College 002: Assignment 1
Write an essay of no more than 1200 words on one of the following two topics,
according to the assignment of students to topics that Emily Renschler will
give out in your section meetings. Half of the class will be assigned to each
topic. The topics will be switched for a later assignment, so that everyone
will have a chance to write about both topics.
The essays are due on March 19.
- Humanness: Consider the film "Quest for Fire" from the point of view
of what it means to be human vis-à-vis the rest of the animal kindgom. How
is the relationship between humanness and non-humanness portrayed? What stereotypes
are drawn upon? Choose a specific perspective and argue for it, focusing on
particular traits or areas of comparison.
- Human variation in gender roles: Consider the depiction of gender
and sex in the film 'Tootsie,' with special reference to the relationship
among biology, language and culture. In what ways is the depiction of gender
and sex in this film culture specific? In what ways does the biology of the
human species determine or influence the patterns of female- and male-associated
appearance, dress, behavior and speech that the film highlights for us?
Some general advice:
- Don't write a movie review. We are looking for a critical evaluation of
ideas and images presented in these films, and the tacit assumptions behind
them, in the light of current knowledge. You should bring to bear on your
discussion at least three scholarly or scientific writings from outside the
class assignments and lectures.
- Be specific, and ground your arguments in facts with supporting references,
rather than presenting vague generalities supported only by your own opinions.
- Write a well-structured and coherent essay. Don't just answer the questions
we've asked above in the order in which we asked them -- address the questions
in the context of an essay that makes and develops a point of your own choosing.
- Don't belabor the obvious, unless you use it to draw a non-obvious conclusion.
(Yes, all primates have five fingers and two eyes -- so what?)
- Don't be afraid to take a strong position (like "humans differ from other
primates by virtue of having souls", or "human sexual nature is bonobo-style
polymorphous perversity"). We will grade you on the coherence and force of
your argument, not the degree to which we agree with your conclusions.