The Seductive Hallucination Imagination Challenge Research Adventure®

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Elegant, eclectic and clever, not to mention an American original when it comes to writing, Gore Vidal reminds young writers that a peek into the fabulous history of the word essay, an etymological poke into the labyrinth of essay's past, yields another word you might not have expected to run across: attempt. You see most people think of an essay as a finished product--a dull, lifeless, inert textual body with a static introduction, an "ABCD" body, and a clear lets-tie-up-all-the-pieces conclusion. You will not write this kind of essay, opting instead to produce something that is less product and more process. 

All the OED, the Oxford English Dictionary to show you the "guts," the DNA of the term "essay," with its Jeckyll/Hyde twin, "assay:

essay as assay

So, for the purposes of this writing/research challenge, I am asking, with no little nostalgia, for you to return to the origins of the essay. Your mandated task is to make a sincere attempt to produce a set of ordered reflections, a group of carefully arranged tasty words which respond in some way to the novels, films, short critical treatments and lectures you have worked through and will continue to work through in the coming weeks. 

Are you writing for your gang of eight graduate teaching assistants and your professor? In a way, of course you are. 

But in order to do well on this assignment, you must forget about this peculiar group of nine literature-cinema fetishists!

The only people who count are the readers you write for: the audience for your paper.

Who are they? Well, they are a lot like you. They are impatient and easily bored. They like specific details; they love direct, succinct quotes woven carefully into the fabric of an essay. If you are going to write about an image, they want to see a xeroxed reproduction of that image properly captioned and carefully catalogued in your list of works cited. They hate misspellings and passive verbs. They like tangy language which is fresh and not filled with stupid clichés. Specifications: 5 to 8 pages tops; cleverly titled, double-spaced; 1-inch margins top and sides; carefully proofread; chock-full of active verbs; MLA or University of Chicago-style bibliographies/works cited; and due Friday, November 17 at noon in your specific, crudely decorated 220 section envelopes outside my door at the end of the hallway, 273 Arts and Letters. Late papers will not be accepted--keep this in mind as this imagination research challenge constitutes 33% of your final grade for the term. Early papers, in most cases, will be cherished lovingly--that is, you are encouraged to run your work by your GTAs in advance. All A-level critical speculations will integrate carefully selected direct quotations from the primary texts and will avoid ALL of the quicksand-like bad habits noted here on your gradesheet. They will, additionally, include researched material from TWO separate research resources found in LOVE LIBRARY stacks--YES, the "stacks."  While you are welcome and even encouraged to make use of material from JSTOR or PROJECTMUSE located in the ONLINE VERSION of LOVE LIBRARY, I also expect you to spend some time spelunking the stacks in search of published scholary materials that either support your argument or, even more exciting, that your utterly disagree with. One last bit of advice, do NOT plagiarize ANY material from the internet; unCITED material = PLAGIARISM; also, if you are going to "quote" a passage from an illustrated text, go to the bother of xeroxing the image and incorporating it INTO your essay.

Choose ONE of the following prompts...

An exercise in re-definition, analysis, and/or deconstruction

Redefine the term "The Seductive Hallucination" using Culture Clash, Frida Kahlo, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Darren Aronofsky as your allies.


Wherein you surf the contours of dialectical intrigue

I have argued in class that we might benefit constructively by seeking to complicate our notion of the dialectical relationship that obtains between literature and culture, between narration and nation. Do the works we will have read by late November support or dispute view? Use at least THREE works as you identify specific phenomena in culture that finds itself represented/critiqued/supplemented in and by literature.


Sexual Fictions

Define the relationship between sexuality and representation to be found in the work of Carla Trujillo, Steven Shainberg and any two of the artists in Schurer's FANTASTIC ART--do however try to focus on works by these two artists that are NOT included in the Schurer volume and that you have found during your research; include xeroxed reproductions of these works with your paper.


Damned Literary, Film, or Art Criticism

Find a piece of published criticism on two or three of the works we have read this term in a scholarly journal published within the last 20 years that you TOTALLY disagree with. Incorporate a critique of this published scholarly study as you produce your own critically informed interpretation of one of the works we have read thus far this semester.  Be sure to attach a xeroxed copy of the selected piece of dreadful analysis that you attack in your polished, posh essay!


Writer as Satirist

Explore the nature of satire in the work of Mark Twain, Steven Shainberg, Dan Clowes, and Chris Marker.


Tales of Seduction

Contrast the representations of the processes of seduction to be found in the work of Aronofsky, Steinbeck, and Stevenson.


Desire and the Human Psyche

Contrast the representation of the human psyche to be found in the work of Stevenson, Clowes, Shainberg, and Villanueva.


Funny Guys

Write a short essay on the dynamics of contemporary COMEDY. If you look close enough, you'll find humor in the works of Los Bros Hernandez, Geoffrey Chaucer, Daniel Clowes, and Jerry Seinfeld. Find some examples from some or all of these writers. Contrast their comedic strategies as you explore their work.


Psychoanalysis and Literature/Film

Locate and read ONE of Sigmund Freud's case histories from the multi-volume selection of Freud's collected works edited by James Strachey: Some of his more famous case histories include the Wolf-Man, Little Hans, Dr. Schreber, Dora, and the Rat Man.  Use one of these case histories as a key to open up unexplored phenomena from at least TWO of the works we have encountered in class this term.


Racism, Sexism, and the Psyche

Using the works of Villanueva, Shainberg, Trujillo and Kahlo, discuss the effects of racism or sexism or both on the human psyche.


The Erotics of Power, the power of the Erotic

Using one primary work written by Michel Foucault on power, sexuality, or punishment, analyze the dynamics of power and sex, sadism and masochism, in the work of Shainberg, Aronofsky, Trujillo, and Hernandez.


The Space of Literature

Using Val Clark's The Parisian Cafe as an inspiration, explore the notion of literature as the product of specific spaces--explore literary cafes up and down the coast of SoCal with a camera and produce your own version of The Parisian Cafe book--a significant number of the quotations from your book MUST be drawn from the required reading and art we have read this term and MUST include as well a two to three page essay detailing the strategy of your composition.  Like ALL the other questions, this challenge must be accompanied with TWO outside research resources.


Tracing Women

Using Curley's wife as our (anti)model for characterizations of women in our studies so far, evaluate two or three other female temptresses.  How are women like Marion Silver, Sarah Goldfarb, Jane of Yellow Wallpaper fame, etc, like and unlike Steinbeck's nameless siren? What is the impact of their relationships with our male (anti)heroes on the works in which they appear?


Desiring Desire

Desire: to wish or long for, to crave, to lust, to covet, to hope, to want. We all desire something, someone, or some situation. But what constitutes desire? Using Chris Marker, Daniel Clowes, John Steinbeck, and Darren Aronofsky, explore the ways that the authors, films, or texts represent the complex issue of "desiring" and "wanting," be it love, individuality, sex, or a particular identity.



Considering that we have viewed several different media this semester (film, printed words, oil painting, comics etc.), one must consider how each effects the nature of the narrative.  From Steinbeck to Aronofsky to Kahlo to los bros Hernandez consider how the narrative is shaped in each.  All the material we viewed in class is indeed attempting to tell a story.  For this essay, do not concentrate on what these stories are.  Instead, analyze how these stories are told in their different form.  What is the common bond that allows us to view all these different mediums as 'narrative'?


Alienation: Self in a Cage Alone 

"We are all lonesome animals.  We spend all life trying to be less lonesome."--
Steinbeck's words encapsulate two major themes of this course [and of human nature]: loneliness and alienation.  Explore and analyze the presence of these themes within at least THREE course texts.  How is loneliness and alienation depicted by our writers and artists and how do their respective characters/subjects cope with these elements of human nature?  Think about how other course themes, such as addictions and dreams, also play into this analysis.  What direct connections can you make between loneliness and alienation, and addictions and dreams? 


Derrida, Foucault, et al and Literature/Cinema

Find and read an essay by Carlos Fuentes, Jacques Derrida, Edward Said, Michel Foucault, Jane Gallop, Luce Irigaray, Michael Taussig, Henry Louis Gates, Stephen Heath or Gore Vidal that you suspect relates to one writer and one director we have read/screened this term. Apply the ideas you find in this essay as you comparatively discuss these two required texts from this semester's grab-bag of delicious literary/cinematic morsels.  Do please ensure that the essay you select is a substantive piece over 10 pages in length and that you xerox and attach a copy of said selected essay to your essay when you turn it in!


Roll Your Own

Develop and refine your OWN independent thesis; you MUST run your proposal by your GTA by FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 3, by noon in person or via E-mail in order to take advantage of this option.  You are also welcome to run it by me in person during office hours or by appointment--BEFORE November 3, 2006 at noon.  If you are interested in combining or adapting any of the challenges listed above, do also PLEASE run this by your GTAs before this deadline.