Classroom Resources

The following assignment was drawn from a course designed by professor Kaia Sand (Portland State University).

What are the questions that prompt Jena Osman’s investigation in Public Figures?

With those thoughts in mind, pick a city monument you’d like to analyze (preferably one that has been largely overlooked).

1) Conduct an observational study of the monument:
Physical Description: How tall is it? What material is it made of? What does it look like? What is the figure depicting (and, aside from knowing what it is supposed to depict, what does it look like to you?). Is there wear & tear/decay? Is there a base/foundation/pedestal? Is there any language on it?
Physical Context: Where is it located in the city? What is the space like (is it in a park? An intersection? Etc)? Describe it. Do humans move among it? Is there foliage? Buildings? How does the monument/fountain mesh with its surroundings?
Social Context: Look out at the city from the monument’s vantage point; consider what it sees. Take a picture of the view from the monument if you can. Spend some time around the monument, noting if or how people interact with it, notice it, ignore it, move around it, etc. Come at different times of the day; does the action or interaction change?

2) Conduct a historical study of the monument:
Visit the City Archives to browse the “Property Control File” on your monument, and synthesize your findings into a short paper (400-500 words) describing a historical context for your monument. Search electronic databases (such as LexisNexis, Ebsco, ProQuest) to find out more (the moment it was chosen, etc.) If possible, include a photo from the archives.
Some questions to guide you: How was it acquired? When? Who was the architect/builder? Sculptor? Do you know anything about either person? Why was this particular figure selected? What do you know about the actual history of the figure depicted? Do you know why it was acquired/sited there? Is there record of more history after the monument was acquired? Were there controversies?

Finally, consider what has changed from the time of its installation – in the city or the neighborhood, to the monument, about the relation between the two?

Two-Page Spread

In response to a specific two-page spread in Osman’s book, please create your own two-page spread responding to your monument on 8.5 x 11 paper. Make sure that a bit of the information from the first two assignments (observational study, historical context) makes it into your spread, but you can also make creative/lateral/connective leaps, as Jena Osman does. You do not need to lay this out on a computer; physically cutting and pasting is great, too. Please include a photo. All the pages can be compiled into a class “Public Figures” pdf book.


Please write an essay 1000-1200 word essay closely reading Osman’s two-page spread. Osman’s work straddles between essay and poetry, and uses other media (photographs, drawings). For this essay, please arrive at an argument (a thesis) by closely reading a two-page spread from Public Figures, tracking, also, how your process of creating your own two-page spread gave you insights into the original one in Public Figures.