Cultural Artifact Analysis Essay

Cultural Artifact Analysis Essay.

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The purpose of a cultural analysis essay focused on historical artifacts is to demonstrate in writing your ability to think critically about specific historical evidence (primary sources), often written artifacts such as literature, letters and other first-person accounts, and legal/political documents, or visual artifacts such as art, advertisements, and other print media. Your writing should demonstrate your ability to understand and appreciate the selected historical artifacts in context and to apply major concepts and interpretive approaches from Women’s Studies to those artifacts, such as intersectionality. The best essays will address the social and cultural dynamics that influenced or shaped the creation of the specific artifact(s).

A cultural analysis essay is not a book report; your writing should aim to provide analytical and interpretive thought that is not immediately evident in the historical artifacts themselves.


Select two to four specific historical artifacts from our course textbook* and develop a focused cultural analysis based on one of the following five topics:

  1. How does the intersection of gender and economic or social class inform the construction or creation of visual or written artifacts from a specific historical period?
  2. How does the intersection of gender and ethnicity, “race,” or national origin inform the construction or creation of visual or written artifacts from a specific historical period?
  3. How are attitudes and approaches to gender expressed differently across the generations? (Please select artifacts that are at least 35 years apart.)
  4. How are attitudes and approaches to gender represented differently in diverse geographic regions within the United States (e.g. North-South; East Coast-Western territories; urban-rural)?
  5. How have specific male historical figures contributed to and/or productively informed women’s rights movements in the United States and what does this reveal about the construction of gender in our culture?

The blue framed pages at the end of each chapter offer the best starting point for identifying specific historical artifacts, although students may also select material from within the chapters so long as that material is a specific artifact and not general textbook passages. Specific artifacts most likely are: paintings, photographs, advertisements, letters, first person accounts, newspaper columns, poems, legal briefs, trial transcripts, or political documents.


Cultural Analysis Essays should be composed to college-level standards of grammar and organization; your essay should be well developed with supporting evidence from both the artifact(s) at the focus of your analysis and relevant scholarly sources.

Strong written analysis includes the following:

  • A specific introduction that provides relevant, contextual background of the focus artifact or artifacts,
  • A clear statement of the interpretation to be offered in the essay, such as through a purpose statement or thesis, that directly address one of the intersectional options in the assignment
  • A consistent interpretive focus on the features of the primary sources, the artifacts themselves: What do they express? What does this expression mean? How, specifically, is this expression conveyed? Why might the original author/creator have chosen to produce this specific artifact in this way (and for whom)?
  • An awareness of both the intentional, obvious features of the artifacts and the unconscious, unintentional, or culturally influenced aspects of the artifacts, such a biases or other historically informed values and beliefs,
  • A concluding analysis that suggests the larger significance (within an intersectional framework) of the artifact(s) for its originating context as well as our own time, and
  • Precisely documented quotations or evidence from the primary sources (the artifacts) as well as secondary sources (research) via MLA or APA format; at least two (but no more than five in an essay of this length) relevant secondary sources should be referenced in addition to the primary source artifacts. (All need to be documented.)

Length: 4–6 pages

**This assignment uses TurnItIn to check originality.**

Please see the Rubric attached

Cultural Artifact Analysis Essay

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