Integrative Essay 2


This second section of the class has had three aims:

1.     To think over your own experiences and memories related to forming an enduring sense of self in the world,

2.     To become familiar with the basics of Erik Erikson’s developmental theory of identity,

3.     To learn and be able to apply a culturalist perspective to the above

The present essay assignment gives you the opportunity to further integrate these three activities while showing me that you have effectively done each.


The Assignment:

Part One (60):

Having thought about your own experience in high school with social groups, culture and self images, and having thought about the idea of “emerging adulthood” as a time that extends the exploration of identity into college years, please write an essay in which you use Erikson to describe your own movement toward or away from the formation of an identity from adolescence until the present.  Be sure to use as many of Erikson’s ideas on identity formation as you can, defining them fully and clearly and then applying them to yourself.   As an alternative to using yourself as a case study, you may use Justin from the film Thumbsucker, but remember that it is very important to attend closely to detail so you might need to watch the film again. 


(Relevant ideas from Erikson include identity, self-image, idealization, life cycle crisis, “fit,” negative identity, identity diffusion and defenses against it.  Other topics of relevance to a discussion of identity formation can include self-image, use of culture, vocational choice, goals, social and historical context.)


Part Two (40 points):

Develop a set of critical reflections on your presentation and analyses in part one, based on the distinction between independent and interdependent selves as presented in Markus and Kitayama.  Be sure to address (a) the ways your experience of self (and others) falls into either category, and (b) the implications of the article for Erikson’s theory of the identity crisis.


The essay should be 7 to 10 pages long, double-spaced with 1” margins, 12 pt. font, and page numbers.  A hard copy of your essay is due in class on October 23rd.  Please do not send the essay to me by email. 


In grading the essays, I will consider

1.     The fullness and accuracy of your presentation and use of Erikson’s theory of identity formation,

2.     The care with which you have developed and examined your own (or Justin’s) life experience,

3.     The fullness and accuracy of your use of Markus and Kitayama’s article. 


Remember that the criteria for grading the interpretive essays are much more rigorous than for the exploratory assignments.  Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns, or for help.