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Essay #3: Analysis of a Popular Culture Artifact

Assignment: Incorporating quotations, summaries, and paraphrases from at least two (semi-)academic sources found through our library databases, write a 3-5 page essay analyzing a specific popular culture artifact of your choice. (In other words, you will need to have at least three sources for this paper—one primary source and two or more secondary sources.) Note: Don’t be alarmed by the term “artifact”; I’ve chosen the word simply for convenience. Depending on your particular area of interest, acceptable “artifacts” might include a specific television episode, a book chapter or character, the lyrics and music of a specific song, an important thread on your favorite discussion forum, a scene from a movie, a video game, sporting event, magazine advertisement, or other relevant object or event.

Approaching the Assignment: Be sure to look over this week’s reading on literary analysis, which should give you plenty of guidance for how to approach this assignment. (Yes, I do indeed expect you to analyze your artifact—whether a written text or not—just as you would a short story or novel.) I do NOT want you to write a simple review or critique; instead, I want you to provide some sort of analytical interpretation. You might, for example, consider how an episode of your favorite television show deals with issues of race, class, or gender. Or you could investigate the rhetorical appeals of a particular advertisement to discover how and/or why it is so (in)effective at selling its product. Focusing on a specific character from a movie, you could look more closely at questions of personal motivation or societal influence or simply try to figure out what makes that particular character tick. (For example, if I were analyzing the character of Loki in the Avengers, my thesis statement might be something like “Although initially Loki may strike the viewer as static and one-dimensional, careful analysis reveals that he is actually one of the most complex, emotionally nuanced characters in the film.” [Then I would show how he isn’t just a demented megalomaniac by examining not only what he says but also the facial expression and body language that expose the tormented child hiding just beneath the surface.])

Ultimately, your goal with this paper is not so much to agree or disagree with your source, but—as I said above—to provide an interpretation of some sort. In doing so, you will hopefully discover how the object affects us as viewers, consumers, and/or citizens; what the object reveals about society at large; and/or what other important insights it has to offer.

Requirements checklist:

____ 1. Both the rough and final draft must contain at least three full, correctly formatted pages. Please follow MLA guidelines for formatting papers and documenting sources (see LSH, pp. 109-57).

____ 2. Your secondary sources should include substantial, thoughtfully developed arguments related to whatever specific topic you’ve decide to write about, but they don’t need to mention the specific artifact.

____ 3. Entries from encyclopedias, dictionaries, and/or other reference materials do not count toward the minimum source requirement – although you should of course cite them if you actually quote them.

____ 4. Be sure to frame all quotations and to use signal verbs (and in-text parenthetical citations, if needed) when you summarize or paraphrase.

____ 5. Please attach your sources to the final draft of your essay with a paper clip so that I can give you credit for your annotations and offer feedback on your use of source material.

____ 6. Note that class attendance is mandatory for Monday, Feb. 6, when the librarian comes to visit.

____ 7. I also urge you all to get extra feedback from one of the English tutors here on campus. Visit the Student Success Center in room 309 for more information.

____ 8. Any work you submit in this class should be composed by you specifically for this class. In other words, do NOT recycle papers from previous classes or present someone else’s work as your own.

____ 9. Finally, to do well on this assignment, you will need to organize your paper around an original, clearly articulated, well-placed thesis statement; to demonstrate a good understanding of the structural (paragraphing, transitions, etc.) and grammatical conventions of formal written English; and to address all assignment components.

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