- Participation: 20%
- Essay #1: 10%
- Proposal: 5%
- Essay #2: 25%
- Presentation: 15%
- Final Exam: 25%
All English classes use MLA 8 (Modern Language Association) formatting. Click here for a sample page.
I accept all assignments by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. They may be in only the following file formats:
- MS Word (.doc or .docx)
- Libre Office / Open Office (.odt)
- Apple Pages (.pages)
Your participation grade is based partially on attendance but mostly on participating in the class, by whatever means you are capable: classroom discussion, coming to office hours, communicating by email, etc.
Reading Quizzes Cancelled! There will be four, unannounced reading quizzes. Each one will consist of four simple questions of fact from the plays. The function of the reading quizzes is purely to determine whether you read the text.
Essay #1: Critical Analysis
Length: 1500 words
Choose one theory (i.e., one section of one of our chapters) or two closely related theories, go to an original text of that theory (as listed at the end of each chapter and/or in the Reader, on two-hour load in Belzberg Library) and perform a critical summary. That is to say, you’ll summarize the theory itself, and you’ll criticize it as well.
For the summary, your job is to explain how it works as a method of analyzing texts or other art/social objects (e.g., films, video games, etc.). This can include locating this specific theory in its historical/cultural context as well as talking about where it’s located in the world of theory (e.g., as a subset of other theory, as a response to another theory).
For the critique, your job is to explain what kinds of “texts” it might be especially good at addressing (as well as those that it might not be) and/or what kinds of biases or limits it has (i.e., theory pushes your attention towards some ideas and pulls it away from others). Remember, being “critical” doesn’t necessarily mean being negative, but you should be open to the possibility that the theory has limits or even flaws.
That said, please do not treat the preceding two paragraphs (summary and critique) as a list of things you must do in the essay. Instead, it is meant as guide for the kinds of things I am looking for in this essay.
Length: maximum 1 page
This is a brief explanation of what you propose to write for your Term Paper. It should include either a question you want to answer, or a problem you want to solve, or a hypothesis you want to test (i.e., you shouldn’t have decided what your thesis is at this point). In addition, you should name the main texts your essay will use (see below, “Research Paper”), and specifically, why your chosen theory/methodology is appropriate to the object or “text” you are analyzing.
Finally, you must include an outline of your essay (i.e., key terms/concepts you’ll need to define, how you’ll divide it into sections/paragraphs and what topics they’ll cover, what order they will go in and why). Remember, this is a proposal, so you shouldn’t do any of the actual arguing that will be in your paper. You should, instead, tell me what your essay will be.
Essay #2: Theory Application
Length: 2500 words
For this essay, you will pick a theory to apply to a text. Part of the task, then, is to pick a theory that will help better understand the text (i.e., you’re job is not to “prove” that the theory is correct).
The “text” can be any object of study, a text in the broadest sense: a book, short story, poem; a film or series of films; a television show (a single episode or limited selection of episodes); a comic book; a video game; a series of commercials; a genre (with a limited selection of examples); a production company/publisher/producer (with a limited selection of examples); or what have you.
The theory or methodology must come from a specific, original source such as a peer-reviewed article, a book chapter, or even a whole book (NB: there are lots of references in our textbook). You may choose two theories if you want to perform an intersectional analysis (e.g., feminism + postcolonialism, structuralism + Marxism, etc.). You may not repeat the theory you used in Essay #1 (I want you to learn more than one).
Please bear in mind that choosing a body of texts (i.e., more than one) as well as a pair of theories is an added degree of difficulty because you need to explain them all in your essay, which can result in an argument with lots of breadth but no depth. This assignment imagines that you will apply one theory to one text. The other options are there if you feel confident you can handle them.
Dates: November 20th & 27th (see schedule)
Length: 10 minutes (presentation) + 2 – 3 minutes Q&A
For this assignment, you will adapt your Essay #2 into a presentation. It is your job, then, to present your argument: your thesis, your theory, and how that theory unlocks or reveals something about the object of your study.
I strongly recommend you do not read your essay, word for word, because that is not very engaging for the class. Instead, you should convert it to notes that you can present somewhat freely. You may use visual aids if you want to—digital slides, posters, the chalk board—and I will mark you use of them based on how well they aid you in making your point. You may incorporate some class discussion into your ten minutes, but remember that you are responsible for articulating your own argument. Don’t off-load that onto the class.
You will need to adapt your essay to make it into a presentation. For example, you may have to cut some of it in order to fit a ten-minute time frame. You may alter any part of it, including the thesis, and you should revise based on my comments: e.g., if I say there’s a logical flaw somewhere, then you should fix it; if I say the thesis is too broad, you should narrow it, etc.. My goal is to help you make your presentation better.
At the end of your ten minutes, there will be two or three minutes of questions from the class. I will be marking your ability to answer those questions. If your classmates ask only very simple questions, then you won’t be able to show off your ability to answer complex questions (so ask each other interesting questions! no softballs!).
If you are not presenting and you are not in class, you must email me with an acceptable explanation for why you are not supporting your classmates by showing up. If I find your explanation wanting, I will apply a penalty to your own presentation. Support each other. Show up.
Respond to one of the following topics in an essay of minimum 1000 words and maximum 1500 (the minimums and maximums are strict). The essay must follow MLA formatting, including a Works Cited list (even if there is only one work to list).
Each topic contains a list of suggested elements you could choose to include in your essay. You do not need to address all the items on the list, and you are not confined to those items. The lists are suggestions for the kinds of ideas your essay should address.
While it is not required and will not necessarily result in a higher grade, you are free to do outside research if you feel it is appropriate.
It is part of your responsibility to choose an appropriate theory or theories to use in your essay, and using multiple theories in one essay is not inappropriate. You may use the course textbook as your source if you wish, but you can also go directly to the original texts (i.e., as written by hooks, Mulvey, Said, Fiske, etc.).
If you have any questions, you can email me. If you want to have a conversation, we can talk over the phone or video chat.
Remember, the goal of a final exam is to demonstrate what you’ve learned in the course, so your job is to show off.
Email your essay to me by 13 December (Wednesday) at or before 6:30pm at email@example.com.
Avengers: Infinity War Trailer Tease:
The day before the two-and-a-half-minute actual trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, Disney/Marvel Studios released a two-minute “teaser” that features an array of fans anticipating the actual trailer. Analyze this teaser’s use of the genre of “fan-reaction” videos, its invocation of nostalgia for the Marvel franchise, the serial nature of those films, and its representation of its fans as diverse and unreservedly enthusiastic. Feel free to compare to the actual trailer for the film.
Fenty Beauty (by Rihanna):
In 2017, the singer Rihanna launched a makeup line called “Fenty Beauty” (her last name). Analyze their website’s (often indirect) use of references to “race” and ethnicity through things like skin tone, the ethnic diversity of their models, the design of the website itself, the music used in their videos, Rihanna’s image as a pop star, etc.. You are not responsible for the contents of the whole web site, but you may want to pay special attention to their promotional videos as they are rich in signification.
The Korean musician Psy’s music video “Gangnam Style” went viral in 2012; it was the first YouTube video to hit one billion and then two billion views. Compare the references to geography, wealth, and class in the song as they signify in Korea to how they signified in the English-speaking world (primarily America) at the time of the video’s release. If you are not familiar with the song’s meaning in its original context, you’ll need to do some light research for this assignment.
Kendal Jenner Pepsi Commercial:
Earlier this year, Pepsi pulled an add featuring Kendal Jenner in a dramatization of a protest march. It was never officially released, and the campaign that was supposed to follow was canceled, although the video is viewable online. Place this ad’s use of signifiers of protest and activist culture—the crowd’s diversity, Jenner’s racialized transformation, marches, reggae music, the police presence, etc.—into the context of the last few years of political protests (e.g., Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, anti-Trump, fascist demos and counter-demos, etc.). You may also do some historical research into American protest culture of the last century or two: abolition, prohibition, anti-war, civil rights, feminism, gay rights, etc..
Night of the Living Dead (1968):
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead created an entire sub-genre of horror movies. Analyze the signifiers of “race” and racism that it employs, including but not limited to the fact that Ben (Duane Jones) is Black, John and Barbara’s WASPy mannerisms, Harry’s attitude towards Ben, the idle wealthy vs. the capable working-class, etc.
Time’s Person of the Year, “The Silence Breakers”:
Time Magazine’s “person of the year” for 2017 is a group of people: those who have publicly accused men in positions of power of sexual harassment and assaults. Describe how the article characterizes these “silence breakers” as remarkably diverse but also united in their experiences and actions. The article uses elements such as animation, still photos (of faces), named and anonymous sources, famous and unknown sources, and references to their abusers, including people like Harvey Weinstein and Donald J. Trump.