20th-Century Studies Assignment

Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University


PROJECT DUE:MONDAY, APRIL 16th, 2012; 1:10 pm.

On the due date noted, you will be pleased and alleviated to turn in the most significant single piece of work you will have produced for the semester in this class, something that ought to have a respectable afterlife — at least as a potential portfolio paper, but possibly as the central document or creation of your own particular expertise in 20th/21st-century arts and humanities studies, or the kernel of a larger future masterpiece. Eventually you’re going to die; aim for step one of immortality here.

No matter what assignment option you select below, several objectives are shared, and these dictate several common requirements in both 1) the conduct, extent, and presentation of research, and 2) the crafting, specificity, and presentation of your own analysis. No matter what mode you are operating in (traditional paper, powerpoint presentation, web site, etc.), realize you will be submitting focused analysis of one work from an artist, composer, or author and an annotated bibliography of several wisely-chosen secondary sources including scholarly journal articles.

1) THE SECOND PROJECT: a minimum eight-page manuscript
(minimum five pages analysis, three pages or less annotated bibliography)

If you submitted a completed five-page project for your first assignment, this more substantial manuscript will fulfill project requirements for the semester. Be conscientious, nay ruthless, merciless! in focusing your scope and in exploring implications.

1) Select one specific work: one literary, artistic, or musical work from our later 20th/21st-century class materials. Trying to fill space by “covering” too many pieces or a whole movement will dilute your analysis this time and sound like a crappy tv documentary; such a project, and its resultant grade, will suck. Select only something from the latter half of the century or beyond, and something either partially examined in class or at least directly connected to class materials. Do not select popular culture topics or recycle American culture papers from other classes. Check topics with me if you had hoped to re-examine Colette or something from earlier, or if there’s any chance I’ll end up considering your subject cheesy.

2) Find a specific facet of the selected work, a subtle motif, or a set of peculiarities in need of explanation. Why is this one insight or set of observations of yours significant in the larger framework of the piece? You’re looking at one theme, or one aspect of character, or something equally focused in literature, about which you will construct a thesis statement. With an art piece you may be looking with various angles and considerations, all of which should converge into some kind of interpretive thesis about the piece. The same goes for music.

3) Research your subject. You are required this time include among your secondary sources several scholarly journal articles, and it is certain that the internet will not be your salvation. Go to the WSU Libraries web page and instead of hitting Griffin automatically, click Journal Indexes: http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/griffin/indexes.htm. Navigate by subject to either the Music Index or Arts and Humanities Index.
Then conduct a search with your author’s name or the musical piece or whatever is appropriate. The ideal sources are scholarly journal articles. Sometimes reviews are useful. But encyclopedia-type resources (especially Wikipedia) are embarrassing and should be worthless at the stage of sophistication you should be operating at now. These articles do not need to”cover” your subject directly — in fact, best when they don’t. They should, however, relate to your subject and supply at least some pithy quotations about the trends and influences and other relevant matters concerning your own specific author or artist or topic. Part of the grade on this project will reflect the quality and pertinence of the resources.

4) Original insight and analysis should still dominate the entire discussion. Your final revised essay must be a minimum of five full, typed, double-spaced pages containing 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). The remaining three pages should consist of an annotated bibliography: a correctly formatted MLA-style Works Cited list with summaries of, quotations from, and commentaries upon each resource. Annotations should make clear the use to which you are putting the article, and not simply function as sterile summaries.

5) For further instruction regarding documentation, refer to the hand-out given with the previous assignment, or to the web page, or ask me ahead of time. Proofread well so that minor surface matters do not distract readers from your ideas.


I welcome other kinds of projects that demonstrate the same objectives that the paper does: 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 20th/21st-century studies which will inspire enthusiasm and break new ground impressively. You may work on a collaborative endeavor with a colleague. There are many possibilities. Check out my web site and note how skimpy most components are. Some items appear in the index without any linked text! And what about Martha Graham, or the films about 20th-century artists, such as Pollack and Basquiat? Think about it.

You too may propose to me an analysis/annotated bibliography combo, but do get an approval first.

3) MEDIA FRENZY: a web site, powerpoint presentation, or other.

You may work alone or with someone else creating a useful resource for current and future students of 20th/21st-century studies. 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. Sophisticated research must take place and be clearly, logically, and professionally incorporated into the project. As with option #1 above, you need to find at least four scholarly journal articles and not just rely solipsistically on other media resources.

If you choose this project because it seems easy and you think you can submit any old crap with a jpg of Samuel Beckett on the main page, you are doomed and will fail most miserably. If you take up this challenge heroically and meaningfully, it will show. And we can discuss afterwards how to display, link, or incorporate the work most appropriately and helpfully.

Sample papers, good to excellent, are available at various locations on my web site, as are instructions and examples for the required MLA-style documentation.

I am glad to provide advice and help at any stage, from pre-writing and researching to the drafting, of this project. Ultimately, though, it must be completed and turned in when due; the compressed schedule of late semester does not allow for screwing around and cheesy excuses. The project is worth roughly 20% of your final grade for the course.

PROJECT DUE:MONDAY, APRIL 16th, 2012; 1:10 pm.

20th-Century Studies Index