Throughout the syllabus are primary sources with asterisks in front of them. You must select ONE of these sources to analyze in a 500-750 word (2-3 page, 12 pt font, double-spaced) essay, due on the day that primary source will be discussed. The easiest way to approach these texts is to analyze them in a step-by-step manner that takes you through progressive levels of analysis.
1. Read for the literal meaning of the text. What is going on? Who are the characters or people involved, and what is the situation or conflict? What is the author describing?
2. Examine the larger meaning of the text. What is the author trying to communicate to his audience? What is his/her approach? Why do you think he/she chose this way of getting his point across?
3. Dig for the historical significance of the text. What can we tell about the cultural milieu that produced this work? About the attitudes and biases of the person who wrote it? Are there any details that give us insight into particular aspects of that society – values, activities, personal lives, relationships, even things like types of clothing and what they ate?
4. Once you can answer these types of questions regarding the text, you are ready to critically analyze its usefulness as a historical document. What are the benefits of using the text you are reading as a historical document? What are the drawbacks? Do the plusses outweigh the minuses? What other types of documents or sources might be helpful in comparison with the text you are examining to help determine its validity?