(200 points; final draft due 6/12 by midnight; submit through Blackboard)
Directions: Write a well organized, meticulously edited essay of approximately 1500 words, in response to one of the below prompts:
1. Salvaging the wasteland
Cuarón’s Children of Menpresents a vision of the future that is neither entirely bleak nor hopeful. Write an essay that argues that for a particular understanding of this film’s vision of the future, paying close attention to its representation of some or several of these elements (any of these may also be treated as a theme, if you wish to write more of a thematic analysis of the film): geopolitics, immigration, state power, race, the family, terrorism, globalization, fertility/infertility (both literal and figurative), humanity/inhumanity, rootedness/rootlessness, hope/despair, or fear. Make sure to write a thesis that is nuanced and specific. A thesis that treats the film’s vision of the future as exclusively dire, or optimistic, will not produce a strong essay. While you are certainly not expected to employ terms from film criticism/theory with this essay topic, you are encouraged to do so, as long as you consult me in advance (I’ve posted a document on film criticism and some related links on Blackboard).
How would you describe Theo’s character as his circumstances and motivations shift throughout the film? What would you say his goal is? How does he change? What does his goal become? What makes the difference in him? Be sure to ground your reading in specific evidence from the film.
3. Two ways of approaching V for Vendetta
V for Vendettaenvisions a dystopian future in England, where the nation has fallen under the control of a totalitarian regime. (OPTION ONE): There are lots of themes here: state power vs. the rights of the individual; vigilantism as resistance to tyranny; mass media (mainly television) as producer of knowledge; fear as guarantor of consent; vengeance; justice; the mo
ral character of terrorism; the exploitation of “faith”; management/control of information; corruption; misanthropy; persecution of LGBT population; et al. Any of these would make a good topic for a thematic analysis of the film, (OPTION TWO) but I’ll pose a specific question as well: in which ways does this film comment or play upon currentanxieties about the powers afforded to our government(s)? Think of the film’s depiction of torture, pharmaceutical testing, viral pandemic, or privacy infringement, and the government’s participation in or complicity with any of these. Is the film essentially a cautionary tale, a warning against the dangers of nationalism or reactionary politics? Or is the film simply an affirmation of human dignity against despotic atrocity? Decide which idea – perhaps something quite different – this film expresses, and write an essay that traces the development and expression of that idea through the film’s plot, images, character dynamics, dialogue, and/or conflicts.
Utopia: A place, state, or condition that is ideally perfect in respect of politics, laws, customs, and conditions.
Dystopia: A futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control. Dystopias, through an exaggerated worst-case scenario, make a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or political system.
Characteristics of a Dystopian Society
• Propaganda is used to control the citizens of society.
• Information, independent thought, and freedom are restricted.
• A figurehead or concept is worshipped by the citizens of the society.
• Citizens are perceived to be under constant surveillance.
• Citizens have a fear of the outside world.
• Citizens live in a dehumanized state.
• The natural world is banished and distrusted.
• Citizens conform to uniform expectations. Individuality and dissent are bad.
• The society is an illusion of a perfect utopian world.
The Dystopian Protagonist
• often feels trapped and is struggling to escape.
• questions the existing social and political systems.
• believes or feels that something is terribly wrong with the society in which he or she lives.
• helps the audience recognizes the negative aspects of the dystopian world through his or her perspective.
Both Children of Men and V for Vendetta feature dystopian societies and protagonists. Write an essay that locates and explains the dystopian elements in each film, using the above criteria to guide you. Rather than thinking of this solely as a compare/contrast essay, however, make sure to argue for a particular understanding of each film’s criticism of a current trend, societal norm, or political system.
Key Things to Keep in Mind:
· Include a proper thesis: Your thesis must make an argument, not an observation.
An “observation” suggests something that is generally true about the text, like an objective element of the plot or an image used by the author. For example, if we are writing about the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf we might make an observation about the way animal imagery seems to function for the Geat warriors. We might observe that while the Geats feature an image of a boar on their battle helmets (thus seemingly identifying with this ferocious animal), there are other moments in the text when the Geats shun vicious monsters (when they are reluctant to fight the dragon, for example.) Someone who has read the work carefully probably wouldn’t disagree with this observation; it refers to an image used by the narrator and a specific plot point. This observation does, however, pose a question or “problem” for the careful reader: what do we as readers make of this apparent contradiction? Why is this juxtaposition important for the narrative more broadly? What are the consequences of this juxtaposition on plot, theme, or character? So what?
An “argument”—your thesis statement— is your solution to this problem. The thesis answers the “so what” question by explaining the significance of the observation and explaining why an invested reader should care about this detail. For example, one might argue that the juxtaposition of the Geats ferocious helmets and their subsequent unwillingness to approach the dragon suggests an inherent difference between the warriors’ appearance (outward show) and their actions. This seems to be a theme in the work. The Danish coastguard who greets the Geats when they arrive in Denmark remarks that there is often a difference between “what is said” and “what is done,” and at the end of the epic, Wiglaf says that this discrepancy between word and action will ultimately impair the Geats’ ability to protect their kingdom. A thesis statement could read: “The difference between the Geats ferocious appearance and their later unwillingness to fight fearful monsters like the dragon suggests a devastating discrepancy between their appearance and their actions—a discrepancy that is responsible for the deterioration of the warrior culture in the epic.”
It is important to keep in mind that your thesis statement should argue something with which another reader can disagree. If I argued the thesis above, the body of my essay would not only need to prove that there is, in fact, a contradiction between the Geats’ appearance and action, but would also necessarily provide additional textual examples of how this discrepancy contributes to the deterioration of the warrior kingdoms in the epic. And, I’d need to be aware that other readers might not see the same contradiction. For example, another viable thesis statement could read: “As clear from biblical references in the text, humans identify with animals over monsters because animals are more like humans. Both humans and animals were created by God and thereby remind men of Divinity; whereas, monsters are perversions of God’s nature and thereby indicate a diabolic presence.” Rather than suggesting a contradiction, the imagery on the helmet suggests a righteous identification with God’s creation and an equally righteous aversion to things that are not “of God.” These two thesis statements offer opposite solutions to the problem posed above; both are viable and could be supported with textual evidence; and both make points with which a careful reader could disagree.
· Using evidence: Just as scientists provide data to support their results, in this paper you must use evidence from the film(s) in order to convince your audience that you have a cogent argument. Evidence must be provided in every body paragraph in order to support your claims. Where will you find evidence? First, you must carefully at the film’s screenplay to remind yourself of key scenes/moments. When you provide evidence, you are providing proof from the film that shows your audience that your thesis is valid. Critics most commonly provide evidence by quoting a line or a passage from a work. When you provide evidence, it is imperative not to take it out of context. For example, if a character is joking with another character that he will kill himself if he fails his chemistry test and there’s no other mention of death in the work, it would be unfair to represent this character as suicidal by eliminating the context of him joking. Accurately quoting and fairly representing events/characters/etc. adds to your credibility as a writer. If you find evidence that counters your thesis, you should still engage with it. Think about what your critics would say and come up with a response to show how that particular piece of evidence might still support your stance. Once you’re done gathering evidence, you can move on to the analysis portion in which you explain how the evidence supports your claims.
· A few other things to keep in mind: This essay should demonstrate your own critical thinking about the film(s). Make sure to write a proper thesis statement, situated at or near the beginning of your paper.
This bears repeating: editing is crucial. Any papers containing multiple errors with grammar and/or mechanics are unlikely to earn passing scores. Please make every effort to ensure that your work is edited and formatted according to current MLA guidelines, including a works cited page.
Be sure to outline your essay before you begin writing; outlines must be submitted with your final drafts. Your outline can be formatted however you like. I just need to see evidence that you gave some forethought to the structure and sequence of your paper.
Here is a helpful guide for working on this type of assignment:
Secondary Source Requirement:
For this assignment, you are required to use at least one of the critical essays posted on Blackboard. You may use them to support your interpretive arguments in the paper, or you may use them to introduce an opposing viewpoint. You could also, of course, use one of these sources simply to develop a context for your thesis/argument. Think of these sources as term papers that others have written about your chosen story. By using them in your own paper, you’re joining a community of readers/writers who have thought critically about this particular story, as you’ll be doing in this paper. While you are encouraged to quote these sources directly, you may also choose to paraphrase their content if doing so better suits the nature of your discussion.
For help with the secondary source requirement, please refer to these websites:
Please be reminded: using these sources properly is an essential part of this assignment. You must integrate quotes properly, following all relevant MLA guidelines.
Prior to submitting your final draft, you will need to meet with a WRC Instructor and have a brief discussion of your draft, or at least a portion of your draft. Be sure to have two or three specific questions about your draft ready to give to the lab instructor; do not simply ask the instructor to read your essay. Your conversation with him/her should be driven by your own questions about your draft. If you need help thinking of questions, please see me. Make sure to obtain a signed, dated WRC confirmation sheet.
Point distribution for this assignment:
Supporting materials (rough draft, outline): 25 points
Submitting this assignment:
In order to submit this paper, click on “Homepage,” and then “Writing Assignments,” and then “Essay Three.” You’ll be able to upload your paper as an attachment. Make sure to do so no later than 11:59 pm on the due date.