Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

20th-Century Humanities Assignment

Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University


PROJECT DUE:FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17th, 2012; 1:10 pm.

The Objective:

One of the goals of this course is that you improve your skills in critical analysis by articulating your original insights concerning artistic works and by organizing and polishing formal presentations of these insights and perspectives. This assignment asks you to identify one significant feature you perceive as shared by particular 20th-century works from three different arts media, and to explore the implications. Select an excruciatingly focused angle for, minimally, a five-page manuscript using MLA-style format. You have several options for meeting this objective which can both appeal to your own individual talents and still allow you to package brilliant scholarly analysis in impressive and professional ways.

The Options:

Identify one intriguing facet that seems to be shared by three of the works we have examined, one work from each of three different art forms (for example: literature, music, and film; or sculpture, ballet, and drama) and explore the implications. You are aiming for an excruciatingly focused angle on this facet of the works and will present your analysis in either:

A) a minimum five-page complete manuscript using MLA-style format and, optionally, secondary source journal articles (we’ll discuss research and writing conventions in class);


B) another kind of complete project — such as a web page or other media product — equivalent in scholarship, analysis, and grunt work to a minimum five-page manuscript;


C) about five pages worth of incomplete work, with a detailing of the state of, and remaining plans towards, a larger project (a web site or ten+-page manuscript, for example) to be turned in as complete near the end of the semester.

Finding a Topic:

You’re looking for some kind of common ground or common denominator among a few different kinds of artworks — a technique, a motif, an implicit commentary or critique, a perspective seemingly emerging from a close scrutiny of each of three pieces. Perhaps you detect a theme (angst? a specific kind of dehumanization? fragmentation? technological zeal? paradoxical irreverence/homage?) shared by a musical piece, a literary work, and a sculpture. Or perhaps you sense something that a ballet, a film, and a jazz piece have in common. The rule here is simple: the more particular the theme, the better.

First, select three works we have encountered in class (or at least created by artists, authors, composers, etc. encounted in class). Papers coasting superficially through general topics will be disappointing — all around! Also, the focus should be on your perceptions and interpretations rather than your evaluations or on you (e.g., “I feel that Chéri is an OK joe”; “I like this concerto cuz it has less notes than those other ones”). Cleverness and creativity (of an scholarly sort) are most welcome when it comes to crafting the project at this stage.

The Chore:

It’s almost certain that every one of you will be at least partially in alien territory when it comes to analyzing and writing about some of these works. Each discipline has its own specialized jargon (“divisionbrush strokesism,” “flatted seventh,” “bildungsroman,” etc.), and you need not concern yourself with any of this. Instead, be as focused as possible in a descriptive mode, fine-tuning a precise vocabulary to convey your observations (aural, visual, or other).

The Project:

Traditional papers are fine, but so are PowerPoint presentations or web pages, or films, or other scholarly products of your work. You are encouraged to research and include secondary sources, but original insight and analysis should still dominate the entire discussion. Your revised submitted project must be a minimum of five full, typed, double-spaced pages — or the electronic equivalent — containing a heading, an intriguing (not underlined) title, an original unified thesis, vigorous analytical work, no extra spaces between paragraphs, all in a clean, effective, illuminating, properly documented presentation (correctly punctuated in-text parenthetical citations of author and page, and a correctly formatted MLA-style Works Cited list). We’ll talk a bit about arts and humanities research in class soon. You will include a Works Cited list even if the only work on the list is the primary source you’re working with. Meeting these requirements, on time, assures you of at least a C grade (see grading explanations). Specific quotation from the literature, or descriptive detail from another type of primary source, should help demonstrate the validity of your argument. Your analytical discussion should be persuading readers or viewers of the significance of adopting your unique perspective on the material; it should not be a report of pointless factoids! MLA documentation is required for humanities writing and should be carried out correctly; so stop making me cross out commas, p’s, pg’s, pgs’s, and all other manner of clutter between author and page in parenthetical citations! Also quit it already with the bastardized Works Cited lists (MLA cross-bred with numbered references, APA corruptions, etc.). Refer to the accompanying MLA-style sheet, or my web page, or a handbook (MLA, Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference, etc.) for correct documentation, or ask me ahead of time. Proofread well so that minor surface matters do not distract readers from your ideas. The grade for any manuscript lacking a Works Cited list or containing a renegade, variant, or insane documentation system will strike you as intensely disappointing.

Cyberscholarship and Media Projects:

You may work alone or with someone else creating a useful resource for current and future students of 20th-Century Humanities. Realize that this is a scholarly project, not an advertisement or fan page. Pick an appropriately manageable scope for the project and include all the key ingredients that you would provide for a paper: research, analysis, commentary, and whatever else would make this creation impressive and valuable. And then package this in ways appropriate for a web site (research gets registered in a Works Cited that may include hyperlinks, for example) and for an audience consisting of future students of this class. Do not just create a recycling dumpsite, that is, don’t replicate what’s already available. Instead, be sure to offer the one thing most lacking on the web: critical analysis — not a full paper’s worth, since that just invites plagiarism, but some sophisticated components of commentary. If you create a media project, give me a hard-copy of at least the textual portions (and perhaps the URL): I need to be writing somewhat intricate comments on the pages to return to you.

If you choose this project because it seems easy and you think you can submit any old crap with some jpgs of Picasso and Bartok, you are doomed and will fail most miserably. If you take up this challenge heroically and meaningfully, it will show.

Alternate Projects:

I welcome other kinds of projects that demonstrate the same objectives: ability to carry out sophisticated research, to discover an original purpose and focus, to write with clarity and influence your audience’s perspective. You may find a way to construct a bibliographical, filmic, pedagogical, or popular culture related project appropriate to our studies which will inspire enthusiasm and break new ground impressively. You may work on a cooperative endeavor with a colleague. There are many possibilities. Think about it.

Doing the Bloody Work:

You are obligated to hand in the project at the beginning of the class period on the designated due date. Truancy is, of course, no excuse (i.e., “I couldn’t get my paper in cuz I cut class”). Fate, as we know, plays amusing tricks. Despite mid-semester miseries, don’t screw around. I tell you right now that Aunt Millie could drop in a flash on “paper-due eve”: it is your obligation to anticipate anything like this in your life that could go wrong and to take preventive measures or to develop back-up plans. You also must accept responsibility for being so foolish as to stake your grade on a computer’s or printer’s reliability. And no bitter ironies about roommates and alarm-clocks. No paper submitted means you did not meet the requirements of the course (big F); late papers will not be read but at least you will have met requirements minimally (little F factored in). On a more positive note, I assure you that I am happy to provide advice and help at any stage of the pre-writing and drafting processes, short of giving you a topic and doing the project. And I’ve placed various helpful materials on the web for your consultation, such as examples for the required MLA-style documentation here.


20th-Century Humanities Index