Friday, October 30, 2009

Revising and Expanding Paper I into Paper II

You will be turning a 2-pg paper into a 4-5 page paper

This means significant revision in both the form and content of your paper

Step 1: Correct all the mistakes I have marked in Paper I

Have you fixed all the grammar and spelling errors?

If I have marked any sections “repetitious” or unnecessary, have you re-thought those sections?

Rethinking = dig deeper and come up with new insights about your topic instead of repeating the same ideas.

Have you used MLA citation format for all your quotations?

Step 2: Expanding your initial topic

You have looked at one of the keywords from the definition of a stereotype and analysed the process of stereotyping using that keyword

Now you are invited to open up your analysis to further thought.

Some ideas of how you could do this:

-Using more sources: what do some of the other material we have studied in class have to say about stereotyping? Do they show something similar to what you have already pointed out in your essay? Do they show something different? Think in terms of both comparisons and contrasts.

-Use different types of media: Choose an artwork, a photograph, a song, a movie, an advertisement, a magazine article, a newspaper piece (either introduced in class or outside of class) to expand the ideas brought up in your first paper.

-Use different types of analysis: If your paper has looked more generally at the attitudes to stereotyping, then try to zoom in and focus more closely on a particular aspect of certain texts. How, for instance, does Spike Lee’s use of camera work play into what he is trying to say about stereotyping and the dangers associated with it? Analyse the device of framing (weird angles, non-traditional, non-Hollywood use of the camera) as a visual metaphor that is trying to indicate something about Lee’s message, or your own.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Art Criticism: A crash course

Last week, we practiced some basic art criticism. Here are the key points to keep in mind when looking at any photograph. Think of these techniques as similar to those we apply to literary texts, and also similar to what we will use to analyse film.

We are now definitely moving beyond the realm of summarisation and getting into analysis -- pictorial art is even more strongly about what the image makes you feel. It is a way of putting into words the emotion that you get from the bend of a hand or the position of the figure -- our job is to put visual metaphors into words.

Art criticism, like with literary criticism, is a four-step process:

1. Describe the subject matter and the art elements, lines, shapes, colours, patterns and textures—

2. Analyse arrangement, colour harmony, and technique—

3. Interpret its symbols and meaning—

4. Judge its value—

INTERPRETATION is the process of understanding or making meaning. This process involves several aspects: emotions, symbols, modern and historical importance, and reinterpretation.

What could be a new title for this piece?

What symbols do you see? For example, a lion is often used as a symbol of strength.

What do the colours symbolise? For example, blue might mean loyalty or calmness like the sea. What do the colours express—make you feel? Do they create a happy or sad mood—Can we come up with a sense of the tone of the picture based on colours, brushwork, and any other elements described earlier?

What theme, big idea, is this about? Is it, for instance, about nature, politics, religion, childhood, other?

What does this work mean for people today, for you?

And finally, here are the images I handed around in class today. Take a look at them in colour!

Edvard Munch, The Scream (lithograph) (1893):

Egon Schiele, The Fighter (1913):

Ernst Ludvig Kirchner, Five Women on the Street (c. 1920):

[not one of the original printouts I gave; see how you like this one]

Movie poster -- The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1920):

Kathe Kollwitz, The Widow (
c. 1922):

Movie still from Sin City, by Frank Miller (2005):

Writing Assignment for Monday 19th October

The assignment for this week is simple:

Listen to the videos (below). Then write a journal entry in response to what you have just seen. The journal may deal with any ideas the songs have brought up for you, any tangential thoughts you might have, or even any other songs/poems/books/literary or pop culture reference that you are reminded of. Try to use the keywords we have been tossing around in class in your response.

Page limit: 1 page single-spaced or 2 pgs double-spaced
Format: Times New Roman 12-pt font, 1" margins

1. Miles Davis, "Darn that Dream"

2. Nina Simone, "House of the Rising Sun"

3. Nina Simone, "Ain't Got No... I've Got Life"

4. Janis Joplin, "Me and Bobby McGee"
(note: This isn't a video of the actual song, but a collage of footage of Janis singing at live shows -- still good!)

5. Velvet Underground, "What Goes On?"
(note: someone's creative effort to make a tribute video to this song -- cool!?)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stereotypes and pop music

We listened to some music together as a class to see the interplay between popular music and stereotypes -- how do artists try to use stereotypes, play with them, and break them?

What, if any, is the role of individual freedom -- is freedom really "just another word for nothing left to lose"?

Is there any way to connect some of what we have read in class with what we have heard? Can you bring any of your own examples/favourites to the discussion table?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stereotypes -- Some things to think about


We've been talking about stereotypes with one eye on the paper that's coming up. Here's a quick summary of the main ideas we're throwing around:

Division and Classification -- how is one different from the other? How are these forces important features of our lives?

Stereotypes -- what approaches can we take to dealing with them? Are there any uses we can put them to?

Resistance -- how can an individual resist stereotyping? Are there different ways to approach a stereotype (with fear, with anger, calmly, etc...). What can we make of the different approaches demonstrated by Ortiz Cofer, Liu, Kincaid and Brooks?

Take a position on one of the pieces you've read. Why do you like one approach more than the others? Start thinking about the piece you choose for the first paper, coming up in about two weeks.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Class reading for Week 5 and 6

Here is a selection of reading that we will be dealing with on Wednesday and Week 6, 5th-7th October:

Eric Liu's essay, "The Chinatown Idea"

We will also read some poetry by the great Gwendolyn Brooks, available here:
"hunchback girl: she thinks of heaven" (click here)
"the ballad of chocolate Mabbie" (click here)
"Boy Breaking Glass" (click here)
"Two Dedications" (click here)

Remember, we also have reading from your textbook! Consult your syllabus for the listing.

Summary vs. Analysis

For the purposes of this class, we have to learn not only to distinguish between summaries and analyses (easy enough), but also to control our writing enough to produce one and then the other. For the final exam they both carry equal weight, so you must be equally comfortable with both.

A summary is:
- Objective, meaning include as little of your personal opinion as possible;
- Brief, meaning 1-2 long paragraphs should be sufficient for a thorough summary;
- Concise, meaning that although short, it contains all relevant information from the original essay.

An analysis is:
- Subjective, meaning that your critical opinion of the original piece must be present;
- Not as brief, since you need space to develop your own arguments and reactions to/against the original text;
- Concise, because it is still important not to ramble on away from your point.

For the purposes of your final exams, your summaries must contain the following:
1. The full title of the article
2. The author's full name
3. The thesis statement (even if it is implied) paraphrased by you
4. A consideration of the various examples used
5. A consideration of the language -- what is the tone of the essay? Any use of jargon or particular linguistic quirks?

You must decide, as a critical reader and writer, what the relative importance of each of these points is. For instance, in some cases the language used will be crucial (ironic prose, poetic or lyric prose), and in other cases maybe the various examples will take up more of your time because they perform an important function in the essay. Use these 5 points, but be adaptable with them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Body Ritual Among the Nacirema" by Horace Miner

Good discussion in class yesterday! I hope that Miner's essay has given you all food for thought.
To recap, some key points:

Critical distance
-- When approaching any topic, you as a critic have to make the choice between passion and objectivity. How far will you think with your head, and how far will you go with your heart?
E.g., look at the Alvarez article – what are some of the approaches to her essay?

1. Adopt her suggestions as a way of thinking and writing;
2. Try to analyse her method of writing and see it as a series of steps (process analysis);
3. Try to see how she is manipulating you into a “collegiate” frame of address; analyse her tone and manner of writing.

So, we can use our critical lens to examine this, or any, essay and then form a critique of it from our position of critical distance.

Man, Culture and Society

What is the difference between "society" and "culture"?
Which is a product of the other?

Remember, the key idea -- even individual ants form themselves into societies, but only individual men come together in societies and have culture.

Some cultural institutions: all arbitrary structures in society such as Law, Morality, Religion, Art, Literature, and so on.

Reading Miner critically (use your Essay Toolkit from class 2):

Purpose -- why does he write this piece?
Audience -- who is he writing for? Other anthropologists, college students, laypeople?
Tone -- what is the tone he uses? Does it vary over the course of the essay?
Style -- how does he present his material? What is the purpose of the references he makes? What is the crucial need for the quote at the end of the essay?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"NACIREMA" by Horace Miner

If you've done a Google search you might have already found this article, but here goes a link to it:

Happy reading!

Alvarez reading

The Julia Alvarez How-To guide

What did you get out of the Alvarez reading? Today's class discussion brought up several interesting points or sections which stuck in people's memory.

Try to think of why a particular part appealed to you -- even if this question doesn't have a single clear answer.

"Be someone on whom nothing is lost" -- great line, right?

Method in Alvarez's article:

1. How does she use the "kernel" of a good idea? Look at the examples she gives (the poem inspired by what she read in Better Homes and Gardens, or the one she writes after visiting the UN to hear her mother speak). She explains her process of writing in these pages, but notice how different her finished product (the poem) is from her source material (the clipping).

2. How are you going to imitate her method in your own assignment? What are you going to do with the snippet you found about, say, a runaway horse in Central Park -- a short short story? A poem? A musing about how and why a horse came to be loose in Central Park in the first place?

Remember your Essay Toolkit -- what kind of response are you going to write for me? Think about form (simple essay? journalistic style? poem? story? dialogue? play?), style and tone (humourous? serious? facetious? matter-of-fact? sypathetic? unsympathetic?)

Think of yourselves as serious writers who are making a series of reasoned choices each time you write and submit a piece of work.

Finally, here is the homework assignment again, due Monday 14th Sept.:

Go through any of the ‘news’ sources around you – gossip, ads, free newspapers on the train, US Weekly, the Onion, or even ‘serious’ news sources like the NYT – and find one piece that catches your attention, piques your interest. Write a backstory for this piece from your imagination, without recourse to more information.


Hi. Welcome to the blog for NYCCT's English 1101 class with me, Prof. Banerjee.

I hope you find this space useful to review your readings, look for notes, discuss points of interest and so forth. Feel free to post comments, argue back and forth, etc.

Happy reading (and writing)!