English 103 // Essay Four
This final essay combines the awareness of American social
norms we’ve been building throughout the semester with the audience awareness
and persuasive writing techniques we’ve focused on in the last couple of essays.
Unlike those essays, however, Essay 4
Spend a few hours reviewing some different products of contemporary American culture. These could range from ads in a magazine to stories in a book or songs on the radio to movies at the theater. Pick one specific object you think would be ripe for analysis in terms of how particular American myths and social expectations are fulfilled, inverted, violated, enlarged, or presumed. For example, you might ask yourself how the latest episode of “30 Rock” reflects or challenges contemporary myths and expectations about gender roles. Alternatively, you might wonder how that same episode reflects or challenges beliefs about opportunity and success in America.
Now that you have chosen an object for analysis, in a two-page document, analyze the target audience for that cultural artifact. Keep the following questions in mind as you write about audience. What does the artifact imply about its audience in terms of specific gender? race or ethnicity? education? class or income? religious affiliation? political orientation? Does the artifact presume shared knowledge of contexts, such as fashions, fads, people, events, facts, or other pieces of American culture? Does the artifact invite its audience or viewer to identify with a specific character or situation? (For example, an ad may invite audience identification with a domestic female audience by portraying a housewife complaining that the floor “just won’t come clean.”) If so, how is this accomplished? What else do you know about the target audience?
HINT: KEEP THIS DOCUMENT FOR POSSIBLE USE IN YOUR ELECTRONIC PORTFOLIO.
Review your prewriting and develop a specific arguable claim (thesis) about how the piece of culture you are analyzing reflects or challenges its target audience by using or manipulating cultural expectations. In order to support your claim, identify three to five specific elements of the song, poem, ad, or film that best demonstrate how it uses or manipulates expectations or assumptions. Write a five-page analysis asserting and supporting your claim. Be sure that the support for your claims includes direct quotations and/or detailed descriptions of pertinent elements of whatever object you are analyzing.
Essay 4 will receive a letter grade that will count for 10% of your final course grade. The successful essay will be carefully crafted in support of its analytical claim, and will draw meaningful conclusions about the representation of social norms in products of contemporary American culture. Essays that fail to make and support clear claims, that have haphazard organization, or that are poorly developed will receive lower grades, as will essays with surface errors so numerous that they interfere significantly with communication.