Critical Essay Paper Topics
Throughout this course, we have been raising questions about the purpose of art and why we read fiction and attend movies (as well as why USC requires a course in Humanistic Inquiry as part of its General Education curriculum). This paper will give you a chance to examine this question as it is addressed in works of art we have read and watched this semester. You will have a chance at the end of this paper to provide your own answer to this question.
Write at least a 4-5 page paper on one of the following topics:
Note: I deliberately make these paper topics somewhat open-ended. I like to give students some freedom or room for their own iniative and interests in terms of how they respond to a topic and structure an essay. Of course, I do value careful, thoughtful reading and citation of the texts to support and develop an argument or thesis
***In addition, write 1 page on the following topic****
To conclude this paper, write at least one page in which you explain your own beliefs or convictions regarding how and why you value art and literature.
In this conclusion, please cite and briefly comment upon one of the voices of artists from Los Angeles in the anthology of “LA Artists on Los Angeles” (edited by Barbara Isenberg) as a point of comparison or contrast or supplement to your essay. In some interesting way, in other words, weave a citation from this Anthology into your personal essay. (You are also welcome to invoke points made in the interviews of these Los Angeles artists not just in this 1 page conclusion but when writing the 4-5 page paper.)
In this conclusion to your essay, you are welcome to compare and contrast your vision of the purpose of art in comparison and contrast to the purpose of art or film as presented by characters in Sullivan’s Travels or Singin’ in the Rain or to characters and artists you have discussed in the first part of this paper or to the art of skateboarding and surf board design as discussed by figures in the movie on YouTube: “Dogtown and the Z Boys.”
ADDITIONAL ADVICE FOR PAPER:
Whatever specific topic or set of texts you choose to write about, the paper should try to comment upon or address somehow a primary concern in this course:
—The role (and/or responsibility) of the artist in Los Angeles (in particular) and in society (in general)
You can address this topic in at least one or two ways:
(1) Look for statements in the readings or viewing (including postings on Blackboard and in YouTube clips) by authors in this course addressing this topic in their own voice or through the artist figures in their stories.
Consider, for instance, Smith’s Introduction to “Twilight,” Mosley’s essays “Realizations of the Writer” and “Working on the Chain Gang,” Schulbergy’s essay “The Writer in Hollywood” and his preface and afterword to What Makes Sammy Run?, an excerpt of a letter written by Nathanael West posted on Blackboard, speeches on YouTube given by Luis Rodriguez, and interviews (posted on Blackboard) and an address (posted on YouTube) given by Karen Yamashita.
(2) You can also address the topic by looking closely at “artist figures” in the works of fiction by these writers:
–Al Manheim, Sammy Glick, Sidney Fineman
–Tod Hackett in The Day of the Locust
–Cruz Blancarte in “My Ride, My Revolution”
–You can also bring use in this paper the debate in “Sullivan’s Travels” about the artistc
purposes of film
ADVICE ON COMPOSING THE ESSAY:
Find 8-10 key quotations from the readings on you select to write about for this paper. Cite and comment on these passages in your essay. You are making an argument or presenting a case (something like a lawyer before a judge and jury) and the quotes from the text are your evidence. Build the case around this evidence. Every paragraph after the introduction should include such evidence.
One way to brainstorm on these topics is to imagine a conversation or discussion section in the same room about the roles and responsibilities of the artist in Los Angeles (and in society) featuring Smith, Mosley, Schulberg, Rodriguez. Or imagine an interview project where you could interview each writer on these questions. We have their answers in the readings. Now compare and contrast what they say as you did in commenting upon the interviews you conducted for the interview project.
For the letter grade, use the following scale:
17/51 A+ [This is one point of extra credit]
Below C- should receive: No Credit. Revision Necessary