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English 107 Guidelines

- All papers written outside of class are to be typed - 12pt type, one inch margins, double spaced, stapled, no plastic binders, to be turned in by start of class on the due date, unless Prof. McBride explicitly states otherwise. Make sure you meet the minimum page requirement.

- Because you may be working in groups or dealing with ideas from lectures in your paper, you must be extremely careful to develop your own unique and insightful ideas and to give credit to every idea that is not your own.  If you are caught plagiarizing, even if it is unintentional, you will receive an "F" for the paper.  If you repeat any ideas brought up in lecture, use them only to advance your own points, and then write the word “lecture” in parentheses.  If you are writing a paper with another person, make sure your paper makes its own unique points, and that you write the last name of your cohort in parentheses at the end of the sentence.  Always discuss sources you use in your paper, put quotation marks around any words that are not your own, and provide page numbers or a full web address and a works cited page.  Consult MLA documentation rules if you are uncertain.

 - There are not necessarily right and wrong things to do in your paper; some readings are stronger than others and some ways of analyzing lead to better papers than others.  The best arguments are those that are well-supported with specific evidence accompanied by an insightful discussion of that evidence. 

 - Grading will alternate. Whoever graded your first paper, either Chris McGee or Professor McBride, will grade your third paper. The other person will grade your second and fourth paper.

 - Important: All of the information below is advice, and is subject to change given alterations in assignments; consequently, pay very close attention to due dates and requirements discussed in lecture. Frequently check the web page for prompts or information.  Requirements for these papers may be subject to alteration.  Also, while we will make every effort to discuss these assignments thoroughly in class, it is your responsibility to be familiar with these requirements, even if they are not specifically discussed by Prof. McBride during lecture.  Feel free to ask any questions you may have when it is appropriate during class time, but PLEASE, consult the guide below to see if the question has already been answered!

 

Paper 1 - 3-5 pgs. (May be in-class) 20 points

The first stylized moment paper will be due February 15th in the first part of the semester. Professor McBride will choose a scene from a movie (the shower scene from Psycho) we watch in class and ask you to watch it repeatedly and attentively, either by renting your own version, watching it on the sixth floor of Milner Library, or watching the digitized version on the Web page. It is your responsibility to locate this scene and study it.  

Plan ahead for this paper, as it becomes increasingly difficult to locate the scene the night before, and there may be unexpected difficulties in downloading the digitized version.  This first paper will be written in class, on Thursday, February 15th.  On Tuesday, Prof. McBride will discuss Orson Welles' Citizen Kane.  That evening, however, we will watch Hitchcock’s Psycho, which will provide you with yet another opportunity to view the scene.  By the Thursday of the exam, you must purchase a regular sized Blue Book, available at either of the bookstores.  Bring this unmarked essay exam booklet to class on Thursday, as we will ask you to exchange your Blue Books before you begin writing.  You may also bring a single page of notes, which will form the basis of what you write, but you may not bring a completed essay.  Use this page of notes to remind yourself of essential stylized moments, and perhaps some of the arguments you intend to make.   Prof. McBride’s Web page provides a concise prompt for the essay, which you should consult.  

Your analysis of the scene will consist of three parts:

1) Describe the scene in film terms employing the technical language of cinema - camera technique, mise en scene, lighting, soundtrack, editing, etc. Read Chapters 2 and 3 carefully in Gollin and appropriately use as many of these terms as you can, such as close-up, lap dissolve, etc. Remember to discuss all aspects of the scene;  

2) Discuss what meaning these film techniques reasonably confer via style. You may employ Gollin to support your points. For example "This scene is shot in a canted angle, meaning that the camera is off of its vertical axis giving us a slanted view of the scene. Typically, this angle implies `a world awry and out of plumb' (Gollin 31)." Then go beyond this to provide your own unique and keen insight to what this means in the scene. For example "The canted angle here tells us that we cannot trust any of the characters." 

3) Analyze this scene in terms of the entire movie. Discuss both large themes in the movie - coming of age, sexuality, evil, etc. - and specific parts of the movie - the opening, the climax, the ending - in order to ground your ideas in the movie itself. Make sure you discuss the entire movie. 

Your grade will be based upon how accurately and consistently you use film terms to analyze the scene, how thoroughly you attend to every aspect of the scene, how specifically your interpretation follows from the film terms, and finally how insightful and smart your overall interpretation is. You may go point by point through the scene and then analyze the techniques in turn, or you may combine parts 1 and 2 as you write. Students often feel overwhelmed that they cannot possibly ‘read’ all of the deep meanings in the scene, but if you concentrate on analyzing specific stylistic techniques, you will do well.  We tend to be more lenient on this first paper as we understand this is your first attempt at analyzing style.  You should be creative and speculative, but be specific and thoroughly prove your interpretations by discussing the scene in film language.

 

Paper 2 - 3-5pgs. (25 points)

The second stylized moment paper will be due sometime before spring break (March 8th). This paper is exactly like the first paper, except that you pick the stylized moment to analyze. You are encouraged to use the films we have watched, or will watch (if you find yourself repeating many of the points raised in lecture you may wish to write about a film yet discussed in class,) although you can also use any movie of your choice.  The only exception is that you cannot write on Caddyshack. You must clear a decision to write on a non-syllabus film with the person who is grading your paper.  Do not write the paper and assume we will accept it.  Your paper must discuss something that we have seen, or would be willing to see if we have the opportunity.  It is important that we have seen the film you have chosen. If time permits, you may bring a videotape or DVD to class to show the appropriate one of us the scene, but make sure it is at a convenient time. 

Consider using a movie you own, have guaranteed access to, or one that you know very well, as you will be able to discuss the film in detail. Watch the movie several times and look for moments/scenes that use the camera in significant ways, or for things that can only been done in a movie rather than say a play or novel of the same story.  Pay attention to any moment that sticks out, that breaks the illusion that you are watching a film.  Look for moments in the film that use style to make a point or develop a theme.  Ask yourself why the film chose to use that type of technique.   

Keep in mind the difference between plot significance ("This is when we find out Darth Vader is Luke's father") and stylistic significance ("This scene uses a canted angle and quick editing to convey Luke's feelings. Darth is filmed from below to show his stature"). Most casual viewers can talk about plot, but a film student will attend to style, and that should be your field of inquiry. Some casual viewers might even be able to talk about what a film is saying ‘beneath the surface’ or what the director was ‘trying to say,’ but keep in mind that we are also teaching you oppositional and critical reading strategies in this course.  You should, in other words, not exclusively worry about what the director was saying, but rather be open to issues and concerns that are on the screen nevertheless.   

Also, keep in mind the difference between a shot that is just filmed "cool" (i.e. the fight scenes in The Matrix) – shots that are neat to look at, but don’t really have anything substantive to say--and scenes that use style to convey an explicit meaning (the use of P.O.V. shots in HalloweeN to encourage you to identify with certain characters). It is much more productive to analyze the second kind of cinematic moment than the first. Try to locate a scene that is about 1 to 3 minutes long so that you will have enough data to analyze, but that is manageable enough, allowing you to remain on topic.

Students who do poorly on this paper often ‘list’ shots, such as several cuts in a row, but never say anything about why those techniques were employed in the film.  Avoid listing shots, and instead have patience.  Spend time discussing what every choice confers in the sequence, and what it contributes the film as a whole.

 

Paper 3 - 3-5pgs. (20 points)

The third paper is typically due after spring break (April 10th), near the end of the semester. This paper asks you to analyze John Berger's Ways of Seeing. Although Berger’s book is short and has lots of pictures, it is also difficult and dense.  Often Berger develops a complicated idea in a single sentence.  The syllabus for the course stipulates that you should read this book over a series of weeks, and we recommend that you do so.  Although you may not understand all of Berger’s points, we expect that you will read the book slowly and closely and that you will think how his ideas relate to how each of us views cinema.  It is important that you closely read the book and ultimately demonstrate a keen understanding of the entire book. You cannot possibly fulfill this assignment satisfactorily unless you demonstrate in your paper that you have thought about the book as a whole.  Those students who have done well on this paper typically discuss examples that Berger himself uses, and use those examples to say something insightful about concerns in this particular class.   In other words, use aspects of the book to concisely demonstrate your understanding of his ideas, and how those ideas can be imported into this course.  

This assignment has four requirements that you should follow in order:

  1) Consider what part of the book, having specifically to do with the visual, that you felt you understood really well or what part seemed particularly interesting, controversial, or remarkable to you. You might also look for a section that seems particularly relevant to a film that we are watching.  Choose one or more of Berger's sentences that conveys the overall idea of the section, or a sentence(s) that you feel warrants some discussion. You may choose one sentence, or several, but you must be careful to limit what you are analyzing so that you can discuss it in detail.

At the top of the paper rewrite this sentence or sentences word for word with quotation marks and a page number in parentheses. Your paper MUST start in this way.  Pick a sentence that is specific rather than very general.

Avoid: "Men act and women appear" or "Advertising uses sexuality to sell products" or, worse yet,  “The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe” (8), as these generally lead to the worst papers for they are far too broad. These generalized statements which are jumping off points for Berger, typically allow students to talk about things entirely unrelated to Berger’s book.  Remember this as a good rule: anything you could say in your paper that you could have said without reading Berger is not a good approach to the paper.  We are concerned with your reactions to the things Berger taught you.  Consider finding sections that talk about specific art pieces or media, although you are not restricted to these. 

  2) Summarize and paraphrase Berger's sentence or sentences in your own words. A typical way to start is, "In this part of the book, Berger is saying . . ." or something like that. Make sure you discuss all of the parts of the quote, and perhaps some of the surrounding ideas that have led up to this one, but make sure it is clear that your paraphrase follows reasonably from the sentence you have chosen. Strong papers often use some of Berger’s specific examples to demonstrate the paraphrase.  It should be clear that your paraphrase deals directly with the quote you have chosen, and it should also be clear that your paraphrase reveals something about the quote. 

3) Illustrate the quote by taking it out of the context of the book and applying it to at least one aspect of at least one film from the syllabus.  Discuss the illustration in detail, as carefully as you have been discussing a scene from a movie. Clearly demonstrate how Berger's ideas relate to the example and how Berger provides a unique interpretive lens for discussing the illustration. Remember to discuss actual moments from the movie; describe particular moments that demonstrate your point.  

4) Put the sentence back into the context of the book by discussing the relation of this specific idea to the entire book, again paying careful attention to the visual. In this section of the paper you should discuss the entire book.  Be concise, but specific enough to show that you can talk about how aspects of the book fit together.  Talk about the complicated ideas regarding ways of seeing the book discusses. Relate specific media, such as oil painting or advertising, to general ideas about seeing. Analyze the book by discussing why you agree with his points, or why you don't find them to still be true, or points you felt Berger missed, or what they have to do with movies, or new ideas the book made you think of. This paper, perhaps more than any other paper in the class, asks you to be creative and analytical, while also demanding a discussion in great depth about Berger's ideas. 

The restrictions and recommendations above should help you avoid the weaker papers that we have seen in the past.  Ultimately, your goal is to discuss your response and reaction to Berger’s book in the 4-part format we have outlined here.

   

Paper 4 - 4-7pgs (25 points)

Your final paper is due the last Thursday of class (May 3rd); there will be no final exam other than turning in this final paper. Note that this paper IS NOT due during Finals week, but rather the last class meeting. We do not meet during Finals Week--this final paper is your Final Exam. It is important for you to attend this last meeting and turn your paper in on time so that you can fill out course evaluations. Only one paper per student will be accepted, that is, you can't blow off class and have a friend hand in your paper. 

This paper is exactly like your second paper, except that you are asked to write a longer and more detailed analysis, and that you are required to include a literary component to your paper in order to address the "Literature" part of the course's title as Professor McBride has been attempting all semester.   Choose a stylized moment or moments from a film in the class, or a film of your own choice (if so, clear your decision with the person grading your paper) and analyze the scene, using film language, with respect to the entire movie. Use a literary component as additional support for your argument; this is not a book report, you should use the book to analyze the movie. You can use the novel or play that accompanies one of the films we have watched in the class (in that case it would most likely be one of the assigned novels), or you can use a different novel with one of the films in class, or you can use a different novel and a different film than those included in the syllabus (you would need to get such a thing approved, of course).  You can even connect a literary component (say Catcher in the Rye) with a film that does not accompany it (say American Beauty).  In that case you might discuss how, say, the theme of disillusionment that we find in Catcher in the Rye appears stylistically in American Beauty. 

We are asking you to analyze a stylized sequence, just as you did with the shower scene in Psycho, and then to discuss an aspect of your chosen literary component to help you with the final part of the paper, the final analyzing of what it means. 

You may choose the novel, play or short story that corresponds to your movie, or you may choose any literary work as a point of analysis. You may compare and contrast the moments in both the movie and the book, or you may use the book as a source of ideas for talking about the movie. If you do the first, carefully explain what is significant about the differences (don't just point out how the book is different and leave it at that; what does this tell us about the meaning of the movie?). If you do the second, you can use the book in any way you see fit, discussing characterization, mood, tone, themes, interpretations. One could talk about the theme of innocence lost as it is portrayed in Catcher in the Rye, or even Alice in Wonderland, and then analyze a scene in Taxi Driver looking at how the camera portrays innocence. Be specific, prove your points with film language, and demonstrate that you have learned something from the course. We will of course grade this paper more rigorously than the others as we will expect that you have become proficient at analyzing style by this point.

 

Feel free to contact Chris McGee (cwmcgee@ilstu.edu 438-2718) or Professor McBride (wmcbrid@ilstu.edu 438-7998) any time via e-mail, office phone, or during office hours (T&R 1-2p) with any concerns about the assignments, as well as any concerns with attendance (McGee only).