Response and Critique: Film Criticism
Assignment Overview: In this essay, you will evaluate a published article of film criticism, the subject of your explanatory summary essay. Build on your earlier essay by responding to the article you summarized and critiquing it.
Your essay’s purpose is to communicate some of the important points of the article, to describe your responses to them, explain your reactions, critically evaluate the article, and persuade your reader that your responses and criticisms are valid.
Reading: This assignment draws directly from Wilhoit Chapters 5 (Response) and 6 (Critique), so you should read those. You may also want to skim through Chapters 7, on rhetorical analysis of written texts, and 10, on argumentative synthesis. Please also read, pp. 214-223, which is about analyzing argumentation.
Length: 5 to 7 pages, MLA format plus a works cited page including the article and any other sources drawn on.
Article Options: The source needs to be the same article you summarized in your first essay, available on Blackboard if you’ve lost your original annotated article.
Content and Process:
Response: Starting afresh, write a short response to the article, getting down all your reactions to the piece (positive, negative, and neutral) and what triggered those reactions. Doing this from memory is a good way to appropriate the source’s message, but in the interest of thoroughness, you will also need to consult your notes and annotations made on your copy of the article. Use this response writing to help you draft your critique.
Critique: It would be a good idea to re-watch the movie the article discusses or at least one of the main movies it discusses. Whether you do that or not, you will need to reread the article in light of Wilhoit Chapters 5 and 6, making any new annotations on the copy as you reread it critically. Consider the movie in light of the article’s claims, and then evaluate the article based on your independent viewing of and response to the movie. In your essay, summarize the article’s thesis and main points and explain whether it is or is not a convincing reading of the film and provide enough analysis of the article and film todemonstrate why.
Deliberation and Thesis Formulation: The article presents a reading of the movie and makes various interpretive claims about it. Analyze the article’s interpretation in terms of persuasion, that is, in terms of the strengths and/or weaknesses of its thesis, main points, evidence, presentation, and insight (Wilhoit 100-107). As you read, play Peter Elbow’s “believing game” and “doubting game”, i.e., read as a sympathetic skeptic (Wilhoit 6). Decide whether it is convincing and which points or criteria you want to discuss in your evaluation of the article; then, formulate an evaluative thesis statement (open or closed, positive, negative, or mixed) (Wilhoit 107-8). A good general plan of approach is on pages 9-10 of Wilhoit. At the most mechanical level, your essay will feature the following moves or strategies:
1. A brief summary/paraphraseof the article. State in your own words, thoroughly and objectively, the most important ideas, including the argument (conclusion and evidence) of the source.
2. A well-developed and argued critique of the article’s more controversial or insightful ideas based on the relevant criteria below (see Wilhoit p. 107-8) and any other criteria that seem compelling to you. Comment on the usefulness of the article in relation to the movie (or one of the main movies) that it discusses. What does it explain or illuminate for us about the movie and how is that explanation convincing and/or stimulating? In what ways does the film corroborate the article and in what ways does it contradict, not measure up, correct, or move beyond the scope of the article? Does the article exploit ambiguities in the film that might be fruitfully interpreted in contradictory ways?
3. Explanation and reliance on well-defined criteria: Evaluations rely on comparisons of some subject with criteria, or assessment of the subject in terms of criteria. (To illustrate, think about the kinds of criteria Consumer Reports rely on when evaluating a new vehicle). Your essay should make its criteria clear: What are your criteria in assessing the article? Here is a list of the sorts of criteria categories that your essay might address, drawn mostly from Wilhoit 99-107:
Clarity: Is the article’s thesis explicit and easy to paraphrase—or not? Do the sentences make sense? Are there ideas or formulas that are repeated? Are there terms defined, and if so, are they sufficiently defined to make sense of the interpretation? If the message seems convoluted or unclear, what causes this?
Style: Is there anything notable about the article’s level of formality, tone, word choices, preferred sentence types, etc.? Is it difficult to read, and if so, what is the purpose of the style? Who is it geared toward audience-wise? Which words or sentences suggest the target or assumed audience?
Accuracy: Does your independent viewing of the movie contradict or corroborate the reading? I.e., does the film support the article’s reading of it? Does the article focus on one aspect in an unfair or misrepresentative way? Does the essay misunderstand or misread the film somehow?
Adequate support: Does the essay provide adequate support to substantiate and explain its reading of the film? What kinds of evidence are deployed, and are they relevant? Does the evidence weigh enough to support the reading? Is there enough evidence through multiple examples? Are connections between the evidence and the claims assumed or explained? Is the evidence convincing overall or more so in isolated instances? Which parts of the argument are more developed and supported with evidence? Do parts of the article seem underdeveloped and needing explanation, definition, illustration, or something else?
Valid reasoning: Is the line of reasoning sufficiently explained and sound? Are there connection or coherence problems, e.g., how one statement relates to others? Are there any flawed arguments involving logical fallacies, absolute statements, hasty generalizations, invalid stereotypes, false authority, false dilemmas, circular reasoning, red herrings, equivocation, ambiguity, etc.? (Read Wilhoit pp. 214-223 for more on critiquing argumentation and persuasive strategies.) Are there elements of polemic or propaganda in the article that should be noted?
Interpretive value: In what ways is the article insightful (or not)? Does it illuminate some easily overlooked aspect of the film? Assess its explanatory power, that is, how does it help explain something puzzling about the film, or how does it provide a compelling alternative interpretation of some aspect of the film, such as plot, character, theme, symbolism, message, subtext, etc.? Is the reading stimulating, leading you to further questions and fresh insights or to a new or modified opinion of the film?
4. An introduction: that orients your reader to the article and states your thesis which should be strong and clear. (See Wilhoit 107-8 for help.)
5. Summary/paraphrase of the movie: Plot summary should be very concise and focus on the aspects of the film that will be relevant to your argument.
6. Quotation and Documentation: Since, in addition to analysis and response, your essay will involve passages of summary and paraphrase as well as quotations from the article and (maybe) the movie, it must be appropriately documented with MLA-style parenthetical citations and a corresponding Works Cited page. Your essay must use a blend of appropriate signal phrases--introductory, interruptive, and tag, both with and without verbs—that keep your reader alerted to borrowed material and transitions between sources, as well as a clear and readable flow. Your essay must use sufficient quotes from your sources to legitimate your argument and demonstrate your competence handling sources. Refer to the “MLA Update” pdf file in Blackboard for details.
Editing: Make sure your final draft communicates in well-edited Standard American English.
Rough Draft Due:October 20, 2017
Final Draft Due: