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Close Analysis Response and Paper 1 Assignment

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February 9: Close Analysis Assignment due in class (typed, double-spaced, and printed)

February 17: Optional workshop for Paper 1; bring typed draft to class for discussion after the film if you wish to participate.

February 24: Paper 1 due in class (paper copy) and by 9 p.m. (electronic copy)

Your first two writing assignments in this class are a short (500-750 words) close reading of an element in a film and an extended analysis paper (5-7 pages long). These writing assignments are linked in that your close reading paper may be integrated into your longer paper, if you wish.

The purpose of this paper is to investigate a theme, motif, or pattern of symbols within a film through a close reading of the techniques of film (shot length and sequences, use of color, use of framing and composition, and so on) or narrative (character development, use of setting, use of symbolism, and so on). Chapters 3 and 4 of Corrigan’s A Short Guide to Writing about Film provide some good discussion and examples of the kind of writing you’ll be doing for these papers, and we will be discussing those chapters in class. Also, the class’s analysis of the image from All that Heaven Allows on January 26 is a good example of close analysis.

You’ll want to see the film(s) you discuss at least once more before you write about them. The films are available on reserve in the Holland-Terrell library; go to and type in engl 339 to see a list of the films. Also, most of these can be ordered through Netflix, and a few are available online; see our course blog for links.

General Requirements:

  1. Your paper should be limited enough to provide a specific thesis and a close analysis of the texts; repeating broad, obvious generalities or ideas we have discussed in class will not be sufficient.
  2. Content is important, but good organization, clear sentences, and effective paragraphs are also important. Papers should not have comma splices, agreement errors, capitalization or punctuation problems, and other such errors, since their presence will lower your grade substantially. For a list of the most common types of errors found in student papers, go to the Key to Comments page at The Writing Center ( in CUE 403 is just down the hall from our classroom, and the tutors there can help you.
  3. Papers must be neatly typed and carefully proofread. Double-space your paper and use a standard 11- or 12-point font. Make sure that your name and the page number are at the top of every page. See for more specific information on formatting your paper.
  4. Citations should follow MLA style as outlined in the MLA Handbook, A Writer’s Resource, or other such guides to MLA style. You can find information about MLA style online by clicking on the link ( at the top of our course pages. If you use external (secondary) sources in these papers, you need to cite them, although you are not required to use secondary sources for either of these assignments.

Close Analysis of a Film Element

Due date: A printed copy of this paper is due in class on February 9.

Write a brief (500-750 words, about 2-3 pages) close reading of an element in a film: a theme, a symbol, a motif, a structural element, a relationship, and so forth. If you have written about one of these features in your weblog, you can adapt a weblog post for this purpose, if you provide a closer analysis than you might have done in your blog post.

The choice of what you analyze is yours, but here are some suggestions. For example, you might want to analyze the chase sequence at the end of Redskin, or compare the setting of the Navajo sections of that film with the Pueblo sections, or discuss the film’s use of color, clothing, or some other element. Similarly, you might want to analyze the use of interior and exterior space in Ramona or in Within Our Gates, or to analyze the director’s use of various kinds of transitions between shots. You could also discuss the use of contrasting shots, settings, movement, or the composition of individual scenes in A Deal in Wheat or the use of sound and image in The Public Enemy or another gangster film.

This close reading of a film element can be incorporated into Paper 1, if you wish, but you are not obliged to make use of the close analysis in your paper if your topic changes. See the examples and questions in Chapter 3 of Corrigan’s A Short Guide to Writing about Film for help in formulating your topic.

Paper 1 Topics

Due date: A printed copy of this paper is due at the beginning of class on February 24. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time before class time to print the paper, since sometimes printers run out of ink, computers break down, and so forth. You also need to send me an e-version (in Word or .rtf format) by 9 p.m. on February 24.

The suggestions for the close analysis paper will give you some ideas for paper topics, but here are some others.

  1. Compare a feature or features of one film that we have seen with those of a similar film that we did not view in class. For example, you might compare the representation of Native American culture in Redskin with that of The Vanishing American, which was released four years earlier. You may want to focus on one element in particular, such as the two main characters, the presentation of tensions between white and Indian cultures, or some other element.
  2. Examine closely the ways in which a film creates the world of its point of view character and shows that character’s experiences, including his or her emotional or intellectual growth. You might consider such elements as the composition of various shots, elements in the mise-en-scène (such as costumes, lighting, or the visual relationships of characters to one another), or other such features. How do other features in the film combine with the actor’s portrayal (through facial expressions, gestures, body language, and so on) to create a realistic character?
  3. In what ways does a particular film call into question the ways in which the culture of the times deviates from certain ideals that are regarded as essential to the process of being (or becoming) American, such as patriotism, equality, or education?
  4. In what way does a particular film reflect an important social issue of its times? For this topic, you will need to look at documents and histories (such as those available through the historical New York Times online)
  5. Except for the very earliest films, most of those we’ve seen have been interested in telling a story, and to do this the films have used traditional techniques of narrative such as flashback, character development, dialogue, parallel scenes, symbolism, minor characters as foils for the main characters. Analyze one of the films we have seen or a related film from the era in terms of its use of classical film narrative. Chapter 2 in Belton will help you to analyze the structure of the film.
  6. Your own topic. You’re welcome to choose your own topic, but you need to check it with me first.