Final Project


due 12/12/12 by 11:00 a.m. 12:00 noon to Blackboard and WMS 323

As usual, your essay should be submitted to Blackboard via "Assignments" but please also submit a hard copy to WMS 323, along with your evaluation sheet. Your multimodal component can just be submitted to WMS 323 on portable media (if it is digital) or in whatever form makes sense (if it is not digital). I will return all portable media and multimodal components to you after finals week.

As you can imagine, the final project asks you to discuss one aspect of a critical dilemma, in much the same way as you have done in your SCDs throughout the semester. However, there are two principal differences between this Final Project and your SCDs: (1) the scope, breadth, and depth of this project ask you to demonstrate a little more mastery of what you have already read; and (2) this project has a multimodal component.

Here are your aims:
  • To arrive at a critical discovery that advances your thinking, based on reading several texts or theorists together. This aim has not changed, and in fact, the curiosity, question, or problem that inspired the LCD is more important here than it was in your SCDs. Your reason for writing this project is in your discovery.
  •  To demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of at least five of our critical texts, their possibilities, and their interpretive limits. Believe it or not, this is not an arbitrary number; at least five is really an invitation for you to handle a few more sources at one time than you handled during your SCDs, but not so many that you cannot maintain focus.
  • To develop an interesting, specific, and coherent argument through sufficient evidence and examples, from the critical texts cases, and reference materials. This means demonstrating that you can expertly and accurately apply critical perspectives to each other and to relevant cases. As always, I'll look for how well you can speak alongside and through our course texts. You are perfectly welcome to draw on a source or a case from outside the class, as long as you provide me with a copy of it (or a way to access it). However, this is not a traditional research paper, and so you do not have to seek out additional texts if your argument doesn't need them.
  • To articulate how that argument ultimately gives back, either to the dilemma you study, or to the theories themselves. In other words, what is your intervention? Are you hoping to build onto a term? To open up a theory so that it is more inclusive of a particular idea or group? To unpack a concept so that your readers notice a neglected part of it? To use one concept to challenge another one? To rethink or revise a model that one of our theorists built? Or, etc.?

Because much of our knowledge-building this semester has been cumulative, I have designed this project to be cumulative as well. Thus, I invite you to take one of two options:

1. Revise, extend, and deepen one of your short critical discussions into a longer critical essay, of ~5 single-spaced pages. If you choose this option, I’d like you to think of your final project as a real revision, extension, and deepening of the curiosity you have already begun to articulate. Feel free to draw on relevant texts or cases from any of our four units! 

2. Investigate and analyze a critical paradox of your own choosing, in ~4 single-spaced pages. If you choose this option, I’d like you to think of a real paradoxical relationship between terms or concepts that follows from your understanding of what we have read, studied, and discussed. Not just any relationship can be a paradox. A paradox is a perplexity—like a Catch-22—and not just a set of opposing terms. The terms in the paradox typically support while also undermining one another.  They usually refer to an idea either seems to be true but is contradictory, or seems to be contradictory but has properties of truth. In past semesters, students have investigated such paradoxes as exigent/cy, mater/reality, image/text, counter/culture, thing/theory, canon/ization, and feminin/ity.

In addition to the essay component, I will ask you to construct a multimodal component that communicates (or performs or embodies) something about your argument that could not be communicated in a conventional essay. In other words, I invite you to construct another piece to your argument by using a different system of symbols. In some cases, creating this component may help you get at the essence of what you want to write. Your options are vast! For example, you may compose, record, and perform a song on DVD or in mp3 format; construct a short documentary film; put your paradox to a poem; write or record a skit; design a poster; make a painting; quilt or knit a pattern; create your own Manga; scrapbook; make a hypertext, etc. This is not a repurposing of your whole argument! I am only asking you to consider how you would communicate the essence of your argument to a specific audience in another form. Please note that I will need to collect this both in “real” and digital versions, if digital applies.

By the beginning of Week 15, I will ask you to submit a brief written proposal with a works cited page in which you explain your chosen texts and cases, and speculate on the argument you will make. Obviously, you cannot know your complete argument at this point, but I’d like you to begin arranging your critical materials and cases according to some rational grouping or hierarchy. I will also ask you to describe the genre form of your multimodal component, and to articulate up to three evaluation criteria that you want me to keep in mind when I determine its effectiveness for a particular audience. I will collect these proposals in class on Monday, December 3. However, I encourage you to submit your proposal earlier if you would like earlier feedback.


This assignment is worth 250 points. Here are some specific criteria I will use to evaluate: 

Multimodal Component
I will use the evaluation criteria you provide to help me determine whether this component of the project really does bring your paradox to light in an interesting way. Generally speaking, I don't expect you to create something that a paid professional would do—you may not have the time or expertise to do so. However, this multimodal component should be relevant, thoughtful, identifiable (i.e., I should not have to guess what I am viewing or seeing), and complete. If you relied on any outside sources to construct it, please include them on your Works Cited page. (See our “MLA Documentation” links at right for advice on how to cite non-traditional texts.)

Argument and Thesis
As always, for this Final Project, please remember that “argument” does not necessarily mean “position” (as in, the traditional pro/con, good/bad, right/wrong sense of argumentation). It does mean a discovery that can only be arrived at through careful synthes
is. Your argument should be interesting and worthwhile, but it should also be nuanced and specific. Your argument should be guided by an original and clear thesis statement that represents the discovery, is not simply a summary of the texts’ main purpose or theme, and does not simply state the obvious about the texts you are reading. In other words, your thesis statement should provide us the answer to or outcome of your discussion, rather than just telling us broadly what you hope to find, and it should not simply answer the prompt. If your thesis is complex, it may take a few sentences to articulate all of its points. This is perfectly natural. 

Textual and Contextual Evidence 
You’ll want to develop your argument by drawing heavily on the critical text(s) you have chosen, and you’ll want to use examples accurately and well. Feel free to use examples drawn from class, but please do not just echo the examples back to me without demonstrating that you can extend them. 
Rather than just relying on what you think is "common knowledge," use the reference texts to provide essential background. Please cite specific incidents, images, and other textual details, using parenthetical citations when you  paraphrase or quote from any source. In a discussion of this length, please try to avoid extensive block quoting. 

Reader Awareness
You are writing for a reader (or group of readers) who needs to see that you can carefully handle textual evidence, so be sure to educate them wherever possible by taking the time to define key terms. While I fully expect and fully encourage you to make use of the 
OED, it is not enough to simply justify a claim by saying “According to the OED …” You are also writing for a reader (or group of readers) who needs to know by the end of your introduction what their investment is in reading. T
ry hooking your reader(s) with a critical  and imaginative beginning, i.e., a sense that you know what you want to say, and not a vague or wandering or philandering opening. Your introduction  should help us understand the specific dilemma that prompted you to write. 

Organization and Coherence 
How you organize your critical discussion should ultimately reflect the argument you want to make. This includes a clear introduction and conclusion, useful transitions, and adequate development of each point. Your thesis may act like a “thread” for your main and supporting points, and each paragraph should be well focused and guided by something like a topic sentence that helps your thesis to unfold. 

Language and Style 
Your discussion can be confident and still carry a balanced tone, with neutral language and strong sentences. Your use of terms should be thoughtful, even elegant. You should not need to rely on excessive metadiscourse, “I think/feel/believe,” or “In my opinion” statements to carry your argument forward. It should always be clear who is saying what. Try putting dense or complicated language into your own words, and be sure to report names and titles accurately. No patterns of sentence- or paragraph-level error should get in the way of meaning. Spelling and punctuation should be 

Discourse Conventions and Formatting
Your title should reflect what you are trying to argue and may even contain layers of meaning. Citation conventions should be accurate and “Works Cited” in MLA format. As before, please make it word-processed or typed in a legible 11- or 12-point serif font, and formatted to include 1-inch margins. No cover sheet is necessary, but your name, due date, and course information should appear at the top left of the first page. Please create a header or footer with your last name and page number on all remaining pages.

Feel free to ask questions if any part of the assignment is unclear or if you become stuck while working through an idea. I am ready and available at any point to talk over your project ideas!