Interpretive Paper

Many of us have seen the assignment: write a paper and use “three different kinds of support.”  In a class on history or sociology, this may be somewhat easy.  When we claim that, for example, ideas about ethnicity in American literature shifted after World War II, we throw in a footnote that cites an article that makes that claim.  And that is fine and good.What such assignments do not teach us is how to engage actively with the ideas of another thinker.  What if we disagree with an author on some point?  What if we agree, but think he is overlooking something?  What if we believe that an author might take her point and better apply it to a different character, a different theme, or even a different book?  Footnotes aren’t enough.  And too often, direct quotation inside of undergraduate writing (or scholarly monographs) begins to make the text feel like a big book report: “As Dr. Tightwound argues, Melville’s use of symbolism borders on the hagiographic . . .” blah blah blah.  This is not critical thinking! How do we do anything differently?  It begins with practice.  This assignment is designed to have you choose one of the attached critical responses to The Searchers and craft a response to the author of that article’s central claim.  You need not disagree with the author.  But you must engage her or him.  Below, there is a template for how the essay might look, and a set of different ways to structure your counter-argument.What you must do for this assignment:1.      Summarize the author’s ideas into one or two sentences. This summary should be a part of your introduction.  It will frame your own argument.  You will want to highlight both the overall thesis and the specific ideas with which you plan to engage. 2.      Craft a thesis statement that directly addresses the author’s ideas.  There are different ways to do this.  As Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein suggest in They Say/I Say (Norton 2006), you might have three basic different ways of responding:A. Yes . . .  Here, you agree with the author’s basic thesis.  In this assignment, you may do this, but must present a different set of evidence for the argument.  For example, if your author claims that The Searchers depicts its protagonist, Ethan, as deeply racist, you might extend the discussion of racism by talking about Ethan’s identity as a former Confederate soldier as key to his anti-indigenous behavior. The best responses will extend the argument (for example, by arguing that the setting is more essential than character because . . . ). Be careful here—though this often appears easy, students fall into the trap of just replicating the exact argument of the author with no real nuance.B. No . . .   Students often enjoy this because there’s a real kick in proving someone wrong.  This template finds the argument or its evidence fundamentally wrong.  The key is not just to say NO, but to provide a necessary correction to the interpretation. To use the example I begin above, the student might argue that instead of seeing Ethan as fundamentally racist, the key to understanding his character is a fundamental sense of his misogyny. This kind of argument typically involves a different interpretation of the author’s evidence for his claims, or the marshaling of evidence that the author does not originally consider or outright dismisses.C.    OK, But . . . Considering both sides of an argument is not necessarily a weakness.  You might recognize the basic validity of an author’s argument but seek a more nuanced set of ideas. In our sample case, one might claim that while Ethan is clearly racist, that racism should be best understood as connected to the logic of Western expansion.Some students find these moves daunting.  Graff and Birkenstein craft templates that might help you to think about them.  They have been summarized on the following website along with other templates helpful for academic writing:      Support your claims with direct analytical evidence from the novel. Your evidence may consider plenty of aspects of the novel, from plot to character to setting.  But I do require that at least some of the evidence be the kind of analytical evidence we’ve practiced in close readings and film analysis.  Look at language, figures of speech, and patterns of meaning in the dialogue to help strengthen your claims.  Consider how a key scene might be framed. Look at issues of editing to help you make your claim. This step is the majority of your argument.4. A conclusion that states why your opinion matters.  Yes, you are undergraduates and this paper is three or four pages long.  But you can absolutely enter into the conversation.  Why might showing that a critic’s claims can be more broadly applied throughout the book be useful?  Why might showing that a critic is wrong (or fundamentally limited) be a necessary critical move?  What good does it do to take a critic’s idea about the book and turn it in a new direction? Please do not use a structure in this paragraph that says “my opinion matters because . . .”  Instead, consider structures like “It is vital that we recognize [insert your basic thesis] in order to . . .”You will notice in the articles you read that the authors often make their own similar moves.  These can be useful models of how to enter this conversation. Your paper should be three to four pages long, should really only use one critical article, the novel, and perhaps a dictionary as a source, and should be double-spaced with standard font and margins. Please note that three pages means three full pages. Filling a paper with enough fluff to make a paper with two pages and a sentence will result in a grade of D or lower.This assignment is due on Friday, February 25, at 11:59 PM EST on Moodle. Late papers will be reduced by a full grade; papers turned in after Friday, March 4 at 5 PM EST will not be accepted for credit. Please frame your response to one of the following articles; if you have another analysis of The Searchers with which you would like to engage, please contact me for approval before you start writing!Cole, David L. “Mose Harper: Eccentricity and Survival in ‘The Searchers.’” Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 28, no. 3, Salisbury University, 2000, pp. 222–26,, Arthur M. “Darkening Ethan: John Ford’s ‘The Searchers’ (1956) from Novel to Screenplay to Screen.” Cinema Journal, vol. 38, no. 1, [University of Texas Press, Society for Cinema & Media Studies], 1998, pp. 3–24,, Brian. “‘The Searchers’: An American Dilemma.” Film Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 2, University of California Press, 1980, pp. 9–23.For This or a Similar Paper Click Here To Order Now

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