English 103 compostion project 1

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Composition Project 1


We must remove the mask

                   — Montaigne


If you must preserve your secret, wrap it up in frankness

–Alexander Smith


Often the essay’s voice is marked by a tone of candor and familiarity.  Taken into its confidence, we feel privy to the writer’s innermost secrets.  If we like the sound of  the voice, we say the writing is personal.  We say we can relate.  Yet it is interesting to note that the word “personal” comes from the Latin “persona,” or “mask,” suggesting an element of performance, of masquerade. 


            One way the essayist creates a persona is by choosing what to show or tell the reader, and what to hide.  Personal history is presented piecemeal, often while the writer seems to be focused on another subject entirely.  When telling someone else’s story, the writer plays the observer, or looker-on, a lens on the essay’s real subject.


            In David Masello’s “My Friend Lodovico,” for example, we meet the author’s dear friend, Lodovico Capponi.  But we also get to know the author—his history of love affairs and lost friends, his changeable fashions and wandering eye.  For as much as David Masello looks at Lodovico, Lodovico (and we) look at David Masello.  One might say that “My Friend Lodovico” is as much autobiography as it is biography, a double-portrait of the painting and the writer.


            In this essay, try your hand at a double-portrait in the spirit of “My Friend Lodovico.”  Like Masello, your subject will be a friendship, an acquaintance with someone (or something) you have never actually met.  A figure from art, history, or popular culture.  A character in a book, film, or television show.  An image in a painting or a photograph.  A celebrity.  As you prepare to write, consider the persona you will shape on the page, the tidbits of personal history you will reveal.  Think about the title creatively as well.


Your Audience

Certainly, your audience for this project is you, your classmates, and me. But consider even more specifically those who also might have some connection to the cultural artifact (painting, film, etc.)you’ve chosen; consider, too, those who are not or would not be know or relate. Are you writing to them, as well?


Length, Form, Documentation

•Length: 1200 words

•Form: Academic essay, editorial, blog, journal or magazine article, newspaper article, etc.


•Documentation: sources (including images) must be cited appropriately (if you are citing music, be sure to cite line numbers, as you would a poem)

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