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ENGL 105, Academic Writing (Jacqueline Taylor): The Assignment

Topics & Sources Required

You may use any of the articles found in our Writing and Reading text or the coursepack but in addition your paper must use between four and eight scholarly sources of a variety of types (i.e. not all books or all Internet sites), at least one of which must be a periodical article or book.  All materials must be appropriate for a university level paper and as current as possible.  Sources may include periodicals, books, Internet sites, databases, reports, or transcripts.

The following sources are not acceptable, and no exceptions will be made:

  • textbooks designed specifically for classroom use (though they may lead to good sources via bibliographies)
  • brochures, pamphlets or other promotional material
  • material from newsgroups, mailing lists and other electronic discussion groups
  • self-conducted interviews, surveys or questionnaires

Following are the topics for this assignment:

Obedience to Authority

1) Milgram begins his article “Obedience to Authority” with a reference to Nazi Germany. The purpose of his experiment, in fact, was to throw light on how the Nazi atrocities could have happened. Research the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals following World War II. Drawing specifically on the statements of those who testified at Nuremberg, as well as those who have written about it, show how Milgram’s experiments do help explain the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes. In addition to relevant articles, see Telford Taylor, Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy (1970); Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the Banality of Evil (1963); Richard A.Falk, Gabriel Kolko, and Robert J. Lifton (eds.), Crimes of War (1971).

2) The My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1969 was a particularly egregious case of overobedience to military authority in wartime. Show the connections between this event and Milgram’s experiments. Note that Milgram himself treated the My Lai massacre in the epilogue to his Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View (1974).

Power and Privilege in School Culture

1) Research the issue of residential schools in more depth, including legal documents, scholarly articles and books that present the testimonies of former students. Write a research essay in which you try to account for the cruelties, both official and unofficial, of the residential school system.

2) Some people argue that the residential school system was a product of its time, a time when schooling was not only racist but harsh in its treatment of all students. Investigate the validity of this claim by finding sources about the treatment of students in the Canadian public school system in the first part of the 20th century and comparing that system with the residential school system.

The Brave New World of Biotechnology

1) The main focal points of the debate over genetic engineering and testing have been 1) whether the new biotechnologies are safe and ethical; 2) whether they will benefit agriculture and food processing; 3) whether they require stricter regulation (and if so, what kind); 4) whether work should proceed on the Human Genome Project and/or the Human Genome Diversity Project; 5) whether geneticists should work on biological weapons. Select one of these areas and research the current status of the debate. In addition to relevant articles, see Jeremy Rifkin, Declaration of a Heretic (1985); Joseph Fletcher, Ethics of Genetic Control (1988); Gerald R. Campbell, Biotechnology: An Introduction (1988); David Suzuki and Peter Knudtson, Genetics (1989); Andrew Linzey, Slavery: Human and Animal (1988); Monsanto Company, Agriculture and the New Biology (1989); Daniel J. Kevles and Leroy Hood, The Code of Codes: Scientific and Social Issues in the Human Genome Project (1992); and Ingeborg Boyens, Unnatural Harvest (1999).

2)  In August 1992, researchers announced that they had managed through genetic engineering to produce mice that developed cystic fibrosis. Scientists believed that by studying the course of this disease in mice, they would be able to devise new therapies for the treatment of this usually fatal disease in humans.  Follow up on either this development or some other development involving the genetic engineering of laboratory animals to further medical research.  Discuss what is involved in the procedure, how it was developed, the results to date, and the ethical debate that may have ensued about its practice. The primary focus of the paper should discuss the ethical debate surrounding the topic.

Fairy Tales

1) Locate and study multiple versions of any fairy tale. Having read the versions, identify—and write your paper on—what you feel are the defining elements that make the tales variants of a single story. See if you can find the tale listed as a “type” in Aarne and Thompson, The Types of Folk-Tales.

2) Literary critics such as Kathi Maio, Madonna Kolbenschlag and Jack Zipes, author of Breaking the Magic Spell (1979), have taken the approach that fairy tales are far from innocuous children’s stories; rather, they inculcate the unsuspecting with the value system of the dominant culture. Write a paper in which you explicitly address the assumption that fairy tales are not morally or politically neutral, but rather imply a distinct set of values.

The Beast Within: Perspectives on the Horror Film

1) Select three or four films that comprise a subgenre of the horror film—for example, Dracula or Frankenstein films, or some of the more recent “slasher” films. Rent and view these films. Then, research 1) the conventions of this particular subgenre and 2) comments by reviewers and critics. In your paper, relate the particulars of individual films to the conventions of the genre or subgenre. Show how a particular event, or motif, for example, follows the convention or varies from it. Compare and contrast what happens in one film to a corresponding event in another, giving reasons for the differences, and discussing the effects of these variants. To sharpen the focus, you may want to confine your attention to just one crucial or representative scene in each film (for example, the first appearance of the beast or its ultimate defeat).

2) If you’d like a change from horror, select another standard film genre; for example, the Western, the detective film, the gangster film, the film noir, the musical, the science fiction film, the war film, the screwball comedy, the black comedy, the family drama, the social problem film. Write a paper discussing the conventions of the genre using examples from various films for support.

3) The theme of some horror and science fiction films concerns either a misuse of scientific research—and, as a corollary, the arrogance of scientists—or a corruption of technology. Many of the early horror films include some variation of the line, “I/you have meddled in things that man should leave alone!” Research this particular aspect of horror films—the motif of the mad scientist or of technology as malign, dangerous, or even blasphemous (that is, encroaching on areas that belong rightfully to the deity). Focus particularly on films that deal to some degree with the ways that horror or science films imply or dramatize attitudes toward science and technology.

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