A Way of Thinking About the Manifesto

In class today, we talked about the meaning of the word, manifesto, and the appropriateness of its political connotation relative to this exercise. This is, as I’ve exhorted you, your stake to a claim for the authority to engage as a peer in a dialogue with “important” texts.

But a declaration of such audacity cannot be lightly made. No, for as Jefferson wrote in that most fundamental document of the American idea, “…a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel” bold action. And so, the manifesto, a document that should make sense of the books, beliefs and principles that have established your existing worldview.

Once we establish the existing facts of your thinking through a brief personal literary timeline activity in class, it will be time to think beyond where you are to where we’re going. The themes and big ideas at the bottom of page one of the assignment sheet are the themes and big ideas you’ll encounter in the literature we’ll read this year, and the excerpts we’ve read from full-length works are appetizers to the entrees that will follow (A little cheesy? Sorry).

While you are free to integrate what we’ve read early in this class with what you have already read, you don’t have to shoehorn Melville, Steinbeck, Borges or Woolf into your thinking. They visited us to set the tone of inquiry and dialogue that should characterize our work this year. Let the bullets under the assessment criteria, arranged in degrees from Wow! to WTF?!, guide your writing.

You should consider the electronic version of your manifesto as the “true” document, the one most likely to be revisited and revised. The printed version will exist only so I can read your work when I don’t have WiFi. The manifesto should culminate in some speculation about those truths you’re seeking (notice I didn’t use the singular). This doesn’t mean you’re going to be accountable to a certain quest this year, but it will give you the opportunity to read on your own terms, which is most important when you are finding it difficult to connect with an assigned text.

If you think you might find some keys to your thinking in what I’ve written here, I’ve given all the relevant posts a “manifesto” tag and located them in the AP English link in the top navigation bar. Happy Manifestoing!

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