Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Blog Assignment / Project Proposals / Example Projects

First, Here's the Blog Assignment:

Take some small fragment of Danielewski's text -- a paragraph at most. It should be something we have not discussed in class, _or_ you should have a completely different take on it. It must be a passage which has some larger significance, hopefully one not immediately noticed or understood. Follow that passage (or shape, or symbol, or whatever) in detail, using it to formulate an argument that _just_ looking at that passage, we can/should understand the book as a whole in at least a subtly different way.

Second, Regarding Project Proposals

Some time in the next week or so, everyone should post a project proposal. If you're proposing a creative project, you should explain in a paragraph or two both what you want to do and why. If you wanted to write a detective story in Danielewski's style (this is drawn from one of Sean's posts), you would perhaps spend a paragraph or so explaining the story, characters, and how you want to use Danielewski's style (footnotes, etc), then another paragraph or two explaining what the project is for: that is, what you're trying to prove or show.

If you're proposing an essay, you should describe the project in a paragraph or two, including these elements.
  1. You should give a version of your thesis, that is, your argument. What do you want the reader to believe after having read the essay?
  2. You should give a counterargument to your thesis. In other words, if your assignment was to argue against the thesis, how would you go about doing it? This demonstrates that your argument is not trivial -- intelligent people aren't going to necessarily agree with you, which demonstrates that the argument is worth making.
  3. You should briefly explain what research you intend to use; ideally, you'd have a short bibliography.
In this class, of course, it's possible to have a project which is neither purely creative nor purely an essay; in that case, be guided by the spirit of the material above, and not by the letter.

Third, Example Projects

Several of you have asked if I can provide a couple options for projects, so that you don't need to come up with them on your own. I have mixed feelings about this, since it runs contrary to some of my goals for the class, but since multiple people have asked, I'm happy to give it a try. You are welcome to use either prompt; if you wish to do so, you should still post a brief project proposal detailing the particulars of your argument.

These prompts are meant to be challenging but feasible, and to give you some degree of flexibility within them.

Prompt #1

In House of Leaves, Danielewski references a very large number of books, as well as other source materials. He even gives us an index, which is at least somewhat helpful when trying to figure out what works are cited where. Our discussion of Don Quixote and "Pierre Menard" can serve as a model of what it's possible to do by tracking down the novel's sources. (Note: You're welcome to use Borges or Cervantes here, as long as you aren't repeating what we discussed in class)

Your assignment is to pick an author cited/used by Danielewski, read the relevant book (or several essay/stories, as appropriate), and then develop an argument that goes something like this: "By paying attention to Danielewski's use of author x, we can see that we should read the novel differently, as follows..." In other words, your argument should show how we should understand House of Leaves differently once we understand Danielewski's citations.

Example authors: Herman Melville, Jacques Derrida

Prompt #2

Much of the action in Jimmy Corrigan occurs not in the present day, but at the World's Columbian Exhibition of 1893. We spent some time in class sketching out rather broadly the significance of the Exhibition in Ware's work. Your assignment is to make this general outline precise and detailed. Begin by researching the World's Columbian Exhibition: I don't mean by reading the Wikipedia entry, but by reading at least one scholarly book or a number of scholarly articles on the subject. Then, focusing on a precise subject (for instance, the conflict between Tesla and Eddison, or the significance of the Ferris Wheel), argue that either

a) We should read Jimmy Corrigan (focusing, as always, on a limited set of images) in a different way given a thorough understanding of the World's Columbian Exhibition.

b) Jimmy Corrigan presents an argument of its own about particular details of the World's Columbian Exhibition; you will explain and respond to Ware's argument.

"Prompt" #3

I put "Prompt" in quotes to emphasize that I don't know the subject well enough to even write a good prompt for it. But I'd be very interested in seeing an essay on the internet community which has grown up around House of Leaves - you could become interested in what the community has to say about the book, or in the community itself. I haven't spent enough time on this topic myself to offer any further suggestions at this time, but it at least gives you a starting point.

Final Comments

I'm not going to give any prompts for creative projects: if you want to do one, I want to see your ideas, not some variation on my own. Other topics I'd be interested in for a research-based essay would be some further contextualization of Jimmy Corrigan within the history of early comics (Little Nemo in Slumberland, the Yellow Kid), an essay on the relationship between "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" and the U.S. intelligence community, and an essay relating House of Leaves to the films of Danielewski's father (I don't know whether this is practical or not, but it is interesting).

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