English 1130: Academic Writing

Schedule: Week 6-10

WEEK 6: Evaluation

After overviewing Evaluation (which you need to read very carefully), we’ll look fairly quickly at the following texts in Evaluation Samples: “Guns Are Evil,” “Were We Really That Bad?” (a student evaluation of “The Culture of Violence” - in CP), and “Army Boots and Romans.”

Reading: “Defending Against the Indefensible” (Neil Postman, 1988 - in CP)

Viewing: two clips from Mona Lisa Smile (2003): clip # 1 and clip # 2. How are Postman’s ideas helpful in understanding these clips, which deal with some of the issues women faced in 1953/4? In class, you’ll come up with an argument about how one of the following categories is used to explore, question or contextualize a point or an issue in the clips: 1. definition or definitions, 2. questions and/or questioning, 3. use and/or meaning of simple words, 4. metaphor, 5. reification (confusing words with things), 6. style and/or tone, 7. effects or distortions of media.


Note that Mona Lisa Smile is set roughly the time many of Mad Men’s women were adolescents and young adults. If you can, watch the whole film (it’s an easy watch and it’s on Netflix) and compare the societal pressures and life options faced by the two Betties (played by Kirsten Dunst in Mona Lisa Smile and January Jones in Mad Men) and the two Joans (Julia Stiles in Mona Lisa Smile and Christina Hendricks in Mad Men). How free are they to choose their futures?

In the first clip, the art instructor Katherine (Julia Roberts) has been criticized in the school paper by her student Betty (Kirsten Dunst), who argues that women should be educated for “the roles [they] were born to fill.” In the second clip, Katherine excitedly tells Joan (Julia Stiles) that she doesn’t have to choose between getting married and going to law school — or, as she puts it, she “could bake [her] cake and eat it too.” What does this extended metaphor mean then and what does it mean now?

Reading + bring hard copy to class: “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (Carr, CP). Come to class prepared to evaluate Carr’s argument using at least one category from "16 Categories” and “Weak and Strong Argument” (in Evaluation), and at least one category from Orwell, Smith, and Postman.

I suggest looking at the this video and this video on logical fallacies. Also, I suggest taking another look at How to Write Essays and Research Papers More Quickly.

3 Models For Your Evaluative Essay

In Evaluation I explain the importance of developing a larger context for your argument about Cox. In Weeks 6 to 9 I supply three specific examples of larger context arguments. Because these examples deal with history, feminism, marginalization, TV serial narrative, and American culture, they can also be helpful in contextualizing Cox’s argument about feminism in Mad Men.

  1. On Atwood

In “Army Boots and Romans” I argue that Atwood’s argument is flawed in its own terms (her reference to army boots) and in terms of her simplistic placement of Canada in relation to empire. I argue that Canada is less like Roman Gaul than Transalpine Gaul, and that any argument about Canadian attitudes toward empire must take into account the British Empire. (I suggest comparing the rhetorical analysis “The Bristling North” with the evaluative analysis “Army Boots and Romans.”) 

2. Migglebrink

In “Serializing the Past” Miggelbrink praises Mad Men by advancing a theory about narrative complexity and the representation of history. Remember that American feminism in 1960 has a historical context. You may want to start by situating this feminism within the first three waves of feminism. Miggelbrink‘s article is also an excellent introduction to TV narratives and to the recent wave of complex TV serials. Try to keep in mind the narrative arcs and larger themes in Mad Men, and make sure your points and arguments take them into account. You don’t want to make an argument about one aspect of the show that’s contradicted by a more dominant theme or narrative arc.

Look here for a PDF of the texts of Calvino, Migglebrink, and Havrilesky.

3. On Havrilesky

We’ll also evaluate Havrilesky’s argument about Mad Men and the American Dream. We’ll occasionally focus on Cox, and I’ll occasionally suggest some directions you might take in evaluating her argument. Yet I’ll focus most of our time on creating a larger framework about history and the American Dream that can serve as a third model for your evaluation of Cox. If you still aren’t sure what I mean here by larger framework, take another look at the three levels of evaluation I discuss in Evaluation.

*** Make sure to look at Mad Men Notes and bring a hard copy of Cox's “So Much Woman” (PDF here) to class during Weeks 7-9. ***


Reading + bring hard copy to class: Migglebrink’s “Serializing the Past” (in Texts: Mad Men). This is an insightful article that you may find quite useful in your own analysis of Cox.

Viewing: “Meditations in an Emergency” (S2 E13). You’ll develop a thesis evaluating Migglebrink in light of this episode. Q. What in the episode (especially 12:30 - 21:00 and 31:30 - 47:00) indicates the early 60s, and 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis? Where and why is history personalized, and made complex, problematic, debatable?

Viewing: “Babylon” (S1 E6). You’ll develop a thesis evaluating Migglebrink in light of this episode.

When you get your essay back, you may need to consult Marking, which contains a list of marking abbreviations.

WEEK 8   

Reading + bring hard copy to class: Havrilesky's “Stillbirth of the American Dream” (in Texts: Mad Men). As you’re watching this episode (in class), think about the level of superficiality and what Havrilesky is saying about the American Dream. I suggest looking up the history of the American Dream in Wikipedia.

Viewing: "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (S1 E1). You’ll develop a thesis evaluating Havrilevsky in light of this episode and the first season. Try to situate the first episode in relation to other episodes, using some of the structural points made by Migglebrink. Is Havrilesky’s definition of the American Dream accurate? Does Havrilesky successfuly argue that the show reflects a 'stillbirth,' that is, a death of the Dream before it's even been born? I’ll argue that she ignores one of the show’s main strategies — to create sympathy and anger by dramatizing exclusion — of women (Peggy, Betty, Joan, Rachel, etc.), gays (Salvatore), and Jewish-Americans (principally Rachel). Do you agree? Does she focus on the superficial aspects of the show, and miss the psychological depths and nuances of the characters, as well as the type of sociological and historical complexity explored by Migglebrink?


Viewing: "The Wheel" (S1 E13). You’ll develop lines of argument evaluating Migglebrink and Havrilevsky (principally in light of this episode). We’ll start with the question, How does the Wikipedia definition of The American Dream (below Havrilesky’s text) affect her argument? After viewing a clip, you’ll make an argument in response to one of the following two questions: — 1. Are Migglebrink’s points (about narrative arcs, complexity, dissonance, dissociation, etc.) supported by the experiences of Betty and Don? — 2. Is Havrilesky’s argument convincing in light of the above considerations of depth and complexity? Start with the present episode, yet feel free to bring in other episodes.

Viewing + group work on "The Gold Violin" (S2 E7). You’ll develop a thesis evaluating Migglebrink and Havrilevsky in light of this episode.

WEEK 10: In-class evaluative essay (30%)

November 5 (Tuesday class) or November 6 (Wednesday class)

In-class evaluation of Fiona Cox’s article (PDF here). You’ll have three hours to write the essay — 90 minutes on Tuesday and 90 minutes on Thursday. I’ll collect your Tuesday work and give it back to you on Thursday. (This break can work to your advantage, since it allows you to get some distance from your first writing session, and it gives your writing hand a break).

You can write on the author’s overall argument or on a part of it. If you write on a part of it, establish in your introduction why the part you chose is crucial to the success or failure of the author’s overall argument. 

You MUST bring in a typed bibliography and a typed 200-300-word full outline. You may also bring in 100-150 words of quotes. Provide a word count for the outline and quotes. You can have the quotes on a separate sheet of paper or you can insert them into your outline. In the latter case, highlight your quotes (or use a clearly different font) so that I can see them easily. 

You must hand in a full outline. Make sure to follow the format of the sample full outlines for “Target Audience” (on Lord of War), Turning the Tables (on Gandhi), and Army Boots and Romans (on “Canadians”). Use complete sentences in your thesis statement and topic sentences, yet point form for the bulleted points. 

You cannot bring in an Introduction or Conclusion. The outline must consist of a one-sentence thesis statement and one-sentence topic sentences.

You can’t use your computer, and should therefore bring in a hard copy of Cox’s article. There can be no writing on the hard copy, although you can underline and highlight as much as you want (I suggest colour-coded highlighting). You can only bring in Cox’s article; anything from Migglebrink or others can only be in your outline and quotes.

You MUST use at least

- Three specific references to Cox 

Three specific references to episodes of Mad Men. You’ll need to show a clear understanding of the first season as well as “The Mountain King” (S2 E12) and “The Summer Man” (S4 E8).

- Three specific references to different scholarly sources (which can include Migglebrink, but not Havrilesky)

Bibliographical Formation: For Cox, Migglebrink, or Havrilesky, don’t supply bibliographical information; simply supply the paragraph number in parentheses. Don’t give bibliographical information for Mad Men; instead, supply the episode title, the season, and the episode number, using the following format: (“Babylon,” S1 E3) or “Babylon” (S1 E6). If you're looking in detail at a very specific moment in the show, it may be helpful to indicate the exact time — as in (“Babylon,” S1 E3, 23:15-26:30) — although this isn't a requirement. Make sure to cite all other sources according to MLA or APA.

There's no word limit for this essay. The average paper is about 800 words. Those who have grammatical problems should write less and proofread more. Excellent papers tend to contain detailed analysis and tend to be longer. Don’t, however, pad your paper or repeat yourself — this will just lower your mark. 

How to Get a Good Mark on Essay # 2

Do the Essential Reading

1. Evaluation - Read this page carefully! Also look closely at Research, which has detailed citation information and examples. 

2. Cox. Read Cox's essay very carefully and read the in-class essay instructions under Week 10 very carefully. While you're planning your essay and watching the show, try to answer these questions: What does Cox argue, and where does she argue it? Why is her argument convincing or unconvincing? What outside context supports your evaluation? I suggest looking at the this video on the straw man fallacy. In writing evaluative essays, many students misread, simplify, exaggerate, or reduce Cox’s points using straw man arguments. Make sure to represent her arguments accurately.

Do the Essential Viewing

You must watch the first season of Mad Men, paying particular attention to “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (E1), “Babylon” (E6), and “The Wheel” (E12). In class we’ll look closely at these, as well as at "The Gold Violin” (S2 E7) and “Meditations in an Emergency" (S2 E13). You’ll also need to watch “The Mountain King” (S2 E12) and “The Summer Man” (S4 E8), since Cox refers to them specifically. If you’re not very motivated or you’re pressed for time, you can usually get away with watching only these seven episodes. Generally, the best students see more of the show and thus 1. they have a better understanding of character arcs and thematic structure, and 2. they have more instances to draw upon in order to prove their points.

Consult Resources

The Douglas College library has many books and academic articles on the series. During the New Westminster library renovations, you may need to rely more heavily on online articles — of which there are a great number.

For essays # 2 and # 3 you must use outside sources and you must document these according to APA or MLA conventions. For bibliographical information and format, see the EAA sections or Purdue University’s OWL interactive site — the general “Research and Citation” section (screen grab below) — and the APA section. I strongly suggest familiarizing yourself with documentation format immediately, so that you’ll be sure to collect the necessary type of information as you go along. The "Using Research" and "Conducting research" sections are very helpful in this regard.

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