paper for English 279: Introduction to American Studies

You have to use this topics from the book in the essay Paper Topics for Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom 1. How does Douglass represent the interdependent relation between master and slave? Consider here the many scenes wherein Douglass depicts the “master-slave dialectic.” How do his depictions of the master-slave dialectic advance the text’s representations of the consciousness of the slave subject, or the consciousness of the ‘free’ subject? Focus in particular on those chapters in which Douglass describes the development of his own consciousness (as representative of the American slave’s “point of view”), in opposition to the perspectives of the various slaveholders and overseers (as representative of the master’s “point of view”). Some examples to consider: i) the first three chapters, describing his childhood self and how he “knew [himself] to be a slave”(37); ii) the scenes of literacy, the unintended lesson of his master Auld, and his encounter with the Columbian Orator; iii) his subjection under Covey, and the battle with Covey that led to “the last flogging”; iv) his changed reading of the Constitution. 2. How does Douglass represent the structure of the family under slavery? Some examples: i) his depictions of his mother, and his relationship to her, and the laws of slavery dictating that “the children … are reduced to the condition of their mothers”(46); ii) his representation of the absent/mysterious (white) father, and his identification of this figure with the figure of “old master”; iii) his representation of the whipping of ‘Aunt Esther’ as a scene of sexualized violence. Through these depictions, what does the text suggest about the role of the family in the construction and reproduction of “race”? How do these representations advance the text’s representation of “race,” as a social construction; and of racial classification in a slaveholding nation? 3. Analyze the different functions of Douglass’ representation of gender throughout the text. What are the parallels and the differences between his representations of (for example) his grandmother, his mother, Aunt Esther, Nelly; and Mistress Auld? What are the parallels and the differences between his representations of his unknown father, his various masters and overseers, and his own conception of free, independent “manhood”? How does Douglass depict the different (gendered) forms of slave resistance, and how does he connect these depictions to his narration of the development of his own opposition to slavery? How do these depictions advance the larger text’s representation of the contrast between slaveholding society and ‘free’ society? Paper Style; and Close Reading Formatting/Font size/Style: Normal margins; 12-pt. Times New Roman Pagination: Insert page numbers at the bottom of your paper (i.e., in the Footer), centered or in the right corner Spacing quotations within the body-text of your paper: If you cite less than four lines of text within a paragraph, you do not need to place this quotation in a separate indented “block quote.” You can keep it within the text of your paragraph. Thus, if you were to quote the following sentence from Moby Dick, you would not need to place it in separate, indented block quote: Example: During “The Chapel” scene, Ishmael meditates on the relation between an individual’s attachment to the physical body and the broader belief in an afterlife: “But Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope” (Moby Dick, 113). Here, the simile of the jackal embodies the abstraction, Faith. Thus situating this abstract concept within the material, the simile also restages the religious ideal as a natural phenomenon, a wild scavenger animal, whose actions are motivated by instinct. Through this simile, Ishmael also reveals a different perspective on the significance of burial rites: “the tombs,” appearing here as the symbol of man’s apparent need for markers for the dead, become the feeding grounds for this refigured “Faith,” the very space through which it obtains its “vital” (literally, life-sustaining) food: hope. Other things to notice in this passage above: The punctuation (in this case, a period) appears after the parenthetical citation. If the sentence you are quoting itself ends with punctuation relevant to the meaning of the quoted sentence (e.g., a question mark, or an exclamation mark), you should include that specific punctuation within the quotation marks. Also in this example: I don’t merely paraphrase the quoted passage or summarize its contents, but rather discuss the specific figures of language (images; similes, etc.) in those lines I have quoted. In the case of a quotation of more than four lines, you should present the quote in an indented, single-spaced “block quote.” Example: Although Captain Vere attempts to calm Billy Budd through his repetition of the phrase, “Take your time, take your time,” Contrary to the effect intended, these words so fatherly in tone, doubtless touching Billy’s heart to the quick, prompted yet more violent efforts at utterance – efforts soon ending for the time in confirming the paralysis, and bringing to his face an expression which was as a crucifixion to behold. (Melville, 450) In its narration of the actual deed committed by Billy Budd, the text foregrounds the complex relation between the intentions of words and their ultimate effects. Notice, for example, that Captain Vere’s words themselves become the active subjects of the description. In this description, Vere’s words are severed from Vere’s intentions, and become on their own the cause of Billy’s increasing anxiety: the words themselves are represented as “touching Billy’s heart.” In this scene narrating Billy’s inability to express himself through words, the text thus also highlights the difficulty of controlling any words, once they are spoken. Other things to notice in the example above: Notice that you do not need quotation marks when you cite in a block quote. The indentation and the spacing are sufficient to indicate that this is a quotation. Notice that the punctuation appears before the parenthetical citation. Notice as well that you still need to situate (briefly) the textual context of the quotation. You should not simply insert a quotation, without providing the context of the quotation. Also, and most importantly: if you cite a passage that is long enough to merit a “block quote,” you should be prepared to actually discuss the language and imagery of that quote. To be clear: do not merely paraphrase what (you think) the main points of the quoted passage are; and do not merely summarize or restate its contents. Instead, you should discuss the language of the quoted passage (the syntax; the diction; the images; the similes; the metaphors; etc.), to explain to the reader of your paper how you were led to make the claim you make about the passage. Merely citing the text (i.e., pointing to the text) and stating that you believe, or you think this passage or line of text supports your interpretive claim is insufficient. Ellipses: In the case of longer block quotes, you do not need an ellipsis at the beginning of your quotation, or at the end. If you are quoting a long passage, and you want to elide some words or phrases within that passage, you should use an ellipsis. (…) Example of using ellipses within a quotation: “Contrary to the effect intended, these words so fatherly in tone, … prompted yet more violent efforts at utterance – efforts soon ending for the time in confirming the paralysis, and bringing to his face an expression which was as a crucifixion to behold.” Notice also in this above example that you before the ellipses you would keep the punctuation already present in the original passage (in this case, the comma after “tone” preceding the ellipses). How to link individual close reading sections to your larger interpretive thesis 1) Identify and consider the significance of the ‘perspective’ being represented. Is the text presented in the first-person, the second-person, or the third? If in the first-person: is this figure a ‘character’ within the world of the text? If it is in the third person: is it a fully omniscient narration (which will then represent the ‘perspective’ of different characters); or is it a limited one, focusing on the perspective of one ‘focalizing’ character? 2) Identify and consider the significance of the textual (poetic and/or narrative) context within which your close reading site appears. This is of course related to 1). If this site of your close reading appears early in the text, how is it elaborated and/or transformed later in the text? If it appears later in the text, how does it supplement (as complement, or as opposition) related images, metaphors, or scenes prior to it in the text? 3) Treat the site of your close reading as a representation. This would seem obvious; but precisely because it does so, you should remind yourself of this as you articulate your interpretive claim, about the significance of this site in the text to your larger interpretation of the text as a whole. Remember that ‘literary’ writing requires at least some minimal distance between the writer and the representations presented within the world of the text (be they ‘perspectives,’ beliefs, thoughts, etc., or figures of language). What such a relation between the writer and the textual artifact entails is that in an analysis, interpretation, or “close reading” of the text, you should distinguish between the representation (and any views represented therein) and the author of those representations. Thus, to articulate an interpretive claim about this close reading site, you will first analyze the figurative language

 

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