Assignments & Grading 2015


All papers must be double-spaced in Times New Roman font with 1” margins, using Harvard or Chicago citation format. All papers must be printed out and handed in at the beginning of class and posted to the WordPress site under the proper category. If you are late the day a paper is due, your paper is also late. Print early! If you do not properly categorize your paper, it cannot be found and then—gasp!—cannot be graded.

Class Participation & Attendance (20%):

This seminar requires your active participation in order to produce a lively, focused, and productive classroom experience for you and all of your peers. You will also be required to contribute to a class timeline of events and people in the 1980s we find important. Participation will be determined by attendance and contributions made in class, which are a major component of your grade.

Initial Reflections (5%):

This initial paper is to help gauge your understanding of and imagination about our period of study. In a very brief paper the length of two pages, i.e. ~450 words including references from two trusted news sources, reflect on the following questions. What do you think the 1980s were about? How do you think the events of the 1980s affect society today? Lastly, how do you think the events and people of the 1980s affected your family and even who you are today, if at all? Due in class on September 14th & post to Wp site under category.

Two Short Writing Assignments (15% each):

Through two short writing assignments, you will develop your abilities to express yourselves and begin to gain mastery over some of the different materials we work with as American Studies scholars. Each at a length of 2-3 pages, i.e. 650 to 750 words including references.

  • Political Reading of Robert Mapplethorpe Artwork – This fall, the Wadsworth Atheneum is hosting the “Warhol & Mapplethorpe: Guise & Dolls” exhibit ( After selecting one artwork by Mapplethorpe, you will research the cultural and political history of the moment and place it was created. Based on your research and our discussion of Mapplethorpe’s sexuality, the AIDS epidemic, and even the events during and after his death, write a paper positing what Mapplethorpe sought to express in his work. Due in class on November 9th.
  • Analyzing 1980s Saturday Morning Culture – On a Saturday morning in October (the 31st), you will dress in a 1980s outfit of your design, and spend the time experiencing 1980s Saturday morning culture. You will watch episodes of cartoons and ads, experience gaming on systems like Atari, Commodore 64, Nintendo 8-bit, Sega, and/or Nintendo Gameboy, and (if you so desire) try the highly popular breakfast cereals of the period. While spending at least two hours back in time, you will take notes on and then write a short paper about how you see gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and colonialism playing out in that space. Pay special attention to how you think these cultural objects affected children. Due in class on November 30th.

Facebook Posts (15%):

This assignment affords us a shared everyday space to embrace and analyze the culture of the 1980s, all the while being able to share and comment on the exciting array of content that became available in that period. Our Facebook page can be found at Feel free to “like” as you will and keep the conversation going. The first Facebook post and comments will be due the week of September 21st.

Keep up on the readings and be sure to take detailed notes on your own and in class! Find a detail of the reading or reference that you wanted to understand further, and find a website, video, image, text, map, or object regarding the 1980s that speaks to the week’s upcoming Monday class. Dig around, have fun, and bring your own interests to our Facebook page! The way you see the 1980s is important. We learn a lot from each person understands culture and history, and the wide variations in what interests them. Posts are due every Monday by 9:30 a.m.

You will also need to briefly comment on at least two of your classmate’s posts with thoughtful responses, possibly citing other materials from class or that you find online. Be sure to change who you respond to in each class in order to connect with all of your classmates. Comments are due every Wednesday by 9:30 a.m.

Research Paper Topic (5%):

How did an event, person, text, or object shape the 1980s? After clearing your paper topic with Professor Gieseking in advance, you will bring a two paragraph description of your proposed paper topic to class. Start thinking about your topic early and drop in to office hours or make an appointment to discuss and frame your ideas.

Working in small groups, we will read and respond to one another’s work so that you can incorporate the edits into your final proposal. Bring your paper topic to class on November 16th. Bring your edited version of your paper topic to class on November 23rd.

Using the JSTimeline code, you will each get to enter the title of the event, person, text, or object; year or exact date; and the summary of your research proposal. When looked at all together, we will create a timeline of the 1980s based on your research interests that will be a source of public knowledge, embedded on our course WordPress site. I will walk you through the steps and you will gain the ability to learn and apply a fun, smart app, and see your ideas about the 1980s en masse. Your entries into our shared Google spreadsheet are due before class on November 30th.

Final Research Paper (20%):

For your final research project, you can select to expand upon any of the key 1980s events, people, texts, or objects from class in a 7-9 page research paper. You will complete this research in two ways.

First, you will conduct a brief oral history interview with an individual who lived during the entire 1980s decade, born 1977 or earlier. Be certain to ask your interviewee about your research topic and their personal experience, as well as how this topic affected what Raymond Williams calls the “structure of feeling” of the 1980s and still today. Prof. Gieseking will provide an interview rubric. Take detailed notes and type these notes (around 3-4 pages double spaced).

Second, conduct further research using scholarly texts and news documents. In reading your research topic through both primary and secondary sources, write and submit a 7-9 page research essay, and post the interview notes to our class blog. Lastly, in your conclusion, reread your initial reflections paper and consider how your thoughts have changed or grown and why, and describe how the subject your paper affected the course of your life decades later. Due December 17th at noon – send via email, post to site, and print a copy to place in my mailbox.

Wikipedia contribution (5%):

The role of a critically engaged citizen requires the production of public scholarship and knowledge. As such, the work you have created must also be shared with broader audiences for their education as well. In the culmination to this course, you are required to make a substantive contribution—which you will discuss and approve with your professor—to Wikipedia on a relevant entry or entries to your research topic. Sign up as a Wikipedia contributor at and make your edits/contributions. Then, head to where you will type in the name of entry you edited (for example, “AIDS,” “Perestroika,” “Robert Mapplethorpe,” “Robert Ballard,” “G.I. Joe (TV Series),” “Jerry Falwell,” “Dr. Dre,” “Exxon Valdez,” “Alison Bechdel,” or “Alice Walker”), find your edit on the left, and send me the URL of your specific edit which can be found on the left. Due the last day of finals.

One thought on “Assignments & Grading 2015

Leave a Reply