In-Class Essay Assignment for Writing in the Humanities at Mount Angel Seminary

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

At Mount Angel Seminary, I teach a College One composition course entitled Writing in the Humanities.  In the course, the students write two essays focusing on a large mosaic of the Annunciation in the lobby of Annunciation, one of the main buildings of the seminary.

The mosaic of the Annunciation, based on a icon
written through the hand of  Brother Claude Lane, OSB

This is the assignment sheet each student receives about the first of the two essays, an in-class essay they write after spending two earlier class periods on iconography.  In the first class the students learn about the use of color in icons.  In the second, they write in front of the mosaic, gathering as many detailed observations as they can.

In-Class Essay #1: Describing an Image
Writing in the Humanities

In your essay, write a detailed description of the mosaic of the Annunciation in the lobby of Annunciation.  Use your description to demonstrate you have carefully and thoroughly observed the mosaic.  The introductory paragraph and thesis statement should give the reader a hint of the description you will offer in the rest of your essay.

Your description should focus on three areas: composition, color, and identification.  Composition should address the arrangement of the figures and other elements in the mosaic, and color should address the placement and use of color throughout the mosaic.

The section on identification should explain how the viewer might know who the figures are in the mosaic.  You may paraphrase but not directly quote the Gospel of Luke.  You may also wish to discuss the location and placement of the mosaic in this section.

Focus on your description as a neutral reporter; do not include your own opinion or analysis in your essay.

Line drawing from the Orthodox Church in America