Paper Topics for Spennato & Nikugan
Choose one of the following paper topics and write a two to three page paper that develops a specific argument. This argument should be supported by at least three or four specific examples, in order to make your ideas all the more clear. Please keep the grammar cheatsheet in mind as a resource as you are proofreading and make sure that your organization of ideas adds to the development of your argument (i.e., is not confusing or random). This paper is due for both sections by 1:00pm on Wednesday, October 15th.
Topic 1: Write a paper that explores the connections between Villanueva’s poem "The Slow Weight of Time" and a specific passage of your choice from Tanizaki’s The Key. One good way to approach this would be to first apprehend Villanueva’s poem to the point where you can reduce it to a few words (i.e., get a handle on what you think his message is). Then, move to choosing a passage from The Key. The ending of the book is an excellent place to start, but you could just as easily find a very useful section earlier in the book. Your paper should clearly state your argument regarding the connection between the poem and passage and use close line/sentence analysis to prove your point.
Topic 2: The Key, to a large extent, describes characters who are role-playing. They are trying to escape their everyday lives by participating in something that is other, outside their usual reality. This happens on many levels, and in different ways for the various main characters. Think about this idea, and then examine the work of Cindy Sherman. She is an artist who has concentrated much of her art on photographing herself, but in various costumes and disguises. There are three books about her work on reserve in the library under my name (Be careful with the book titled Inverted Odysseys, only part of that book has work by Sherman). Go and look at them and choose two or three photographs that particularly speak to you. Discuss them in relationship to The Key and the issue of re-portraying the self, making the self into an other for the naked eye. It would be especially appropriate to think about the role of photography in The Key for this topic. In order to examine the photography of Sherman, think about the detailed way that Walther wrote about Van Gogh’s work.
Topic 3: Use the following passage, which is from H.D.’s Notes on Thought and Vision, as a lens to examine the role of sight/vision (or the lack thereof) in The Key. Use specific examples and close analysis to support whatever argument you develop about these two texts.
Lo-fu sat in his orchard in the Ming dynasty, A.D. 184. He sat in his orchard and looked about in a vague, casual way. Against the grey stones of the orchard wall he saw the low branch of an apple tree. He thought, that shoot should have been pruned, it hangs too low. [. . .] Then his conscious mind ceased wondering and, being an artist, his intensity and concentration were of a special order and he looked at that fruit branch hanging in the sun, the globes of the apples red, yellow, red with flecks of brown and red, yellow where the two colours merged, and flecks of brown again on the yellow, and green as the round surface curved in toward the stem. He saw the stem, pushed down almost lost in the green hollow. He saw the stem fastened to the tough little branch above. He saw the green brown bark of the stem and he compared it with the darker, stronger bark of the branch. He examined the ridges and the minute black lines that made up the individual surface of that little branch. He went further. There were two leaves, continents to be explored in a leisurely manner lest his mind passing one carelessly from vein to vein, should miss one rib or the small branch of one off-shoot of that exquisite skeleton. And when he knew the skeleton of that leaf, the rivers, as it were, furrowing that continent, his mind was content. But it had only begun its search. Between each river there lay a fair green fieldmany, many little fields each with an individuality, each with some definite feature setting it apart from every other little plot. [. . .] Then he went inside and in his little cool room out of the sun he closed his eyes. He saw that branch but more clearly, more vividly than ever. That branch was his mistress now, his love. As he saw it in the orchard, that mistress was, as it were, observed in a crowd, from a distance. He could not touch her, his mistress with all the world about. Here, in his little room, the world had ceased to exist. It was shut off, shut out, forgotten. His love, his apple branch, his beautiful subtle mistress, was his. And having possessed her with his great and famished soul, she was his forever. (43-5)