Microthemes Most classes
Essay 1 Week 4
Essay 2 Week 8
Essay 2 Revision Week 10
Essay 3 Week 12

Written Work

Written work will be graded according to three criteria:

  • Argument. Is there a coherent thesis? How clearly is the argument stated in the introduction and developed throughout the paper? Do the steps of the argument make sense and lead logically to the conclusion?
  • Evidence. How well does the essay use the evidence available from the class materials (readings, lectures, films)? Are there contradictory examples that should be discussed to eliminate doubts?
  • Style. How well is the paper written? Has it been carefully proofread? Are there clever turns of phrase, interesting transitions, a catchy opening and conclusion? Does the paper length match the assignment?


Microthemes are 1-page response papers on readings, class discussions, and films.

Essay 1: Form and Content — A Comparitive Perspective

Five pages. In this section of the class, we have examined several storytelling formats: written word, live-action film, animated film, and live, oral performance. Compare the form and content of these examples with particular attention to these questions: How does the form relate to the content? What is best conveyed in each of the formats we’ve encountered so far? How is disguising aspects of the story important to the story itself?

Essay 2: Social Pressures and Social Rewards

Five pages. In this section of the class we focused on several recent films and a crime novel, each of which explore the rewards of social relationships, such as love, camaraderie, friendship, while also portraying the pressures and violence that can accompany close ties, including bullying (ijime), racism, and ostracism. What can we learn from these materials and our own experiences to better understand how “social” is a double-edged sword? Do the materials suggest ways to emphasize the good and mitigate the bad in our social relationships?

Essay 2 Revision

Revise Essay 2 and add 4-pages additionally using this section’s examples to further your argument about social pressures, social rewards.

Essay 3: Final Project

The final paper will be due the last day of class. There is no final exam. You are also required to give a 10-minute presentation related to your final paper project.

The project may be on a theme of your choice. If you’re not sure, here are a couple of ideas to consider:

  1. Realism and Surrealism: Please consider the uses of realism, including departures from realism into realms of the surreal, fantastical, and otherworldly, as a means of creating dramatic works.

    What is the power of “the real”? How do writers and filmmakers allude to reality, and depart from it, in ways that transform our understanding of the world?

    Some things to consider are the variety of things we consider in talking about the real world. We can imagine works of art where the premises are unreal, but the people themselves are portrayed in realistic ways. What dimensions of the real world are transformed or accurately portrayed in the examples you look at? In what ways is all perception a distortion of reality?

  2. Dramatic Tension: What techniques to the authors and filmmakers we’ve encountered use to develop “dramatic tension” in their works? Some things to consider are these. In some cases, the outcome of the story is obvious from the beginning, so what kind of tension arises when we already know “what is going to happen in the end”? Can tension develop from characters and not the story? What about the case where the main character (Kirishima) does not even appear? What, indeed, is “dramatic tension.”

  3. Gender: Each of the films and readings have offered diverse portrayals of gender, that is, what it means to be a man or a woman. What can we learn from the variety of portrayals of masculinity and femininity? For example, is “being a man” always the opposite of “being a woman”? If not, when do these gender constructions converge and diverge?

Use at least three (3) of the course readings and films, along with two (2) additional examples (readings, films or one of each) to discuss this issue.

Oral Presentations

Student presentations will take place during the final few weeks of class (roughly 10 min. each). Grading of oral presentations will be determined by following criteria:

  1. Does the oral discussion demonstrate a facility with the course materials?
  2. How well organized is the presentation?
  3. How well does the student communicate his/hers ideas, questions, and insights?

Small Group Projects

Students are required to split into small groups, to make films between 1 ½-5 minutes in length. They will have several class sessions to work on these.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment Presentation Assignments
assignment Written Assignments