Assignment #1 – Present: Place and People
700-800 words; due February 5
The goal of this assignment is to provide a brief survey and description of the neighborhood of the bookstore that you’re researching, as it presently appears. Doing so will enable you to situate the bookstore in a particular place and as a particular kind of bookstore. Making use of the materials contained in the curated archive for your bookstore and the digital tools available to you on the course website, write a blog that maps the culture(s) of the bookstore’s neighborhood and explains the current relation of the bookstore to that neighborhood (that is, how the store and the kinds of books it sells appear to serve the neighborhood; if it no longer exists then what other kinds of businesses or services seem to have replaced it in serving the culture(s) of the neighborhood). You must also incorporate into your survey/description at least two or three ideas or terms from the course readings, in this case those ideas and terms that help to define “place” and the kind of bookstore about which you’re writing.
For this assignment you will compose a short blog that incorporates a Google map of the neighborhood, links to any websites or sources cited in your blog, and any visual materials that illustrate the geographical location of the bookstore, the demographics of that neighborhood, and images of the bookstore (or the building that the bookstore formerly occupied). All this information will be accessible in your curated archive, though which items you deem most important and how many you incorporate into the blog will be up to you.
A blog is a short narrative that is primarily descriptive and explanatory, though there is usually an implied perspective or argument in the narrative’s stance. A blog is very similar to a short review (book, film, performance, etc.), and especially to an older journalistic form, the feuilleton:
The feuilleton was a space within the newspaper devoted to commenting and reflecting on cultural phenomena, such as art exhibitions, inventions, literary novels, and musical events, but also social phenomena such as ethnic diversity, changing social mores, and class fragmentation. It gave rise to novel styles of reporting that went beyond the attempt to factually report events and rejected claims to objectivity. Instead, contributions to the feuilleton were intentionally engaged in subjective meaning-making. Coinciding with the more general growth of print-journalism and the height of cross-national newspaper consumption, the feuilleton itself achieved broad popularity and created practices of reading and talking about its contents. At the same time, it was lamented as being superficial, unserious, and having only entertainment value.
Your blog, therefore, can reflect your own voice and thoughts, although your personal tone should not become intrusive or distracting. You’ll note that in my model the personal tone is employed to make connections, transitions, and interpretations. You’ll also see that I use the final paragraph of the blog for reflection, the general name for those places in a narrative where the writer pauses his or her demonstration to reflect on it, to raise or answer a question about it, to define its terms, to draw out an implication, or to offer a qualification or limitation to the case being made. Consequently, that is where I referenced the course readings. While I believe that’s the easiest way to meet that requirement you’re free to reference them elsewhere (for example, as you describe the neighborhood and the bookstore).
Devise an appropriate title for your post that clearly conveys your narrative’s focus. Avoid simply rehashing the assignment name; what title will best reflect what your post is about?
Provide at least six tags for your post, i.e. “City Lights,” “bookstores,” “Lawrence Ferlinghetti,” “San Francisco,” etc. Tags are index words that inform readers about the people and topics included in your post, so they’re valuable aids in leading readers to your blog. It’s ok if you repeat a number of tags in all your posts. In fact, that’s essential for establishing and advertising the subject matter of your blog. Tags should be no more than two words and they should have a direct and meaningful relationship to the content in your post.
For a good discussion of tags and how to use them read Tom Ewer’s post “WordPress Tags: Everything You Need To Know” here: https://managewp.com/how-to-tag-effectively
To create a useful map you’ll want to first want to identify the name of the neighborhood in which your bookstore is/was located, using any geographical names on the map as the starting point for your search in the curated archive to uncover a history and demographic information.
Using Google Maps you’ll also want to locate any of the following organizations/businesses to identify the institutional and commercial conservators and/or purveyors of cultural productions that are present in the neighborhood:
- Art galleries
- Music stores (for recordings or instruments)
- Other bookstores
Next, you should survey the retail environment:
- What kinds of businesses seem predominant in the neighborhood?
- What sorts of restaurants are in the area?
- Is there a cluster of certain cuisines?
- Finally, what houses of worship are there in the neighborhood?
Once the particular neighborhood has been investigated, the neighborhood can then be plotted in relation to the larger city in which it’s located:
- What is the physical shape of the neighborhood (in terms of its geography and street layout)?
- Is the neighborhood in the city center or in an outlying district?
- Is the neighborhood a business or residential area, or is it a mixture of both?
While it is not necessary or advisable to inventory all this information, accessing a useful portion of it will help generate a more accurate picture of the culture of a bookstore’s neighborhood (note that my example limits itself to information relevant only to the Jewish community).
And remember, the map is not an end in itself; your listing of cultural establishments and of businesses and services will be evident in the pins you drop on the map, but they must also be incorporated into your narrative as illustrating some point about the neighborhood.
Map Examples (using Google Map):