Group Presentation: Origin Stories

What we believe about its origins profoundly impacts what we believe about the thing itself. If an entrepreneur’s success story begins with her being born into poverty, it reframes the wealth she generates as an adult. If a city square was once used as a site of human enslavement, it changes what memorials we believe are appropriate to build on that site today. Culturally, we believe origins matter, and that belief has given birth to a particular narrative trope: the origin story (read up at Wikipedia or TV Tropes). Origin stories are often less concerned with facts and more concerned with appeals to widely-accepted truths. It is deeply important in a country with an economic system like we see in the United States, for example, to retell “rags to riches” stories: they inspire investment in the system, they are necessary for market competition. This means when we tell the story of the entrepreneur, we can sometimes leave out information about the schools she attended that may have offered her a professional advantage down the line.

For this assignment you will study origin stories as a way of understanding how we talk about identity in social spaces. You’ll be divided into five groups, each of which will be assigned one of the following characters:

  • Group 1: Spiderman
  • Group 2: Ms Marvel
  • Group 3: Daredevil
  • Group 4: Magneta
  • Group 5: Miss America
  • Group 6: Black Panther

Slideshows are online here: 9am10am1pm2pm.

Read the origin story of your character (posted on Blackboard under “Documents”). Assign each of your group member one component part of this character’s identity to study. These can be anything that forms their persona: religion, gender, class, race, family structure, environment, etc. Consider the following questions: What identities shape this character? How do these identities intersect? Where do they diverge?How does this character meet the needs of the world they live in? What does this character tell us about our own world?

The week of Sept 11th we will give informal presentations on these origin stories. Your presentations should help the class understand three things:

  1. The origin story of this character.
  2. The many intersectional identities that form this character.
  3. The way that this origin story reflects broader truths about the world we live in.

Presentation specifications: Presentations will last roughly 10 minutes. Each group can use one slide in this presentation. That slide can contain images and/or text, but the text should be limited. Presentations will be graded on content: critical thinking and analysis.


This assignment co-authored with instructor Thaddeus Fortney.