Essay 3: Aesthetic Analysis
ENGL 2327: Survey of American Literature I
For this assignment you will write an aesthetic analysis that compares a literary work and a film translation and develop a narrowly-defined argumentative thesis that applies the aesthetic rubric in order to effectively compare, analyze, and evaluate the two works. Much more thorough in its investigation of a literary work and film than a movie review is, the aesthetic analysis focuses on the ways in which the relationship between the film and the text is or is not “beautiful.” The aesthetic analysis requires that you establish a definition of beauty and, in doing so, understand how intimately that definition is tied to form. An aesthetic analysis usually requires that you establish criterion; in this case you will use the supplied Aesthetic Rubric. As you develop your analysis, make sure to support your critical assertions with specific evidence from the texts. Avoid unnecessary plot summary; plot summary is not a substitute for critical analysis.
The study of aesthetics yields a heightened appreciation of form and an awareness that aesthetic values are influenced by psychology, sociology, history, and ethnology. An aesthetic approach to writing about literature and film requires an understanding of and receptivity to these variables in aesthetic values, as well as an appreciation of the universal, essential qualities that constitute beauty of the literary and cinematic forms. Under an aesthetic analysis, the literary work and film is exhaustively assessed in relationship to the complex aesthetic standards that have been established by you, instead of through the arbitrary thumbs up or down standard that constitutes a popular film review’s assessment of whether or not the movie was “good.” It is possible for the film to be tremendously flawed and yet worth seeing and writing about because some aspect of it works beautifully. (Cahir 246-247)
The most important thing about this paper, in addition to having a critical aesthetic analysis based on specific criteria and an arguable thesis statement for the literary text and film you have selected, is to make sure that you ground your analysis in a CLOSE reading of the literary work and film, including concrete details and explanation to engage the audience. No matter which texts you choose to explore (and you have free reign to develop any critical analysis you like that is appropriate to the texts and aesthetic rubric; there are no “right” or “wrong” interpretations in this course, only stronger and more weakly developed ones), just be sure to connect your main observations and ideas to each other and support them with textual evidence. Move beyond summary and interpretation and into analysis to critically examine your selected literary text and film.
Important Note: One of the pitfalls of the comparative analysis is that students will sometimes write a paper in which the essay simply lists aspects of the work. An example of this might be a paper that just lists various scenes that are in both the literary text and film, summarizing them and not looking in more detail between the translation of text to film. This is what we call a straight “review”-type essay, but it does not necessarily have anything interesting to say beyond listing certain obvious features of both works. The important thing to remember is to have a debatable (and hopefully creative and interesting) point you want to argue (and this requires judgment and analysis on your part–you have to have some sort of critical edge in which you are adopting a particular opinion that requires persuading your reader to understand your point of view, even if they don’t ultimately agree with it). Your thesis should be a point you want to make that could be contested; it should also pass the “why does it matter?” test. In other words, what is ultimately interesting about the point you want to make, and how does it go beyond just a literal reading of the surface details of the literary text and film?
Develop a comprehensive and detailed 5 to 10 typed (double-spaced) aesthetic analysis comparing a literary work and the film translation that interest you, and that you feel would be interesting to a general audience. Because you will be writing about multiple works, you will need to include a Works Cited page (after your 5-10 page composition) to complete your assignment. You should focus on how the literary work and the film translation inform one another, carefully constructing both your thesis statement and aesthetic comparison (so that your analysis should be very clear and grounded in interesting textual evidence). No additional outside sources are to be used for this paper, which should solely represent your own analytical thinking. When in doubt, contact me for further guidelines about your chosen subject.
Your analysis should be organized and based on the following aesthetic rubric:
The film must communicate definite ideas concerning the integral meaning (theme) and value of the literary text, as the filmmakers interpret it. The film must exhibit a collaboration of filmmaking skills that develop the integral meaning.
The film must demonstrate an audacity to create a work that stands as a world apart, that exploits the literature in such a way that is self-reliant, but related, aesthetic offspring is born.
The film cannot be so self-governing as to be completely independent of or antithetical to the source material.
Be sure that you are working with the assigned literary text and specific film translation.
Take screenshots from the film and incorporate them into your paper when appropriate. Be sure to cite any images that you include.
Review the extra resources about film techniques and correctly incorporating and citing visual images.
Consider the following questions when developing your comparative analysis:
Objectives: What relationship (based on the aesthetic rubric) should the audience recognize is present in the texts? Why is this relationship significant to the general reader?
Angle: In what way is the relationship between the text and film “beautiful” (or not), i.e. what is your thesis statement? Is the thesis statement clearly defined?
Tone: What attitude about this relationship should be conveyed in your writing? What words will you use to convey this impression?
Evidence: What evidence (concrete, reliable, credible) should be provided to support the thesis statement? How will you synthesize (connect) the literary work and the film in order to support the thesis?
Contribution: How will the aesthetic analysis show why the literary work and film are important to the writer and the reader(s)?
Style: How clear is the language/style/expression?
Conclusion: How does your aesthetic analysis explore representative ideas from the texts? How does it develop characteristic perspectives or attitudes expressed in the texts? How do the texts express individual or communal values? How does your analysis explore aesthetic expression in multiple literary works? What is the final evaluation about the relationship between the literary text and film?
Washington Irving “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1999) directed by Pierre Gang (https://www.amazon.com/Legend-Sleepy-Hollow-Rachelle-Lefevre/dp/B07C335CJ7)
Nathaniel Hawthorne “The Scarlet Letter” and The Scarlet Letter (1934) directed by Robert G. Vignola (https://youtu.be/GwktKVIPiOg)
Edgar Allen Poe The Raven and The Raven (1963) directed by Roger Corman (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057449/)
Herman Melville Moby Dick and Moby Dick (1956) directed by John Huston (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049513/)
NOTE: I understand this list is limited to male writers/directors. Please understand woefully few works by women were then, as now, adapted for film and even fewer directed by women. Same goes for marginalized writers. Also, I tried to select adaptions that were easy for you to access with minimal financial investment.
Arrange the parts of your aesthetic analysis in the order indicated by the aesthetic rubric and that will prove most effective with the audience. Your essay should be objective and analytical rather than inward and subjective. Keep in mind that a good aesthetic analysis includes a detailed discussion of a literary work and film translation supported by good reasons and evidence; so you must select your materials carefully and include rich details. Make sure to give plenty of specific examples from your literary text and film to support your analysis and argument.
When you write an aesthetic analysis, you look first for an integral meaning shared between the literary work and film. For example, both the literary text and film may focus on the relationship between father and son, on unrequited love, on being honest. Remember that these concepts are starting points. You need to decide what the film and text are saying about the selected integral meaning, i.e. what is the text saying about being honest? This then becomes your theme statement. Once you have identified the integral meaning and carefully craft your theme statement, you can consider why this integral meaning is important and how the literary work and film reveal this significance.
While you do need to begin with identifying a shared integral meaning, once you have established this you can explore comparative and contrasting points between the literary work and film. For example, the literary work and film may both explore the relationship between father and son (integral meaning), but one might use narration to convey a tone of joy while another might use dialogue or lighting to convey a tone of dread. Build from a significant similarity before considering the nuances and contrasts.
As you develop your aesthetic analysis, consider the additional pieces of advice:
Don’t feel you need to spend equal amounts of time on comparing and contrasting. If your chosen works are more similar than different, you naturally will spend more space on comparison, and vice versa.
Don’t devote the first half of your paper to the literary text and the second half to the film. This simple structure may weaken your essay if it leads you to keep the two works in total isolation from one another. After all, the point is to see what can be learned by comparison. The recommended strategy is to do a point-by-point comparison of the two works all the way through your paper.
Emphasize the points that interest you the most. This strategy will help keep you from following your outline in a plodding fashion.
At a minimum, your analysis should include the following elements:
A creative title
An introduction that identifies the literary work and author and film and director you’re discussing, a thesis statement that indicates the film is worth consideration (and to what extent) based on the aesthetic rubric criteria, and an indication as to why your thesis is important.
A summary or description of the literary work and film that provides the details necessary for a general audience member. This section should not normally take up more than 1-2 paragraphs of the analysis.
Specific points of evidence that support your thesis statement and demonstrate that the thesis is developed and supported by the literary works. These should center around the aesthetic rubric. Keep in mind that this section is the core of your analysis, so you need to make clear the supporting points you are exploring and how each point/piece of evidence you have selected relate to and support the thesis. Furthermore, this should all be tied together with your analysis, synthesis of the literary work and film, and commentary.
Aesthetic Rubric Criteria 1: A critical discussion of the “essence” or “integral meaning” of the literary text and how this is conveyed through the film. This requires that you clearly define the significant thee in the literary work and defend your assertion with textual evidence. Then you will need to demonstrate how the film, through the use of cinematic techniques, does (or does not) communicate the same integral meaning.
Aesthetic Rubric Criteria 2: Consider the film as an independent work. What makes the film translation unique from its parent literary text? Choose 2-3 significant points to develop in your essay. Evaluate these choices
Aesthetic Rubric Criteria 3: Consider the relationship between the film and the text. How are the two similar? Choose 2-3 significant points to develop in your essay. Evaluate these choices.
Body paragraphs that contain a synthesized comparison of the literary work and film, directly connecting and transitioning between the literary work and film. Body paragraphs should contain evidence from both texts to support the development of the analysis.
A conclusion that provides a final impression of the literary work and film you have selected and analyzed and explains why the thesis and analysis you have developed is important. Additionally, evaluate if the film translation is worth watching. Why or why not?
A logical progression of ideas, and evidence and examples to support your ideas.
A clear presentation and development of topics.
Sentences that are complete and relatively error free.
Although this may be an unfamiliar exercise, it is not as complex a task as writing an essay requiring a lot of library research, but is much more complex than a review in The New York Times which is written for the general reader. Your aesthetic analysis is for a reader who is interested not just in the general plot of the literary work and film being analyzed, but also in your critical exploration and evaluation of the relationship between the literary work and film and your presentation of the thesis and interpretation in your writing. Also, don’t assume that just because your instructor and peers will read your essay that they will automatically be interested in what you have to say. Generate reader interest by making clear what is at stake in your analysis and why it is important.
Style (using appropriate language)
Write in a style that demonstrates knowledge of your subject and a clear and accurate expression of your ideas. Think critically, understanding that the way you organize and express your ideas can be as important as the ideas themselves. Be credible, providing enough detail and evidence to show that you’ve reflected deeply on the subject and that you can support your claims. Be respectful, showing your readers that your ideas are approachable and thoughtful, not arrogant or insensitive (this may also mean that you consider alternate viewpoints and treat opponents with respect so that you aren’t ignoring or demeaning the opinions of others). And last but not least, be careful, ensuring that your writing is clear and accurate (not generalized, disorganized, or ignorant of writing conventions).
Formatting and Writing Conventions
Papers should be typed in a legible (ex: Arial, Times New Roman), 12-point font and double spaced (with space between paragraphs removed). All other formatting should adhere to MLA standards (see resource sin D2L for MLA formatting help). Additionally, you’ll want to make sure you proofread your paper carefully to avoid errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and mechanics.
With your essay in hand, go through the checklist below, noting where you have met the assignment criteria (these are the areas that I’ll be evaluating). If needed, re-read the guidelines for clarification.
I have written an aesthetic analysis that is 5-10 pages long (not including images and Works Cited), double-spaced, and in MLA formatting.
I have written a well-developed analysis, and my specific thesis and interpretation are supported by evidence.
I have written a title and introduction that engage my audience, and they identify the title and author of the literary work, the title and director of the film, as well as the thesis statement and significance of my discussion.
I have included an objective summary or description of the literary work and film so that my reader will better understand the literary works.
I have selected appropriate analysis points based on the aesthetic rubric to demonstrate the development of my analysis and to support my thesis statement. I have clearly stated them in topic sentences within my writing.
I have included textual evidence that helps create a critical and detailed discussion of the literary work and film and I have added commentary, analysis, and transitions that are specific to the analysis point being explored.
I have effectively synthesized evidence from the literary work and film to support my points of analysis, directly connecting the textual evidence with transitions. I have avoided the pitfall of separating the paragraphs by source.
I have integrated my textual evidence effectively, introducing them and explaining their significance (and citing them when appropriate).
I have written a conclusion that provides a sense of completion, reflection, and/or summation, making a point that could not have been made in the introduction, and reminding the reader why it is important to critically consider the thematic statement I have chosen.
I have created a Works Cited page.
I have written sentences that are complete, clear, and relatively error free.
I have proof-read my essay, and it is coherent and well-organized.
Submission of Final Draft
Upload your assignment to the appropriate dropbox in D2L before the assignment deadline. This essay is due Friday, July 9, 2021.
Suggested Writing Process
Step 1: Make a Choice. Your first task is to consider a possible literary works and films that you can choose for this assignment. It is important that you choose texts that are significant to you. This will make your task of writing Essay 3 much more engaging. If you care about the texts, that will show in your writing. Ask yourself the following questions: Which works appealed to me? Which did I enjoy reading? Which texts do I feel I understand? Which texts do I have something to say about?
Step 2: Read, Read, Read. Get to know the literary text and film you have chosen to analyze.
Look at the titles for the texts. What do the titles suggest? Who are the authors for the texts? When were the texts first published/produced? Do the texts belong to a specific genre(s) or literary movement?
Complete an initial reading of the literary text and watching of the film, annotating any parts that “jump out” at you. Think about the themes, imagery, and literary and cinematic devices.
Consider also the aesthetic rubric as you consider aspects of the texts. How do these texts exemplify those characteristics that are important to the aesthetic rubric?
Step 3: Choose a Focus. Simply ticking off every similarity, literary/cinematic device or interesting point in the texts would make for a slack and rambling essay. More compelling writing would result from better focused topics. You can ensure that you do this by carefully constructing your thesis statement. Create a focused and argumentative thesis that responds to the prompt of your choice.
What significant ideas and key similarities between the texts can you identify?
What literary techniques are used in the texts and how do these develop (or not) key ideas from the prompt you have chosen?
What specific thesis statement will show the relationship between the literary work and the film, linking the two texts to the aesthetic rubric criteria?
Step 4: Refine and Outline. Now, on the basis of your overall knowledge of the literary text and film and your decision about which points you will discuss, read and watch in closer detail the sections which are relevant to these points. Make notes of the evidence and key literary devices and cinematic techniques. This is the perfect stage to create a rough outline of the main points and evidence you intend to incorporate in your writing.
Step 5: Write your Rough Draft. After completing the initial activities (#1-4), begin organizing and drafting your aesthetic analysis. Consider the following advice:
Review your argument.
Get your thoughts down.
Write the part you feel most comfortable with first.
Leave yourself plenty of space.
Focus on the argument.
Does your thesis hold up?
Be open to new ideas.
Step 6: Revise and Edit. Leave time to revise and reflect upon your work as “a writer rarely – if ever – achieves perfection on the first try” (Kennedy and Gioia 1098). Consider the following advice:
Be sure your thesis is clear, decisive, and thought-provoking.
Ascertain whether the evidence you have provided supports your theory.
Check whether your argument is logical.
Supply transitional words and phrases.
Make sure each paragraph contains a topic sentence.
Make a good first impression with your introduction.
Remember that last impressions count too (conclusion).
Give your paper a compelling title.
Step 7: Be Credible. Make sure you come across to readers as a person of good sense, good character, and good will. In order to accomplish this:
Know what you’re talking about. Provide enough details and evidence to show that you’re reflected deeply on the argument, and provide evidence to support your claims.
Show respect for your readers and come across as approachable and thoughtful, not arrogant or insensitive.
Consider alternate viewpoints and treat opponents with respect—don’t ignore or demean the opinions of others.
Be careful and meticulous in your writing, not sloppy and disorganized.
Essay 3: Aesthetic Analysis
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