IAH 221C Summer 2015
Write an essay in which you explore the gender performance of two characters from the novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe(404.pdf). What elements of these characters’ performance are obvious (projected), and which are less obvious (internal)? In Goffman’s terminology, you might consider what the performance gives and what it gives off. You might also consider Sedgwick’s notion of “queer” and if it is applicable to any of the characters, or to the novel as a whole.
You may discuss EITHER Aristotle or Dante (but not both). You may then also discuss one other character from the novel. I would suggest one of Aristotle or Dante’s parents, or one of Aristotle’s friends from school. Most of the other characters in the novel are so minor that there may not be much to say about them. But, if you have an idea that involves a different character, check with me and we may be able to find a way to make it work.
Use specific examples. The danger of this paper is to generalize. (For instance, if you write about Dante, it is not enough to describehis love of poetry, but carefully explain a moment when you see it in play, and what this reveals about him.) Explain SPECIFICALLY what elements of the gender performance you can determine, and ultimately what they mean. It is not enough to point out elements of performance, but you should then explain why we need to know this…what does it help us know? How is this fact revealed to us?Begin by pointing out facts of their gender performance, but then move into saying something about why it is important, meaningful, or interesting. You MUST use quotations from the text to back up what you say. Use MLA format to cite your quotations. DO NOT use any outside critical material or other references…this paper is your analysis of the novel, and nobody else’s ideas should show up in it.
Things to think about: Obviously, gender performance. You might also think about the term “queer” as you have read about, and think about its applicability to the characters in the novel. It can be a synonym for homosexuality, but it can also represent a range of attitudes that are outside of normative expectations. Almost every major character in this novel is surprising in some way in their attitudes toward sexuality…either their own or someone else’s. Also, keep in mind that these are complex characters who grow and change. We learn things about each of them, and our understanding of them changes. Even Aristotle and Dante are characters whoare exploring: each of them at times expresses sexual desire (or at least curiosity) toward both women and men. Are either of them clearly heterosexual or homosexual, or are they something else? Why might you say this, and what in the novel supports your claim?
The requirements for this paper are simple: write a 3 page(or longer) paper. You should have a definite point, and all examples you use (and you should use examples) should relate DIRECTLY to that point. You have a choice of two characters to write about…please do not write extensively on more than that. Obviously, you might have to mention other characters in order to prove your point, but use that only as details, not a major part of your paper. This is a short paper, so you don’t have time to talk in-depth about more than two characters. You should quote moments from different parts of the novel, to show how the gender performance does (or does not) change as the text progresses.
Your paper is to be analytical. That is, avoid excessive plot summary and description of what the characters do. You will need a bit of this to make your point…but your point should be about what importance the thing you’re talking about has, rather than just the fact that it exists. Please use direct quotes from the text to show the moments you are discussing, then explain their importance. Do not assume that the importance is obvious…if it really is, then there is no reason for you to mention it. Be sure to explain why each of the moments you quote is important. (In other words, explain HOW they work, rather than just describing WHAT happens in them.)
Your thesis should be a statement of how gender performance is working in the novel. The two characters you analyze may not be doing the same things in the same ways (in fact, they WON’T be), so you are not trying to prove that they are. You may have a thesis that claims two different things, one about each character. Ultimately, how do these two gender performance help us understand the novel as a whole? (This is how you will unite the two into a single paper.)
You do not need (and really should not have) full introductory and concluding paragraphs. If you did, that would be almost half of your paper right there. Instead, start with your thesis/focus statement, then start right in proving that you’re right. Each paragraph should focus on a single idea or moment from the text. You do not need a full conclusion…just a sentence at the end that brings it to a close. If you feel that you need a full intro and conclusion paragraph, you may have them, but then your paper will need to be longer.
When your paper is finished, save it in one of the acceptable formats (.doc, .docx, or .rtf) and upload it to the Dropbox on Desire2Learn. If you use Pages or Open Office, there is a good chance that I cannot open those files. Make sure to convert them to one of the formats above.
Please use MLA format for this paper. The only things in your Works Cited list should be the novel and the Goffman or Sedgwick texts, if you are using those to help you form your ideas. If you use any other outside sources, it will harm your grade, since you will not be doing all of the analysis yourself. If you have a text that you feel you really need to help you make your argument, check with me before using it.
If you use other outside sources, there is a very great likelihood that you will receive no credit for this paper, and that you will not be allowed to resubmit it. Please do not risk the possibility that I won’t catch you…partly because of how it will harm your grade, but mostly because you will be cheating yourself of the opportunity to show me all that you know.
This assignment is rather short…only 3 pages. This means three FULL pages, not two pages and part of another. This translates into about 800-900 words. You are submitting your papers digitally, so it is REALLY easy for me to check the formatting and number of words in your paper. If you would like to write more, you may, but there is no expectation of this, and it doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get a higher grade.
Please double-space your papers. You may number your pages if you wish, but it is not necessary…I assume the file you submit will have the pages in the correct order.