Methods of Reading Autumn 2021
1,000 Word Essay
Due Monday 17 May by 11.59pm (Turnitin copy only)
- Choose one of the two topics listed below.
- Engage with relevant themes and ideas from the lectures and tutorial discussions.
- Cite your sources by employing either MLA or Chicago documentation style. Additional research, beyond the relevant chapters from Bennett and Royle, is not required but optional. If you do undertake additional research, this could include further readings from the “Readings and Resources” section of vUWS or scholarly research of your own. If you quote from a lecture verbatim or paraphrase substantial passages from a lecture, then you must cite it.
- Organize the analysis around a central argument or “thesis” and provide
textual evidence to support its claims.
- Employ an appropriate writing style with minimal spelling, grammatical, or other errors.
- Read the assessment marking criteria in the Learning Guide.
The quotations given before each question below are only there to guide you; you do not need to employ them if they are not relevant to your argument. You must use additional textual examples to support your claims.
“Not the tyranny of the we and its we-talk and everything that the we wants to pile on your head. Never for him the tyranny of the we that is dying to suck you in, the coercive, inclusive, historical, inescapable moral we with its insidious E pluribus unum. Neither the they of Woolworth’s nor the we of Howard. Instead the raw I with all its agility. Self-discovery—that was the punch to the labonz. Singularity. The passionate struggle for singularity. The singular animal. The sliding relationship with everything. Not static but sliding. Self-knowledge but concealed. What is as powerful as that?” (108).
“It wouldn’t have fazed her for five minutes to learn that he had been born and raised in a colored family and identified himself as a Negro nearly all his life, nor would she have been burdened in the slightest by keeping that secret for him if it was what he’d asked her to do” (130).
“Maybe I was one and maybe I wasn’t. I think I sometimes believe that I already am one. Yes, been believing that on and off for months now. Why not? There are men who are locked up in women’s bodies and women who are locked up in men’s bodies, so why can’t I be a crow locked up in this body? Yeah, and where is the doctor who is going to do what they do to let me out?” (169)
“‘I don’t know why I’m not better prepared for this, Coleman. I should be,’” she said. ‘You’ve been giving fair warning almost from the day you got here. You were seriously disinclined even to take the breast. Yes, you were. Now I see why. Even that might delay your escape. There was always
something about our family, and I don’t mean color—there was something about us that impeded you. You think like a prisoner. You do, Coleman Brutus. You’re white as snow and you think like a slave’” (139).
Focusing on either Coleman Silk or Faunia Farley, discuss their motivations for keeping secrets (bear in mind that both characters withhold information about themselves even when it does not seem necessary). In your response you must engage with relevant ideas from the Bennett and Royle chapter on “Secrets.” You also have the option to discuss ideas from one of the following other chapters: “Me”, “Racial Difference”, or “Animals.”
“[W]e leave a stain, we leave a trail, we leave our imprint. Impurity, cruelty, abuse, error excrement, semen—there’s no other way to be here. Nothing to do with disobedience. Nothing to do with grace or salvation or redemption. It’s in everyone. Indwelling. Inherent. Defining. The stain that is there before its mark” (242).
“‘It’s as though we’re a menace to public safety,’ she told him, laughing her laugh. ‘No, public
health,” he replied—‘we’re in noncompliance with the board of health.’
By the end of the eight days, when he had been able at least to confirm Delphine Roux’s identification as the letter writer if not yet Farley’s as the trespasser, Coleman decided to decide that he’d done everything within his power to defend against all of this disagreeable and provocative meddling. When Faunia phoned him that afternoon during her lunch break and asked, ‘Is the quarantine over?’” (55).
“The blood. Blood sticks. You could not possibly get the blood off the floor. Towel after towel after towel. Still had that color. Eventually it turned more and more a salmon color, but you still couldn’t get it out. Like something still alive. Heavy-duty disinfectant—didn’t help. Metallic. Sweet.
Sickening. I don’t gag. Put my mind above it. But I came close” (339).
Discuss how The Human Stain explores the theme of purity versus impurity/contamination. In your response you must engage with relevant ideas from one or two of the following chapters from Bennett and Royle: “Me”, “Racial Difference”, “Animals”, “Secrets”.
Instructions on Constructing a Thesis for your Essay:
Your Thesis/Argument should be a disputable claim. This means that other people can potentially disagree with it. If no one can disagree with your argument, then it is not a real argument.
An academic thesis or argument is not quite the same as an “argument” that you might have with a friend. An academic argument does not need to involve an angry, heated exchange between two people. However, an argument in the everyday sense of the term shares with an academic argument the common characteristic of being disputable and debatable.
Bad Thesis: Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is phallocentric. This assertion is too general and does not supply any justification for the writer’s interpretation.
Better Thesis: Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is phallocentric because Portia must follow her father’s guidelines for choosing a suitor. This is better because you can imagine some readers disagreeing and it provides a clear justification (“because”) for the writer’s position. It is a bit simplistic, however, because it completely disregards how Portia guides Bassanio toward choosing her, the masculine role she assumes in the trial, etc..
Good Thesis: Portia may be constrained by the phallocentric rules of her father, but the play itself is not phallocentric because it allows Portia to employ some amount of female agency. This is much more specific than the previous example and more thoughtful. It makes a clear distinction between the phallocentrism of a character (Portia’s father) and that of a play. It implies that a text has agency, that it can reinforce or challenge existing norms. In order to prove this thesis, the writer would need to give specific examples that illustrate Portia’s female agency.
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