PAPER TOPICS & GUIDELINES
Choose ONE of the three topics below, then write an essay of approximately 1300-1500
words (roughly 5 or 6 pages, although it varies according to font, page margins, etc.).
Papers must be typed and double-spaced, in 12-point type, with pages stapled together.
Papers will be due at the beginning of class on TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17. In addition
to handing in a hard copy, you must also upload it to SafeAssign via Blackboard (details
below). No emailed papers accepted.
1. Compare and contrast how TWO of the following three films explore the theme of
self-interest: UGETSU, RASHOMON, BLIND SHAFT.
2. Compare and contrast how the protagonists of PERFECT BLUE and RAISE THE
RED LANTERN struggle for control over their own lives.
3. Compare and contrast how HAPPY TOGETHER and THE HOUSEMAID explore the
theme of desire.
Some guidelines for writing the papers:
Theres no single “right” answer to any of these questions, but you must back up your
arguments with examples and evidence from the films.
Give your essays some organized line of thought or structure. Think about the films and
come up with a central argument or thesis. Then go through the films carefully and
gather the evidence that supports your thesis. If you find that your thesis isnt supported
by the evidence, adjust the thesis accordingly.
Construct your paper so that the central argument is clearly stated up front. Ideally,
each paragraph should somehow support your main thesis, and each sentence should
somehow support the main point of each paragraph.
Be comprehensive, but also be concise. Figure out which aspects of your topic are truly
essential, and build your arguments carefully, but also be focused in your writing: avoid
repetition and unnecessary verbiage, stick to the subject, dont wander off into tangents.
Description of what happens in the movie is the key to making your points. Describe
scenes and what happens within them; describe the structure of the story and how its
told. Avoid mere evaluation (“the acting is superb,” “the camerawork is beautiful”).
Get right into the real topic of your paper; dont waste any time with introducing the films
in a general way. No plot summaries unless theyre directly relevant to a point youre
making. No background information about a films production history, its
critical/commercial reception, its creators careers, etc.; no unsupported generalizations
about a films cultural or historical context, or its placement in film history — “Movie X is
completely unlike other Japanese movies from its time,” that kind of thing. This is not a
research paper. Looking closely at the movies and thinking about them carefully should
be all the research you need.
That said, it can sometimes be helpful to consult other authors in order to generate
ideas. If you do cite other writings, your citations must be in standard research-paper
format — footnotes or endnotes listing author, full title, publication info, page number(s)
(or URLs in the case of websites). But again: the focus of the paper should be on your
analysis of the movies.
You dont have to write citations when quoting a films dialogue.
The content of your papers is what counts the most, but overall writing proficiency
(spelling, grammar, punctuation, and ability to formulate arguments) still matters a great
deal. Papers with lots of errors will be marked down. If you think your writing could use
some improvement, make an appointment to go over a publish of your paper with the
tutors at the Fordham Writing Center:
When writing about movies, as with writing about the other arts, your descriptions of
what happens in the film should be in the present tense. (“In the next scene, Songlian
fakes a pregnancy,” “Kurosawa gives the film multiple narrators,” etc.)
In addition to handing in a hard copy to me in class on the due date, you must also
upload your papers via SafeAssign. SafeAssign is a plagiarism-prevention software
program that you should be to access through our class Blackboard page. You can
upload your paper anytime before the beginning of class on the due date. This is our
first semester using SafeAssign, so please let me know if there are any problems with it.
You can also email (provide your username, and the full
course ID and course section number) or contact Fordham IT Customer Care for
Plagiarism will be grounds for an automatic failing grade, and may be reported to the
University as well.
No extensions except in cases of documented personal or medical emergencies.
If you go a little bit over the maximum word count, its fine. Be careful about coming in
too far under the minimum.
If you have any questions, email me at
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