For this essay, you will examine a text thoroughly (likely a portion of a text), and then write a single, thesis-driven analysis of it based on your observations, interpretations, and/or applications of the ideas that you have uncovered, thereby revealing the significance of your chosen text.
By “text,” I mean “object of study that can be read as a text.” In other words, a text can be a printed work, image, ad/political campaign, place, television program, film, video game, public figure, and so forth (this list is not comprehensive). It is very likely that you will only be working with a portion of any longer texts (for instance, it’s best to examine a scene from a film, rather than a whole film or a single idea in an essay, rather than the whole essay). By “thesis,” I mean a creative, argumentative main claim that carries some cultural significance to it. By “observations, interpretations, and applications,” I mean the evidence that you are examining and the explicit meaning that you are drawing from it (i.e. what does your evidence prove and how does it connect with your main claim and/or subclaims?). By “significance,” I mean the answer to the question “So what?” or “Why does it matter that we understand your text in the way that you have argued?” or “What changes as a result of understanding your text in the way that you do?” or “Why do we care?”
Objects of Study:
You may examine…
· any portion of the written texts on the syllabus
· a “cultural, textual artifact” such as a television episode, film, sculpture, painting, place, advertisement or ad campaign, or video game
Given the freedom of choice regarding your objects of study, make absolutely certain that you cite/document properly, both for the in-text (parenthetical) citations and on the required works cited page. (See the MLA guidelines sheets on Blackboard and visit Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab; I should also mention, although I hope that it is not necessary, that it could be useful to review the University’s policies regarding plagiarism).
Hints and Advice: We have discussed this semester how the “lens” through which you look at an object of study focuses “how” you see and make meaning out of it. One way to analyze a text in a new way (and to have a new idea/thesis/main claim) is pick a new lens through which to examine your text. Some examples include: power relationships, hierarchies, language, class, race, gender, sexuality, age, technology, communication, public/private, spirituality, stereotypes/archetypes, materialism/idealism, consumerism, inside/outside, space … the list goes on. All of these lenses play significant roles in image-making or representation in culture and might help you in examining your chosen text.
You may choose to compare or address issues of representation in two or more different texts (for instance, texts that seem to have different purposes, but communicate those purposes in similar ways; or texts that seem similar, but are intended for vastly different audiences), but your paper must combine all texts you use under a single, unifying idea and a single, coherent thesis. Do not write two papers smashed together (i.e. an analysis of one text, and then an analysis of another). Do not prove the same thesis multiple times with different texts. Do not merely compare/contrast – do so only with purpose that is pertinent to your overall argument. (Think about “similarity within difference” from Skill Builder #5.)
Reminders: Remember to “prove” (make plausible) your thesis through detailed evidence from the text itself derived from logical connection, not declaration. You might even think of it as your evidence “revealing” your argument itself (although don’t arrange your paper that way), which will help you to avoid overgeneralization (which is a likely problem if you do not stick to a large extent to your evidence).
Make certain to interpret your evidence – explain explicitly its meaning and/or connection to your thesis. (Remember, that it’s mere data unless you interpret it and connect it to your argument – only then is it evidence.) Have a look at the “Using Evidence” sheet on Blackboard.
Make certain that you are moving beyond authorial intent (what does the text communicate that is not apparent, is not intended, is not obvious?). Make certain that you are moving beyond conventional wisdom, beyond what everyone already knows (or what people think they know).
Ask yourself if your thesis “passes” all of the “tests” as outlined on the “Thesis Assessment” sheet available on Blackboard. Does your thesis evolve? Does your paper end somewhere different from where it began? See WA, Chapter 6. Read it carefully.
In terms of MLA format and grammar/mechanical issues, consider: Have a look at the MLA guideline sheets that have been on Blackboard all semester. In addition, many of you have had surface-level problems (singular/plural agreement problems, possessives, apostrophes, comma-splices, semi-colon misuse and others) that we have addressed more than once; for this assignment, I will be checking past assignments to see if you have addressed those inaccuracies. I have digital copies of your past assignments. I will know. (Also have a good, thorough look at WA, Chapter 11.)
Final Words: This, the final formal essay of this course, combines many of the skills we have developed this semester — you will have to call upon your ability to read carefully, examine images, write specific summaries, analyze particulars to support a larger claim, develop a complex and compelling thesis statement, and write a rhetorically effective essay. Remember to observe, record evidence, consider visual elements, brainstorm binaries (and complicate them and relocate them), watch for patterns, note repetitions and strands, locate anomalies, hierarchicize your findings, consider what rhetorical/persuasive strategies a text’s author uses, prewrite, take notes, draft, redraft, revise, edit and proofread.
Also … you are free to “scavenge” your work from earlier in the class. If any of the essays or skill builders have material in them that could be revised, expanded, complicated, developed, used as evidence, reshaped, etc. so that they are relevant and fully integrated with your Essay #4, you should feel free to use it. Remember, though, that this assignment is different: thus, your thesis for essay 4 must be different from any that have come previously. Plus, any material you use from previous work will have to be smoothly and seamlessly incorporated into your new paper.
A successful essay WILL:
· Present and develop a strong, evolved thesis, which is an actual argument (NOT merely an opinion or description) that is in two parts: 1) Makes a claim and 2) communicates the significance of that claim.
· Move beyond conventional wisdom and not rehash arguments covered in mainstream media.
· Provide evidence from the text(s) that is then used (interpreted/engaged) by you and clearly shown to “prove” (make plausible) your argument.
· Employ a logical and effective organizational structure of well-developed paragraphs and smooth transitions. Paragraphs must “build.” If they can be reordered without much change to your paper, you’re not done.
· Do more than just describe or summarize the text(s), or restate the text’s intended purpose.
· Engage the reader with “zesty” prose, good diction, proper mechanics — readability factors!
· Have an appropriate and interesting title (or at least one that is somewhat creative) that relates to the main claims, interpretations of the paper.
· Be in proper MLA format.
· Have a works cited page: remember that images, too, must be documented accurately.
Note: Any essay that does not present a strong main claim (thesis statement) cannot receive a letter grade greater than a C (and it had better be really good otherwise to achieve that grade).
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