No shadow No stars No moon No cars
It only believes in a pile of dry leaves
And a moon
That’s the color of bone…
Tom Waits, “November,” The Black Rider (1993)
First Assignment: Short Essay (20% of final grade, to be submitted via Canvas)
All of the artists and writers whom we have considered thus far seem to have something in common with Sigmund Freud’s ideas. In some cases they actually did read his works, and in others they had never even have heard of him. In different ways, however, the effect and the idea of the “uncanny” appear in their works in some manner and have an impact on how their works of art affects the public. For the purpose of this short essay, please select one of Freud’s many meanings for the term and one work which we have considered so far. In the case of the films, please use only the clips we viewed in class. Please explain clearly how exactly Freud defines your chosen type of uncanniness and then indicate how the uncanny functions for that artist in your selected work so as to enhance that work’s effect on the reader or viewer. In addition to describing how the uncanny functions in the text you will want to explain precisely what use your artist makes of it stylistically and substantively. You will also want to argue, using carefully selected details from the work as your evidence, what results they hope to achieve and what the implications are of your artist’s inclusion of the uncanny. If the work is a longer one, such as a novel or a film, you should concentrate on a particular scene. If you choose a painting or short poem you may (but do not need to) write about the whole work. Please write on only one work and use only one definition for this first, short assignment.
I want this essay to be brief and to express your personal opinions, but it should also be well argued and analytical. You have been introduced to the “5-Step CAD Process and Diagnostic” in section, and you should use it to help you design and prepare for writing your essay. Please remember that the 5 steps are a pre-writing process, not a template for the essay. You will only turn in your final essay which will reflect and integrate that process. This essay offers a way for us to begin talking with each other on paper. It should only be about 2 pages long (approximately 600-700 words), but if you need a few extra words, we will be happy to read an extra paragraph. All written assignments for this course will be graded both based on style and on content. All papers will be graded according to the instructor’s rubric which is based on the CAD. Please do not write a “5-paragraph” essay, and please go beyond summarizing the text or simply describing the image or clip. Your essay should give a clear, analytic account of the exact nature and the importance of the uncanny characteristics of the work you have chosen. You should also make a case for why the presence of the uncanny, as you describe it, is essential to the experience of the work and should be of interest to all who encounter that work.
This essay will be scored out of 20 points. Please keep in mind the rubric that will be used to evaluate your essay.
Your essay should be typed in a compact 12-point font like Times, have one-inch margins, be double-spaced and be written in grammatical English. I encourage you to tell me what you think and to use the first person “I” when appropriate, but you must explain the logical basis for your conclusions. Please be precise and explicit in your use of evidence. Please tell me exactly what in the text, film, painting, design, etc. led you to feel and think as you do. I discourage the use of secondary sources, since you do not have time to undertake deep research, for this short assignment. Primarily I would like to read about what you think and why. The essay will be evaluated based on your evidence and argument not based upon the use of outside sources.
If, however, you use secondary sources you will need to include appropriate citations within the essay and also a list of works cited. Although there are many professional formats for citation of sources, one of the simplest and most widespread is from the Modern Language Association. For this assignment and subsequent assignments for this course, I would like you to use MLA parenthetical citation. Information about that format, along with many other useful handouts, may be found at the “Undergraduate Writing Center”
Finally, please give even this short essay a title. Memorable titles are what catch people’s attention and they are great fun to write.
This assignment may be rewritten. Rewrites will be accepted until the beginning of the lecture or discussion section meeting before the due date of the next written assignment. For example, if the next assignment is due in lecture on Monday, the rewrite must be submitted at the discussion section on the previous Friday. Rewrites should be emailed through Canvas, and it is your obligation to ensure that the rewrite has been received by your TA. The original score and the score for the rewrite will be averaged and that score will appear in the on-line Gradebook available through Canvas.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me and/or your TA about them. Enjoy yourselves and the results will be rewarding.
Language is a virus.
Second Assignment: Research Report (10% of the final grade, to be submitted via Canvas)
The dandies and artists of the turn of the century would have adored the Internet, but they and their modern followers might have found it frightening. It is easy to get lost with so much available and it is often hard to tell how reliable internet sources are. This assignment is intended to focus on the most productive and collegial ways in which to engage with research that has already been done, so as to strengthen your own project while avoiding plagiarism and other counterproductive uses of secondary resources. This assignment should be typed and formatted properly.
PART 1 (5 points): Please choose one of the texts, films, videos, paintings, etc. which we have considered so far on the syllabus. You may include the one you chose for your first essay. You might choose the scene from The Cell, one of Des Esseintes’ decadent experiments in home design, Moreau’s “Apparition,” a stanza from Baudelaire, or Oscar Wilde’s biography. I would like you to write one page (300-350 words) describing what sort of research topics you might want to explore based upon that choice. What themes or questions do you think might be of interest? What works and materials would you want to investigate? Feel free to suggest a range of issues and possible methods in your brainstorm. Topics which are purely descriptive or which investigate whether a work is accurate/inaccurate in its image of reality tend to produce less successful essays. Please remember all the works on the syllabus are works of imaginative creation and should not be mistaken for being literal representations of science or of the real world as it actually exists. While you are encouraged to choose a topic that interests you, all topics will need to fall within the general area of cultural studies. Technical projects drawing upon a specialized field like clinical psychology or the mathematics of chaos theory, for example, are not appropriate. By contrast a discussion of the artistic uses cultural implications of new science would be appropriate. The choice of focus for this small assignment and for the video project will be up to you, subject to approval be the TAs and the instructor. You may find it useful to consult the list of possible topics included in Assignment #3 below as you pick your focus for this report.
PART 2 (5 points): I would like you to use both academic and non-academic search engines to develop a brief (for a total of 10 items) annotated bibliography of useful references for the project you are beginning to design. Neither your primary work nor any other creative work may not be one of the 10. I would like you to find 5 of the sources through the UT Libraries Web Site (using appropriate on-line databases for literary, artistic and cultural research topics). I would like you find the next 5 sources with an internet search using whichever search engine you prefer. Please tell me which search engine you used. These 10 addresses should be connected to your chosen author/artist, text/image or to the issues which they raise. If you include sources which you consult in hard copy, you will not need to give a URL but please do include an MLA citation as described below. I would like your review to be brief, no more than 50-100 words for each site. Please consider and assess the source’s strengths, weaknesses, and potentials. Please indicate what use the site has for your project (historical background, modern analysis, biographical information, bibliography, etc) and also any concerns you have about it and its authority and validity. Please pay special attention to the author of the resource and briefly indicate the reasons why you think you can rely on the site as a scholarly source and/or what makes you less confident about using it for academic research. Including sites that have no interest or use at all is not a productive way of completing this assignment. You should expect to consult more than 10 sites before you pick the 10 that you wish to include in your assignment.
For each source, please be sure to include a working clickable URL so that we can access the source. Later, for the video project, you will need to include appropriately formatted citations. One of the simplest and most widespread is from the Modern Language Association. I would like you to use MLA parenthetical citation format given for a “Works Cited” list. You may wish to include the MLA citations now, to save time later, but they are not required for this assignment.
Useful guides for conducting research may be found through the University Writing Center and helpful tips on how to incorporate and cite research sources correctly may be found though the UT Libraries here.
If you have any questions about either part of the assignment, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your TA or me via email or during office hours. Enjoy your surf!
A custom research guide for this class, which contains helpful suggestions and resources for planning and completing your project, please consult the custom guide here.
Third Assignment: Prospectus (5% of the final grade, to be submitted via Canvas)
Tips for Prospectus and Video
The third assignment is a prospectus or “pitch” for your video project. Prior to making the actual video, you must submit a formal prospectus. Drawing upon your interests, you should write one carefully written and constructed paragraph (100-150 words) that includes a clear statement of your topic area and a list of the works that you intend to analyze. It should list the main issues and concerns that you hope to address. It should include a research question.
Your peers and TA will give you feedback and guidance as you design the project. In some cases, you will be asked to focus, clarify, or even alter your proposal by your TA based upon an assessment of how feasible and appropriate the project is. You must receive approval of your prospectus prior to embarking on designing the video in order to have the best chance of success.
There are only two concrete requirements, in addition to the length of the video (6-10 minutes), and they are:
1. You should include at least two works (but not more than four). These may include paintings, films, plays, novels, poems, music, etc.
2. One of these works must be from the syllabus. The selection of the second/third/etc. work is at your discretion and may be from the syllabus or not. The only limit on the selection of the additional works not from the syllabus is that the work be familiar to the TA or the instructor
The focus on the project should be on a topic and methodology related to the content and disciplines of the course, which include the humanities, culture, fine arts and media studies, so please avoid highly technical approaches. Please also keep in mind that all the materials in the syllabus are creative works, and they should not be mistaken for scientific or historical representations of the world. Prospectuses that focus on whether these fictional works are “true” to reality tend to rely too heavily on description and to be less successful in analytic terms. Although the final video will be based upon your research and consultation of experts, it should be entirely your own original work.
Your project will be more successful if you propose a topic that requires analysis and is “controversial,” i.e. intelligent people might have different opinions about the topic. You should do more than state the obvious or simply repeat historical facts. A “controversial” project has a number of potentially valid perspectives, which are debatable. It is up to you to make the case, based on evidence and logic, for your point of view.
In the case of any serious concerns, we will work with you to craft a feasible and rewarding topic from your interests. Once your prospectus is approved, you can feel confident in going ahead with the project as you have described it. The prospectus is an official and graded portion of the assignment, and it should be taken seriously. Please submit your best work. We will be happy to help you to improve the prospectus and topic until it can be approved. We will also work with anyone who has an approved prospectus to make it better.
The prospectus will also be peer-reviewed, and both the TAs/instructor and the peer reviewers will give feedback using the following prospectus peer review rubric.
Two further recommendations: 1) please do consult with your TAs or instructor, either before or after the prospectus is due, to talk about any of the thoughts and questions you are raising; 2) the following ideas (in no particular order) may help to get you thinking, but this list is neither exhaustive nor coercive:
dreams and nightmares
angels and vampires
drugs and their role in culture
dandyism and decadence
the portrayal of violence
images of women
representations of sexuality
theories of beauty
connections across media
the impact of capitalism
the role of industrialism
differences between cultures
images of childhood
images of magic and the occult
the role of animals
the sense of justice and good vs. evil
the role of nostalgia in modern art
the use of the Gothic
the role of religion
the role of horror
adaptations to film
censorship and obscenity
popular culture v. avant-garde
nationalism and immigration
scapegoats and outsiders
love and desire
the archetype of the vampire
the relationship of humans and machines
friendship and companionship
We hope you will choose a project that truly interests you and we will look forward to hearing from you!
Video Project (30% of the final grade, to be submitted via Canvas)
The fourth assignment involves the preparation and recording of a 6-10 minute video. This assignment will allow you to demonstrate that you are able to perform the process that you have practiced in the Cultural Analysis Diagnostic at the start of the semester so as to design and complete an original project.
The simplest variant of the assignment is simply to film yourself using you smart phone and upload the resultant file. If you have any issues with uploading your file, please email a link to your project by the time and date on which the project is due. If you wish to include additional multimedia materials (either embedded or simply included in what you film with your camera/phone), please do feel free to do so, but these materials are not required. Your project will be evaluated for its intellectual and substantive engagement with the works and issues that you include, not for its technical expertise. You should create a script for yourself to make sure that you make the best possible use of your time. The short video format is intended to give you an opportunity to practice and hone the sorts of skills which we all now use professionally in contexts like interviewing via Skype, joining a board meeting on Zoom, etc.
While there is no set format for the structure of your video project, as individual students will choose different structures and styles so as best to present their material, your project should include each of the five elements from the Cultural Analysis Diagnostic (CAD) exercise that we have been using all semester. The project will be scored out of 30 possible points and will evaluated based on the weighting given in the CAD.
Please click here to view a copy of the rubric which will be used to evaluate your project.
Book of Dream Analyses (7%+8% of final grade, to be submitted via Canvas in two halves)
At the heart of this course on the “uncanny,” lies the interpreting of dreams. The basis of Freud’s theory is the actual case histories, patient’s dreams, literary texts and artistic images. Each of these “dreams” intrigues him, and Freud is trying to help us to understand them. In order to make the dreams we are sharing your own in the early twenty-first century, you are asked to create a “Book of Dream Analyses” over the course of the semester. These entries may be typed into a Word document or may be neatly handwritten. If you choose to handwrite them, you will need to photograph your entries and upload the images as .pdfs to Canvas.
This book is intended to allow you a less formal and more personal way of interacting with varied works drawn from so many different dreamers. While less formal than an essay, it is not a private journal and will be evaluated for content based on the posted rubric which emphasizes analysis and argument. Please use the “5-Step CAD Process and Diagnostic” to help you compose each entry. Please remember that the 5 steps are a pre-writing process, and that you will only submit a final integrated paragraph.
The goal of the assignment is two-fold:
- It replaces reading quizzes and allows you to demonstrate that you are current in your reading. While you may refer to the visual materials on the syllabus, your primary focus should be the reading.
- It assists you in understanding what kind of analytic engagement with the course materials will be expected in the more formal assignments in a relatively less high-stakes context.
If the TAs and/or instructor notice that the class as a whole is not keeping up with the readings and the book, surprise quizzes may be introduced to ensure that students remain current in their readings and remain attentive in lecture and in the discussion sections. These quizzes would be graded and factored into the participation portion of the overall class grade.
What Must You Do?
Concretely, the “Book” will consist of two entries each week containing your impressions of the materials assigned for that day. You do not need to make entries for the Hoffmann text, Freud essay or any related texts for the first few days of the class unless you wish to do so for practice. You also do not need to make entries for the last two readings of the semester (Breton and Dahl). All entries may either be typed into a Word document or neatly written by hand. You will collect the entries and upload them in two batches on the due dates via Canvas.
Prior to coming to class, and after you do the assigned reading, you must make a separate entry for each Monday’s and for each Wednesday’s reading for the rest of the semester unless no readings are assigned for the day. Each entry should be about half a page (100-150 words) long. The TAs and I will not be impressed by longer entries.
The point of the assignment is to be brief but substantial. Preparing these entries will allow us to give you feedback on how you are responding the course materials so that you can develop the analytic skills which will be assessed on the more formal assignments. Entries that summarize the reading, but offer no analytical engagement will not receive a score of better than 4/7 and 5/8. Additionally, they will assist you in picking topics for your more formal written assignments. More detail, charm and thought will result in a better score, but length alone would not improve the grade. For each of the entries, you may choose any details or themes from the works for the day, any images which you found powerful, and events or characters which you found memorable. One of the entries must refer to your experience with a “Gem of the University,” in our case the Blanton Museum that you will visit virtually. This is not additional entry, so please integrate a brief comment about the Blanton into one of the entries you are already making about the materials from the syllabus.
You will be evaluated based on what you turn in on the due date. The score for incomplete entries will be lowered, and late entries will be marked down for tardiness. This assignment is quick and even entertaining if you make your entries consistently and keep the “Book” current. It is a real nuisance to complete in a rush if you do not keep it up-to-date.
Finally, there is no correct answer to this assignment, no need to agree with critics, the TAs or with me about what the works mean or suggest, no single format which you must use for the entries. If you decide to include personal experiences, please be sure to connect them to the readings. The entire book may be informal and conversational, although it should be typed or written neatly. Each time you sit down to do the reading just open the “Book” document on your desktop and add a new entry.
If you have any doubts about your entries please show one or two to your TA for your section or to me during office hours. We will be able to read them and give you advice and comments on how to improve them.
Please enjoy finding passages, images, and issues in the works which excite and intrigue you. I thank you in advance for spending a few minutes sharing your ideas thoughtfully.
Oral Reports (10% of final grade)
This assignment asks each of you to prepare along with one other person (or if you would like with up to two other people) from the class a 10-15 minute oral presentation which will serve as the introduction for one day of the discussion section meeting. About one month into the class, your TA will ask you to sign up for your report date. These reports should show that you have prepared in advance and thought about the issues and works raised in the class, but the exact design of the report is entirely up to you and your partner(s). Some people give a mini-lecture, some ask questions, some ask the class to participate in a group activity, etc. Students are expected to put effort and thought into these reports. Impromptu and unprepared reports will not receive high scores.
The reports may involve music, video, film, the texts from the day, etc., but they do not need to include any additional media. Depending upon the room assignment for your discussion section, you may have at your disposal the media console, or you may choose to bring your own resources. If you plan to use a powerpoint, please send it to your TA at least 24 hrs. in advance of the section so that the TA can make sure that it works for you properly on the day you present.
The whole class will have prepared the material assigned for the day, and will have considered the study questions I have posted on-line for that day. The report should address one of those study questions in some way, and expand it in whatever direction interests you. In addition to addressing one of the study questions, I encourage you to keep in mind what we have in common as you design your presentation so as to make the presentation rewarding for everyone. Please do feel free, however, to draw on your own interests and to include materials of your own that are inspired by the topic assigned for the day.
The success of each student’s work depends on working in a team, although each student will receive an individual score for the report. Each student will also receive a brief written evaluation of the presentation from the TA who will comment both on the content and the style of the presentation.
In addition to presenting the report itself, there is one further requirement intended to ensure that each group of presenters has prepared carefully in advance of the day on which they are presenting. Each team of presenters should email 3 original questions using Canvas for all the members of the class to consider. These questions must be posted at least 2 days in advance of the actual presentation so as to let everyone know what you have in mind. This advance knowledge will help to get the class ready for your report and make the discussion livelier. Additionally the advance posting will ensure that you plan your report at least 2 days in advance of the actual day it takes place.
The oral report will be scored by your TA, but it will also receive peer evaluations. To give you an idea of how your oral presentation will be assessed, and how you will assess the presentations of your classmates, please consult the rubric. Oral Report Rubric.