Prompt 10/3

This week’s post is a short essay of about 500 words. It should follow MLA documentation style, with in-line page references and a Works Cited list at the end.

If you’re comparing two texts, or two elements within a single text, the comparison must serve a purpose. There must be something we (the readers) would not understand if we read Text A and Text B separately, and you need to show us how and why to put them side by side.

  • Weak comparison: Pillow Talk and Her are both set in big cities. (So are a million other movies. So what?)
  • Better: In both Pillow Talk and Her, interior decor helps us understand the main characters’ personalities and values. (Now I know that the two movies use a feature in a similar way, and I’m formulating more questions in my mind.)
  • Much better: The interior spaces in Pillow Talk present a world rigidly divided along gender lines. Her imagines domestic space to be more fluid and androgynous, yet it still presents us with a world elevated high above the grittiness of city life. (Similarities and differences, and implications for broader issues related to gender and class.)

Remember, your imagined reader is not the instructor. S/he has no idea why you’re talking about these particular works or what interest your conclusion holds.

Prompts (choose one):

1. Note at least one passage in which Freud introduces a “naysayer” or possible objection to one of his claims (see chapter 6 of They Say/I Say). For each side, identify the naysayer (if one is named) and explain the argument, the evidence cited (what kind and how it’s used), and any assumptions it relies upon. Decide whether or not Freud dealt with the opposition successfully. Use your conclusion to make a broader argument about (a) the validity of “The Uncanny” at large, and/or (b) the best way to interpret Hoffman’s “The Sandman.” Do not refer to any material other than “The Uncanny” and “The Sandman” for this essay. In other words, no contemporary theories and no historical facts about psychoanalysis.

2. In The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny (New York: Oxford UP, 1995) Terry Castle argues that the uncanny feeling first became pervasive in Europe during the eighteenth century, a time when people’s faith in science, technology, and human reason was beginning to supersede their faith in God and kingdom. How would you characterize the link relationship between technology and the uncanny in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries? Develop an argument focusing on Freud’s “The Uncanny” and/or Her.

3. “The Sandman” and Her both deal with a man who falls in love with an artificial woman. Do their similarities end there? Write a comparison focused on one or two themes (for example, the uncanny, animism, the expectations placed on women and men) or motifs (for example, eyes, glass/screens, flashbacks). What has changed, or stayed the same, and why? What might that imply?

4. Why does Theodore (in Her) have the job he does? As members of the audience, are we expected to be upset by the Beautiful Handwritten Letters company, accept it, recognize it, or something else? What you perceive as the expected reaction won’t necessarily be your reaction. It can be valuable to figure out why a film failed at one of its goals, or why your own perspective might differ from the norm.


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