1.) Select a work of film or literature released within the past six months, and check with me in person or via email to make sure its a good choice for the project. For fiction and poetry, you could check magazines like The New Yorker, The Paris Review, or The Baffler, all of which make some works available online for free. If you have the time or willingness to read an entire novel, go for it – just make sure you give yourself enough time to finish it. For film, anything released in the time frame in theaters or on a streaming service is okay.
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Please Note: I do not want you to select a work by your favorite recording artist or novelist. You should be getting outside your comfort zone, reading a type of work which you might not normally be interested in, in order to try to understand and appreciate it from a critical perspective. Watch a genre of film you would not normally watch, read a story or poem from a magazine you have never read before, etc. In general, I would like you to refrain from using popular music for this project. If you choose to write about popular music, it should be an artist you were not previously familiar with.
Once you have selected a work, check with me before getting started so I can approve it as a choice for this project.
2.) Read and annotate the text. Pay particular attention to how the text may or may not be entering into a dialogue with contemporary social issues, such as gender, class, race, colonialism, ecology, cultural and technological change, and other conflicts and contradictions in society. What is the text saying, and in what ways is it choosing to remain silent?
I strongly suggest writing a rough draft of the paper on your own, based on your annotations of the text. You can take this draft to my office hours or get help from your peers. It is not a requirement and I will not collect it, but you should be practicing writing as a process even when no one is collecting the prior drafts.
3.) Craft a paper in which you analyze, and intervene in, the dialogue(s) with which the text engages. Cite and analyze passages from the text. Try to appreciate it aesthetically and interpret it critically, as you attempt to understand what the artist is saying and doing with the work. How was the text shaped by the conflicts and contradictions of our contemporary historical situation? How does it address them, or fail to address them? What are your thoughts and feelings about this? What conclusions can be drawn about contemporary literature, film, and culture from your analysis? Your paper should be a minimum of 1,000 words and should include close reading of specific passages (or scenes) from the text.