Assignments

Advice on Writing

General

For each essay, pick one of the questions and respond to it in an essay of 7-8 pages. Make sure to have a thesis, and to flesh out your argument and support it with examples from the text. Refer to the “Advice for Writing” section for guidelines.

Papers must be submitted in a 12-type font (preferably Times New Roman or Arial); your essays must also be double-spaced. Use the MLA guidelines for citation (For more on the MLA format, see MLA Formatting and Style Guide).

For essays 1 and 2, you have two days to decide if you’d like to revise your essay, after it is returned. You will then have a week to submit your revision. You must revise at least one of your first two papers.

Essay 1

  1. Do you think we live in an enlightened age, or in an age of enlightenment? Discuss, using Kant’s definitions of enlightenment.

  2. Why does the device of the outsider commenting upon French culture prove irresistible to both Montesquieu and Diderot? What sorts of discussions does it enable? How does the choice of ‘outsider’ in each text mediate in the subject matter that each author chooses to focus on?

  3. In Chapter 1, the following poem appears, on p. 51:

    Pages full of idle words
    Penned with hot and bitter tears:
    All men call the author fool;
    None his secret message hears.

    Given that we know that these chapters were written belatedly, why do you think Cao Xueqin embedded this poem into the text? What do you think is the author’s “secret message”? Do you find the book to be dominated by bitter sadness, as the poem suggests? And why do you think Cao Xueqin describes his work as “pages full of idle words”, as if disappointed by his literary experiment?

Essay 2

  1. Both Marx and Engels and Adam Smith bring up the idea of globalization, of economies opening up to the world. Summarize each argument, and then compare and contrast them. Which thinker’s influence is more apparent in the world around you today?
  2. What do you think of John Stuart Mill’s ideas of tolerance? Do you consider that you live in a tolerant or an intolerant society? How do you think Freud would respond to Mill’s vision of society?
  3. Describe the relationship between the individual and society explored in Beyond Good and Evil and in Civilization and its Discontents.

Final Essay

  1. Both The Broken Nest and Girl tell the stories of young women. After reading them and The Second Sex, do you think that women’s experiences are universal, or are they specific to a country and a culture?
  2. Salih’s novel discusses Africans’ encounters with Europe, and the consequences of Africa’s colonial past, which is portrayed in Heart of Darkness. How do these texts speak to each other? Is Moustafa Said, as Lalami suggests in the introduction, the counterpart to Kurtz? If so, is the unnamed narrator Marlow? Where does this analogy work, and where does it break down?
  3. Do you think that Said’s three definitions of Orientalism are separate or related? Which do you find the most convincing?
  4. Do you agree with Said and Foucault’s assertion that knowledge is power? Using examples from Orientalism and Discipline and Punish, make the case for your argument.
  5. Hannah Arendt’s concept of the banality of evil and Foucault’s ideas about discipline and punishment seem to find their echoes in the Stanford Prison Experiment. Do you find their implications disturbing? If so, why/if not, why not? Do you think there is anything that can be done about this?

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