21L.430 | Spring 2013 | Undergraduate

Popular Culture and Narrative: Serial Storytelling


Topics: Essay 1 (5 Pages)

Due: Session 9

  1. Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Rearrange the poems in “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” to create two new possible narrative arcs. Write a persuasive explanation of each arc. What aspects of the poem do not change regardless of the ordering of the stanzas? What aspects of the poem absolutely change with the ordering of the stanzas? Where do you think the more substantial meaning of the poem resides—in the aspects that change with reordering, or the aspects that do not?

  1. Rembrandt

A striking characteristic of Rembrandt’s self-portraits is that a given image often seems incomplete by itself, while also seeming to gesture toward shared features in the larger series. Using specific artworks as examples, describe at least three ways in which Rembrandt creates this effect. As an approach to self-portraiture, how does this differ from a painting like Velázquez’ Las Meninas or Vermeer’s The Artist in His Studio?

  1. The Disasters of War

Describe at least three “sub-plots” or subsidiary sequences Goya builds into the Disasters of War. For each sequence, provide a careful exegesis. How is Goya using sequence to frame and develop larger social or political arguments?

Essay 2

Assignment Description Unavailable

Final Essay Assignment

Due: Session 25

Choose a media work of a kind that has not yet been discussed in class. Write a ten-page or twelve-page essay that compares this work with one of the major pieces of work we have studied in class from Tennyson onward.

Instead of 50/50, please split the comparison 60/40 or 70/30—that is, spend 60 percent of the paper on one media work and 40 percent on the other. (This will help you to avoid making the structure of the paper too rote or schematic.) Your argument should include discussion of (1) the new work as a narrative, (2) the new work as a material artifact, and (3) at least two issues relating to the work’s seriality that we have not yet seen in other works on the syllabus.

Examples of kinds of works you might choose include:

  1. A web miniseries
  2. A radio serial (e.g. The Adventures of Superman)
  3. A book series written by multiple authors under one name (e.g. Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys)
  4. A newspaper comic strip
  5. A video game series (e.g. Bioshock or Metal Gear Solid)
  6. A film franchise that aims to accommodate plot and character development over many years of new installments (e.g. The Avengers Franchise)

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2013
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments