Alter Ego Assignment

This assignment is similar to the temporal juxtaposition assignment. It also borrows from Greg Ulmer's mystory.

The purpose of the alter ego assignment is:

  • to teach research in an innovative manner
  • teach how to synthesize that research
  • teach how to use synthesis as the basis of an idea (i.e., invention comes after research,not before, as thesis driven teaching advocates)
  • teach how to arrange material to demonstrate an idea

The basic premise is that identity (person or thing) comes from a variety of influences. To teach that point and to also teach research skills, students do the alter ego project. The alter ego project can be based on a canonical tale of identity,  The Autobiography of Malcolm X. In the book, Malcolm X discovers his identity, X, through a variety of influences:

  • his father's murder in Nebraska
  • riding the rails
  • dealing drugs in Roxbury, MA.
  • reading the dictionary in prison
  • making the haj

These are disparate moments. Each, however, when juxtaposed reveals a pattern: racism. Malcolm X uses that pattern to form his alter ego: X.

Students do a similar project. They research 3 categories. These are categories that typically shape identity (see Ulmer's popcycle):

  • Family moment
  • Popular culture interest
  • What they are plan to study (major)

You can add another category, but 4 is the most for this project. LIke the temporal juxtapositon assignment, the project is divided into 3 parts:

Project One: Identifying and researching 3 categories.

Project Two: Showing the pattern one discovers in the research

Project Three: Writing the alter ego (i.e., the pattern).

In this sense, students don't write autobiographies ("I was born in Lexington, I went to such and such high school, my dad taught me to drive when I was 16"), but instead explore an alter ego that, in essence, is already there (these are 3 things shaping their sense of self) but that they have not put together for the purpose of exploration or writing. The final project brings it altogether in a space (paper, movie, webiste, blog, wiki) that shows (not argues) the idea that I am X (X being whatever alter ego they have discovered).


Course Name: 
WRD 110
Assignment Type: 
Major Project
Assignment Length: 
Multiple Class Periods
Primary Pedagogical Focus: 
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