Lens and Artifact
The essay length should be at least five (5) full pages (about 1500 words), not including works cited.
The essay should adhere to MLA style guidelines, including double spacing, one-inch margins top, bottom, left, and right.
Due Date: Rough draft (at least working thesis statement and a rough outline)
Sunday, November 21, 2021, 11:59 p.m.
Due Date: Final Essay
Wednesday, December 8, 2021, 11:59 p.m.
Abdi Nor Iftin, Call Me American
Plato, “Allegory of the Cave”
A narration or description usually restricted to a single meaning because its events, actions, characters, settings, and objects represent specific abstractions or ideas. Although the elements in an allegory may be interesting in themselves, the emphasis tends to be on what they ultimately mean. Characters may be given names such as Hope, Pride, Youth, and Charity; they have few if any personal qualities beyond their abstract meanings. These personifications are not symbols because, for instance the meaning of a character names Charity is precisely that virtue. (1152)
Professor Amy Shaw, one of my English Department colleagues, developed this Lens and Artifact assignment and calls it:
Call Me Plato: Abdi Nor Iftin’s Journey Through the Cave
Thinking of Abdi Nor Iftin as the “cave dweller” and as the one who escapes the cave may help you think about how to approach the assignment in simple terms.
In this essay, you will analyze Abdi Nor Iftin’s Call Me American using Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” as a lens. Plato’s “Allegory” describes Socrates’ metaphorical story about becoming educated or enlightened. Iftin relates his own powerful journey of how he learns English in a society that heavily discouraged using the English language and influence from the Western world. Iftin’s learning leads him to intense, sometimes disheartening epiphanies, and it also creates obstacles for him in life. These two texts relate in their examination of education or enlightenment and their challenges and triumphs.
You will need to identify key ideas in “Allegory of the Cave” and use them to analyze Iftin’s experiences in Call Me American. In other words, you will use Socrates’ theory as a lens to analyze Iftin’s life experiences. Like wearing a pair of glasses can clarify the world for those with imperfect vision, wearing a pair of Socrates’ “glasses” will clarify (or illuminate, or enrich) your understanding of Iftin’s journey.
Questions to Consider
Some questions that may help you formulate ideas for this essay are listed below. These questions are merely to inspire—they do not imply an outline or a list of questions that you must answer in your paper.
• How does Socrates describe the process of learning and attaining knowledge? Does this process ring true for Iftin? How so?
• Who in Call Me American are like the prisoners in “Allegory”?
• Consider the myriad symbols in Plato’s text. What do the shadows on the wall represent in Iftin’s world? The fire? The puppeteers? The rocky ascent up the cave? The sun?
• How does Iftin feel about his newfound knowledge and language skills? And how does that relate to what Socrates says?
• How do people in the book like Macalin Basbaas, Hassan, and Iftin’s mother respond to “Abdi American’s” learning English/American culture and how would Socrates interpret that?
• While Socrates’ theory celebrates the desire for knowledge, what is the other side of such a discovery?
How to Begin
• Introduce your two texts, your lens and your artifact.
• Summarize your lens (Plato) and lay out its framework or hierarchy or argument.
• Summarize your artifact, focusing on Abdi Nor Iftin’s process for learning and attaining knowledge.
• Compose a thesis that provides you with scope for analysis. If you are like me, your draft thesis may not be completely satisfying but it will get you started. Remember that you can revise your introductory paragraph and thesis once you have drafted enough of your essay to feel more confident about what you want to say.
• Organize your essay to support your thesis. Each paragraph should provide a focused discussion of a specific point.
• Make use of quotations from both texts. Each paragraph should include at least one quote.
• Use our essay rubric to remind you of how your essay will be assessed. The broad areas are thesis, organization, development, and mechanics. The rubric provides details about each of these areas.
• Feel free to be in touch with questions and concerns.