how contemporary, is
purely presentist. Every feat of writing arises from what came before. Coates s memoir is made possible, you
could say, by a host of predecessors, and his memoir picks up threads both thematic and formal that one can
trace all the way back to the beginning of African American literature. (He isn t influenced by AfricanAmerican
writers alone, I should say. But that s what our focus is in this course.)
So, in this essay, you will be tracing the book s literary genealogy in order to engage with a question, a criticism,
or a response that another thinker has had when reading Between the World and Me. A few options for threads
you could trace include:
Religion/idealism v. materialism
Autonomy, both bodily and spiritual
Passive resistance v. violent or active uprising
Prioritizing among economic, social, and political rights
Feminism and gender roles
Role of white allies in the struggle for African American civil rights
Essentialism v. constructionism with respect to race
Individual v. systemic racism
Justice: what it means, how to get it
Role of education
You must make an argument. Part of it will be arguing for a particular set of formal and thematic influences on
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Coates, but don t stop there: your paper should also have a clear position on the importance of the thread you re
tracing to Coates s book, a position that engages with one of the people who s written about Between the World
The essay must be between 5 and 10 complete pages in length, double spaced ( 10 points if this condition is
The essay must include quotations from
o Between the World and Me
o your main interlocutor
o at least three texts from our shared reading
You must analyze the quotations you include.
You must make an argument.
The essay must engage with what someone else has said when writing about Between the World and Me.
Your tone, diction, and style should be appropriate to the audience and genre. This isn t stuffy academic
writing you re doing, but it isn t Facebook level informality, either. Take your cue from the three sources above.
No Works Cited page is necessary, but please include page numbers for your in text citations, like this (2).
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