Apr 15, 2022
Essays can be wonderful tools to give students space to express themselves and engage intellectually with the texts and topics covered in a course, or to research beyond the scope of the syllabus. Yet in many American universities, the essay has become a calcified and formulaic text. Students are conditioned by grading rubrics to produce essays that follow a particular model and way of laying out thought processes. To combat stale and repetitive essays, and also to invite students to bring themselves, their interests and talents, to bear on the course material, many instructors have been turning to the “un-essay” in recent years for their final assessments. Unessays tend to be open-ended assignments in which students are encouraged to produce creative work, presented in whatever medium they like, and relate it to the course material.
If you are an instructor of Yiddish Studies who has assigned unessay projects, we want to hear from you. Write to us about your unessays: Describe your assignment, its parameters, the kinds of projects you encourage, the scaffolding or support you give to students as they develop their projects, and your strategies for assessment.
If you have examples of excellent student unessay projects, please ask your students’ permission and send these projects to us for publication. This will reward projects that should reach a wider audience while also creating a bank of ideas for future students’ projects. We will publish these pieces in a gallery showcasing the creativity of Yiddish Studies students today.