Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Bluest Eye: Group Project PowerPoint Presentation Guidelines

Novelist, essayist, professor, and literary critic Toni Morrison (b. 1931)
Final Project: Group PowerPoint Presentation (25 points)

The members of each group are expected to agree on one of the major themes of Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye, and explore that theme. The major theme should be considered as the central, controlling idea of your piece—again, if you find that other themes of significance are surfacing and converging with your major theme as you develop your project, please note them. 

You may also interweave some of the other relevant thematic discussions from our semester (the focus on the alien/outcast/outsider in literature and popular culture) into this group presentation.

Sample themes: aesthetics (beauty), alienation, childhood, class distinctions, colorism/color consciousness, community, corporeality, difference, equa lity, ethics/morality,  family, femininity, hypocrisy, identity, individuality, innocence, intellectualism, interracialism,literacy, loneliness, masculinity, monstrousness, morality, poverty, race relations, racism, rebellion, religion, responsibility, segregation, separatism, sexism, sexual exploitation, sexuality, violence. Some of these themes overlap—your thesis should reflect your theme in a clear, well-articulated manner.

You are encouraged to use video, film, photographs, text (including quotes from the text), and other documents to create a PowerPoint presentation of your work (maximum15 minutes in length). 

You must include a slide listing the “Credits,” i.e., the specific contribution made by each group member. In addition, you must create a Works Cited Page as the final slide of your presentation, using MLA-style. Refer to the MLA Style Guide on the course blog for MLA-style compliance. At our final class meeting, the group members will present their projects.  I encourage you to be as imaginative as possible with these presentations. 

Below is a list of the criteria for your PowerPoint, adapted from a rubric adapted from a former colleague.

Final Project Rubric for PowerPoint Presentation Photo-documentaries and Essay

The following categories provide a clear list of the elements that are expected in each group’s project, regardless of its form and purpose.  Use these criteria as a tool that will enable you, as the designer, to produce persuasive communication by means of innovation, creativity, and polished reflection.  Each of the categories is worth 5 points, for a total of 25 points of the final grade.

GROUP NAME_____________________________________

 Thesis and Purpose:                                                                               Points___

How clear is your thesis?  Is the topic compelling and relevant not only to your own interests but to an issue of larger significance?  How well do the images (photos, film, or other visuals) illustrate both the thesis and its related ideas in a cogent manner?

Composition:                                                                                         Points___

Does the project follow a logical flow of thought?  Do these ideas transition well and are they well-supported by both visual and interpretive qualities?  Is the project free of grammatical errors and does it show familiarity with simple, compound, and complex sentence structures?  Can it be used as a model for other students in the future? 

Technical Image and Quality/Audio Recording and Editing:                       Points___

How well have you operated your camera, produced high-quality digital files, or created high quality images?  This also includes how well you utilized the basic elements of photography, including lighting and composition, to make or choose the most interesting photographs possible.  Do the photographs demonstrate a variety of images and perspectives?  Do they seem to illustrate or create a pattern of thought?  How well have you recorded (or integrated) sound, including ambient sound and interviews, and how will have you edited the packaged product if sound is not provided?  How does the overall final project look, including captions, titles, transitions, audio, and image?

Caption Information and Presentation:                                                       Points___

Is there a clear integration of the visual and written composition of the final project?  How well have you complemented your images with written text?  How does the written text (approximately 350 – 500 words) act to amplify and enhance the quality of the project as a whole?  Are original insights supported by relevant research in your written text or is it merely expository? 

Individual Performance:                                                                             Points___


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Superman and the Mole Men

Hi, class,

As I mentioned last Thursday, we will be looking at this film on Tuesday. I am hoping that you all are familiar with the "Superman" character as presented in film, television, and comic books. Although Superman himself could be viewed as an "outsider," given that he is literally an alien being from another planet, this film doesn't really examine that.
Superman and the Mole Men (also known as The Unknown People) was a feature-length movie (dir. by Lee Sholem) that was later re-edited into two episodes for the 1950s-era TV show. The plot revolves around three little visitors from the center of the earth’s core, whose lives are disturbed by an oil rig that has drilled deep into the earth. 

When the little mole men (ignore the zippers on the back of their costumes--lol) come up from their habitat to explore the desert, the townspeople become frightened because they are “different.” A mob (led by a bully) forms, and the three are nearly lynched. 

Racial allegory or justification for segregation?
Of course, the film has been read as a reaction to the Cold War Communist “scare” (and Cold War-era movies), but it can also be read as an allegorical reading of race relations and mob mentality, with Superman, of course, as the voice of reason. The little mole men mean no harm, and after witnessing the evil and hatred and intolerance of humankind, they return to their own world at the center of the earth.

So the question I have is: is the film a progressive, forward-thinking allegory on the dangers of mob mentality and a plea for racial "tolerance," or is it instead suggesting that we would all get along we were to remain in our separate spheres, i.e., a justification for continued segregation? How do you view it, vis a vis Frankenstein, or The Monster? I encourage you to think about these questions as you view the film.  

All best,

Prof. Williams

Monday, February 28, 2011

Guidelines for English 102 Research Papers

 ASSIGNMENT: You will write a fully documented, multiple-sourced research/literary analysis paper (approximately 7-10 pages in length), which will follow MLA guidelines in matters of form (see MLA in-text citation style below—for complete MLA style, click at left on course blog), and it will contain a Works Cited Page, in-text citations to those sources, and a complete outline. For your first paper, you must use a total of eight (8) in-text citations from at least four (4) sources, in any combination.
 Your first paper, on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, will focus on a theme of interest to you. For this paper, you will be examining the novel utilizing a particular critical perspective—psychoanalytic, feminist, gender studies, Marxist, critical race theory, or cultural criticism. You may utilize these articles as part of your Works Cited sources, or you may find others. We will have a brief “brainstorming” session on Thursday, 3/3 to assist you in developing a topic and focus for your first paper.
 Sample themes: aesthetics, alienation, childhood, community, corporeality, difference, Enlightenment, ethics/morality, family, femininity, freedom, identity, literacy, human nature, hypocrisy, innocence, overreaching, good and bad parenting, loneliness, masculinity, monstrousness, nature, radicalism, rebellion, religion, responsibility, revolution, science, sexuality, the limits of knowledge, playing “God,” violence.
 The 1st research paper (Frankenstein) will be due on Tuesday, 3/15, by 10:00 pm. Any paper submitted after this date will result in a loss of 5 points (ex: submitted by Wednesday, 3/16 for a possible maximum of 10 pts.). NO papers will be accepted after Wednesday, 3/16. You may submit your paper early.
 NOTE: For research papers, YOU MAY NOT USE the following as sources, as they are NOT considered scholarly works: SparkNotes, CliffsNotes, ClassicNotes, Enotes, GradeSaver, or any other student guides.  
A Wikipedia entry may NOT be used as a source—however, if the “Source” section of a Wikipedia entry contains a scholarly work (a journal article or academic book) that you want to quote from in your paper, you are free to retrieve the work from the library (hard copy or from a database) and incorporate it into your paper.  
ABSTRACT: Students must present a one paragraph abstract of approximately 75-100 words summarizing the paper and how he or she plans to proceed, detailing the following: Why you chose it; what is important about it; what you intend to examine; what library resources you intend to use to complete the assignment. Due Tuesday, 3/8
OUTLINE: An outline is required as part of the grade for the research paper. This outline must directly correspond to the research paper. Due Thursday, 3/10
BIBLIOGRAPHY: You must present a Bibliography of sources (books, journal articles, newspaper articles, media sources, Internet sources) that you think you be using for your research paper. The page will consist of no fewer than four (4) outside sources.  At least three (3) of the sources must come from scholarly books or articles on the main topic.  Internet sources can comprise no more than one (1) of the sources. Due Thursday, 3/10
THIS PAPER IS DUE ON TUESDAY, 3/15, at 10:00 pm.
FINAL NOTE: The 2nd research paper will be due on Thursday, 4/21, at 10:00 pm. Any paper submitted after this date will result in a loss of 5 points per day overdue (ex: submitted by Friday, 4/22 for a possible maximum of 25 pts; submitted by Monday, 4/25 for a possible maximum of 20 pts). For your second paper, you will write on the Stephen Crane text “The Monster.”  More details on this paper will be posted mid-March. We will have a brief “brainstorming” session on Thursday, 3/24 to assist you in developing a topic and focus for this final paper. You may submit your paper early. NO papers will be accepted after Monday, 4/25.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Links to Electronic Editions of Frankenstein: Keyword Searching and Critical Approaches

 On-line text of Frankenstein/searching using keywords/additional critical approaches and definitions/contexts

Hi, class,

I am putting this information on our course blog in advance of you all writing your first research papers, which are scheduled to be handed in on Thursday, March 3--since we had a snow day, I may have to push that date to Tuesday, 3/8, as we are a bit behind. Let's see how far we can get over the next two class meetings. I will be emailing you the paper guidelines over the weekend.

I will be assigning you to groups to examine the various critical approaches to Frankenstein (Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytic, etc.) so that you can gain an understanding of all of them more quickly.  Each group will focus on the key aspects of one of these critical perspectives and report to the rest of the class. I am doing this mainly for reasons of expediency--you need not stick to that approach for your research paper. 

Here is the URL for the online Gutenberg text of Frankenstein. Cut and paste it into your browser, and try doing a search, if you think it might help you move more quickly to the chapters/passages that you think will be most helpful to you when you begin to write. 

Try using the specific keywords that relate to the approach you are using. For example, try "dream" and "sleep" if you are using a psychoanalytic approach and writing about Victor's unconscious state--try using "glory" if you want to do a comparison/contrast of Walton and Victor, etc. 


Also, below is the University of Pennsylvania's Electronic Edition of Frankenstein. Of particular value to you are the "Table of Chapters" and the "Contents." If you click on one of the chapters in "Table of Chapters," you will see that the text has links to clearer explanations of terms, along with more contexts. If you click on "Contents," you will see a variety of materials that are available to you. Some (like the "Critical Approaches" page) are unavailable, but in terms of providing some overall background and over 200 critical essays on the text, this is a great site.
I would caution you, however, that you should use this site primarily for help in understanding some of the contexts of Frankenstein, and to assist you in finding good research articles. You are to do your own writing--do not depend on this site for YOUR critical analysis--I want to know what YOU are thinking in relation to your chosen theme.

A word about "plagiarism": Please note, especially in using on-line sources for critical support, that you must annotate your sources immediately if you are cutting and pasting them for use in your paper--it is easy to inadvertently paste a piece of documentation without attribution. You should cite your sources properly and make sure that you use quotes. Do not depend solely on your sources for analysis-write your own analysis and try to find a source that supports it. In addition, you may find an article that contradicts your own findings--argue with that source! Feel free to disagree, but find textual support in Frankenstein for your own ideas.

Finally, although this paper is a research project, you should be having fun! Frankenstein is a pleasure to read and analyze--I am enjoying the class's critical discourse, and I know that you will continue to provide rich and thoughtful commentary!

All best,

Prof. Williams

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Frankenstein's Creature, Hollywood-style!

Hi, all,

Below are clips from several film adaptations of Frankenstein--including the full-length version of the first one, made in 1910 at Edison Studios, the 1931 classic, the delightfully loony 1935 sequel, the 1994 remake with Robert DeNiro, and Mel Brooks's hilarious comedic take, made in 1974. I have tried to group them together so that you can see the "birth/creation" scenes together.

Frankenstein, 1931. "It's alive!" (RT 4:05)

Frankenstein, 1931. The creature's awareness. (RT 3:10)

Frankenstein, 1994. Frankenstein gives "birth." (RT 5:01)

Young Frankenstein, 1974. (RT 10:00)

Bride of Frankenstein, 1935. "She's alive!" (RT 2:19)

Frankenstein, 1994. The Creature confronts Victor. (RT 7:03)

Finally, this is the first-ever adaptation!

Frankenstein, 1910. Watch the "special effect" at the end! (Full-length 12:41)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and Ehrenreich's "The Maids"

Hi, class, 
Attached is a link to Jonathan Swift's essay, "A Modest Proposal." Please read the essay and be ready to comment on it. Also, finish reading the Barbara Ehrenreich excerpt ("The Maids") and consider how she ends it.

I will also hand back your responses to Mencken's "The Penalty of Death" and will say a few words about the online responses to Sabin/Goodall.

Please post your own modest proposals (minimum 250 words) in the "Comments" section below--advancing an absurd proposition through various argumentative techniques (appeal to ethics, reason, emotion).  This assignment should be completed by Sunday, 2/13/11. Have fun with it!

All best,

Prof. Williams

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mencken: "The Penalty of Death"

Is Mencken arguing for or against capital punishment?

"The Penalty of Death" (1926)

by H.L. Mencken

Of the arguments against capital punishment that issue from uplifters, two are commonly heard most often, to wit:

1. That hanging a man (or frying him or gassing him) is a dreadful business, degrading to those who have to do it and revolting to those who have to witness it.

2. That it is useless, for it does not deter others from the same crime.

The first of these arguments, it seems to me, is plainly too weak to need serious refutation3. All it says, in brief, is that the work of the hangman is unpleasant. Granted. But suppose it is? It may be quite necessary to society for all that. There are, indeed, many other jobs that are unpleasant, and yet no one thinks of abolishing them--that of the plumber, that of the soldier, that of the garbage-man, that of the priest hearing confessions, that of the sand-hog, and so on. Moreover, what evidence is there that any actual hangman complains of his work? I have heard none. On the contrary, I have known many who delighted in their ancient art, and practiced it proudly.

In the second argument of the abolitionists there is rather more force, but even here, I believe, the ground under them is shaky. Their fundamental error consists in assuming that the whole aim of punishing criminals is to deter other (potential) criminals--that we hang or electrocute A simply in order to so alarm B that he will not kill C. This, I believe, is an assumption which confuses a part with the whole. Deterrence, obviously, is one of the aims of punishment, but it is surely not the only one. On the contrary, there are at least half a dozen, and some are probably quite as important. At least one of them, practically considered, is more important. Commonly, it is described as revenge, but revenge is really not the word for it. I borrow a better term from the late Aristotle: katharsis. Katharsis, so used, means a salubrious discharge of emotions, a healthy letting off of steam. A school-boy, disliking his teacher, deposits a tack upon the pedagogical chair; the teacher jumps and the boy laughs. This is katharsis. What I contend is that one of the prime objects of all judicial punishments is to afford the same grateful relief (a) to the immediate victims of the criminal punished, and (b) to the general body of moral and timorous men.

These persons, and particularly the first group, are concerned only indirectly with deterring other criminals. The thing they crave primarily is the satisfaction of seeing the criminal actually before them suffer as he made them suffer. What they want is the peace of mind that goes with the feeling that accounts are squared. Until they get that satisfaction they are in a state of emotional tension, and hence unhappy. The instant they get it they are comfortable. I do not argue that this yearning is noble; I simply argue that it is almost universal among human beings. In the face of injuries that are unimportant and can be borne without damage it may yield to higher impulses; that is to say, it may yield to what is called Christian charity. But when the injury is serious Christianity is adjourned, and even saints reach for their sidearms. It is plainly asking too much of human nature to expect it to conquer so natural an impulse. A keeps a store and has a bookkeeper, B. B steals $700, employs it in playing at dice or bingo, and is cleaned out. What is A to do? Let B go? If he does so he will be unable to sleep at night. The sense of injury, of injustice, of frustration will haunt him like pruritus. So he turns B over to the police, and they hustle B to prison. Thereafter A can sleep. More, he has pleasant dreams. He pictures B chained to the wall of a dungeon a hundred feet underground, devoured by rats and scorpions. It is so agreeable that it makes him forget his $700. He has got his katharsis.

The same thing precisely takes place on a larger scale when there is a crime which destroys a whole community’s sense of security. Every law-abiding citizen feels menaced and frustrated until the criminals have been struck down--until the communal capacity to get even with them, and more than even, has been dramatically demonstrated. Here, manifestly, the business of deterring others is no more than an afterthought. The main thing is to destroy the concrete scoundrels whose act has alarmed everyone, and thus made everyone unhappy. Until they are brought to book that unhappiness continues; when the law has been executed upon them there is a sigh of relief. In other words, there is katharsis.

I know of no public demand for the death penalty for ordinary crimes, even for ordinary homicides. Its infliction would shock all men of normal decency of feeling. But for crimes involving the deliberate and inexcusable taking of human life, by men openly defiant of all civilized order--for such crimes it seems, to nine men out of ten, a just and proper punishment. Any lesser penalty leaves them feeling that the criminal has got the better of society--that he is free to add insult to injury by laughing. That feeling can be dissipated only by a recourse to katharsis, the invention of the aforesaid Aristotle. It is more effectively and economically achieved, as human nature now is, by wafting the criminal to realms of bliss.

The real objection to capital punishment doesn’t lie against the actual extermination of the condemned, but against our brutal American habit of putting it off so long. After all, every one of us must die soon or late, and a murderer, it must be assumed, is one who makes that sad fact the cornerstone of his metaphysic. But it is one thing to die, and quite another thing to lie for long months and even years under the shadow of death. No sane man would choose such a finish. All of us, despite the Prayer Book, long for a swift and unexpected end. Unhappily, a murderer, under the irrational American system, is tortured for what, to him, must seem a whole series of eternities. For months on end he sits in prison while his lawyers carry on their idiotic buffoonery with writs, injunctions, mandamuses, and appeals. In order to get his money (or that of his friends) they have to feed him with hope. Now and then, by the imbecility of a judge or some trick of juridic science, they actually justify it. But let us say that, his money all gone, they finally throw up their hands. Their client is now ready for the rope or the chair. But he must still wait for months before it fetches him.

That wait, I believe, is horribly cruel. I have seen more than one man sitting in the death-house, and I don’t want to see any more. Worse, it is wholly useless. Why should he wait at all? Why not hang him the day after the last court dissipates his last hope? Why torture him as not even cannibals would torture their victims? The common answer is that he must have time to make his peace with God. But how long does that take? It may be accomplished, I believe, in two hours quite as comfortably as in two years. There are, indeed, no temporal limitations upon God. He could forgive a whole herd of murderers in a millionth of a second. More, it has been done.

"The Penalty of Death" was first published in Prejudices: Fifth Series by H.L. Mencken, 1926.