assignment 3-2: making observations about a comic

Due date: Friday 10/14
Format: Leave a comment on this post
Length: At least two paragraphs: one for “patterns” and one for “anomalies.”

This assignment follows the same pattern of analytical activities that you did when you first encountered “Back to the Land.” These are the basic things that most people do when analyzing something, whether it’s a poem, a painting, a human behavior, a speech, or a comic. Those activities, once again, are:

  • Notice significant parts (divide the piece up) and observe how the parts are related to each other and to the piece as a whole
  • List patterns of repetition and contrast
  • List anomalies – things that seem unusual, that seem not to fit the pattern

Before you get started on the written part of Assignment 3-2, you should have already read the two short guides to understanding comics, uploaded on the Course Documents page. Also, it might help to review the DK Handbook: pages 18 – 19, pages 82 – 93, pages 184 – 189, and pages 260 – 263. You were assigned to read these pages earlier in the semester, but if you haven’t read them yet because you didn’t have your book, or if you need a refresher, you should read/re-read them now.

1. Notice and Focus

Read the main text for analysis, “A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge” on pages 215 – 237 in the First Year Composition Reader. As you read, circle and mark things that stand out to you. Then, take notes on what you observe. Go through the “notice and focus” process as you did for Assignment 2-1 a few weeks ago. Here are the steps again:

  • In your notebook, list as many interesting, significant, revealing, or strange details about the text as possible. Neufeld’s comic is extremely detailed in some panels. Notice big things (like page arrangement) and small things (like the writing on cars and the individual facial expressions, body postures, and tiny gestures).
  • Choose the three details that you think are the most important for understanding the comic.
  • In your notebook, write a paragraph to give reasons for why these three details struck you as the most interesting, significant, revealing, or strange. Ask how these details contribute to the argument of the text as a whole, or how the details relate to each other.

> You do not need to post your notice-and-focus observations.

2. Patterns

Then, look for patterns of repetition and contrast in “A.D.” This process has five steps. Use a separate sheet of paper to make your lists. The final step of the process will be part 1 of your comment.

  • List repetitions — details, images, or words that repeat exactly and write the number of times you see the repetition for each.
  • List strands. A “strand” is a grouping of similar details or words. Be able to explain the strand’s logic — what holds it together? For example, polite/courteous/well-behaved. That is a strand of similar adjectives. Similar shapes/colors could also be a strand.
  • List organizing contrasts (for example, open/closed, normal/strange, black/white, masculine/feminine). These are also called binaries.
  • Select and list the two most significant repetitions, the two most significant strands, and the two most significant contrasts. The formulation of primary repetitions, strands, or contrasts can reveal what the text (and the text’s composer) is about and interested in. This exercise often leads to a next step: what the text (and the composer) is worried about or trying to resolve.
  • Select one repetition, one strand, or one binary that you take to be the most significant for arriving at ideas about what the text communicates. Write one paragraph explaining your choice. Give reasons for why you think this pattern is the most important.

> This paragraph is Part 1 of your comment.

3. Anomalies

After you have looked for patterns, it can be helpful to search for anomalous details — those details that seem not to fit the pattern. In this second part of your comment, write a paragraph about anything that stands out. Write about anything you noticed but couldn’t list as a repetition/strand/binary in the “patterns” process above. If you have trouble finding an anomaly, you could write your paragraph about anything that is missing. What does the text leave out or omit, and what are the implications of this omission? Is there any other aspect of the topic that Neufeld seems to be avoiding? Obvious or subtle omissions can be anomalies because they defy patterns and expectations.

> This paragraph is Part 2 of your comment.

Remember to keep an open mind and suspend your judgment when you are doing “notice and focus,” listing patterns, and finding anomalies. For now, you are just trying to gain access to the world of “A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge” and understand what Neufeld is saying or what story he is telling in this piece.

To summarize, this assignment is a comment of at least two paragraphs:

  • Explanation of one repetition, one strand, or one binary that seems most important for arriving at ideas about what “Back to the Land” is arguing
  • Explanation of anomalies or things that are missing from the text

assignment 2-5: pan-track-zoom

Due: Wednesday September 28
Format: Leave a comment on this post
Length: One or two paragraphs

Introduction: “Pan-track-zoom” is a method for focusing an analytical essay on specific evidence. This method will also help you contextualize your evidence so that readers understand how small examples fit in to the larger object you are analyzing.

The pan-track-zoom method assumes that by looking in depth at a specific example or case, you can draw out as much meaning as possible and put yourself in a position to make generalizations. When you begin listing many examples without enough analysis, or when you make many generalizations without enough evidence, you make the work of interpretation harder for yourself and your readers.

Guidelines: For this assignment, practice pan-track-zoom on an example from “Back to the Land” — it would be best to choose an example that you think you may want to use in your essay. The example could be a quote, a paraphrase, a distinction Kalman makes, a key term she uses repeatedly (with or without defining it), a photo or grouping of photos, or something else that might qualify as “evidence from the text.”

Before you start the assignment, read the DK Handbook pages 292-309 and page 344. If you were absent on 9/26, also read this handout. To begin your post, quickly summarize Kalman’s essay as a whole. Then move into the “tracking” phase by contextualizing the example as it relates to the larger essay. Explain why the example you chose matters and how it is situated or how it develops in the scope of the author’s argument. Finally, zoom in by making observations and interpretive leaps about the example. To push yourself towards in-depth analysis, look for patterns of repetition and ask “so what?”, identify distinctions as binaries and try to reformulate them, interrogate anomalies (deliberately attend to things that don’t seem to fit a pattern), try to define or explain key terms that the author might leave unquestioned, or uncover assumptions/implications in the example you chose.

Remember that a single passage, scene, or photograph from “Back to the Land” would give you enough to work with for this assignment, especially because you are working on saying more about less.

assignment 1-3: rhetorical analysis of an advertisement

Due: Friday September 15
Format: Please post this assignment on the Ning forum entitled “English 101: Rhetorical Analysis of an Advertisement.” Also please bring a printed (hard) copy so we can work with the assignment in class on Friday. See the bottom of this post for instructions on how to post your assignment to the Ning if you need help.

Introduction: This assignment builds on what you have been reading about rhetorical analysis by asking you to practice this type of analysis in a short essay. Earlier this week, you worked on a rhetorical analysis of a space, asking how the space shaped or influenced how occupants would think, feel, or behave. In this assignment, you will ask similar questions about one magazine advertisement.

Guidelines: Write a short (1.5 – 2 pgs) essay in which you analyze an advertisement rhetorically. To prepare for the assignment, we will do the following in class (see handout):

  • Suspend judgment
  • Create a “notice and focus” list about the advertisement
  • Find any patterns of repetition and contrast
  • Find any anomalies—things that seem unusual, that seem not to fit the pattern

Once we have completed these steps, you will be ready to move from “composing to learn” TO “composing to communicate.” Your purpose in writing is to interpret the ad and inform your readers about the ad’s implications or underlying message. Your essay should include these elements:

  • A summary of the ad for readers who have not seen it
  • The ad’s target audience
  • The purpose of the ad
  • Strategies the ad uses to reach the audience
  • Specific evidence to support your claims
  • A thesis statement

These elements do not have to be in this order, nor do they have to be in separate paragraphs. For example, you may take a single paragraph to develop a sense of the ad’s purpose and target audience, since these are so closely related.

Structure your essay as a response to these questions if you need help getting started:

  • Who is the target audience, and how do you know? What did you notice in the ad that would help you identify the intended audience? (see questions for audience analysis handed out in class)
  • How is this audience being invited to respond? What does the ad hope the audience will think, feel, or do after seeing the ad?
  • What strategies is the ad adding using to achieve this purpose in a specific larger and/or immediate context?
  • Do you think those strategies would be effective, given the ad’s purpose, audience, and context? (the answer to this question may be the kernel of a good thesis statement.)

If you have typed your analysis in a Word document, you should first select the text of your analysis. Click “copy.” Then return to the Ning. In the main page, you will see a list of forums. Our forum is clearly labeled. Click the forum titled, “Rhetorical Analysis of an Advertisement.” Be sure you are replying to the correct topic for our class. Then, a text box appears. Click in the box, under “Reply to This.” Right-click “paste” to paste the contents of your analysis. Then click “add reply” below the text box.