Blackboard and SafeAssign
All writing assignments must be successfully and properly uploaded through SafeAssign in Blackboard in order to receive a grade higher than zero and in order to avoid late submission penalties. SafeAssign accepts files in .doc, .docx, .docm, .ppt, .pptx, .odt, .txt, .rtf, .pdf, and .html file formats only. Files of any other format will not be checked through SafeAssign and, consequently, will not count as successfully or properly uploaded. Thus the assignment will be given a zero and a late penalty will be assessed for each day the assignment has not been properly and successfully uploaded. It is the student’s responsibility to utilize the appropriate technology to submit the assignment correctly and on time.
Troubleshooting Unsuccessful Uploads
- Try uploading document in a different format/file type
- Try using a different web-browser
- Try using a different computer
- Go to the ASC lab and ask for help
Students will author a 1,200 to 1,400 word term paper on one of three topics (see below). Papers will be graded once and no revisions will be permitted. Students are urged to 1) closely examine the instructions below, 2) review the term paper rubric below, 3) contact and/or meet the professor about any questions concerning the paper, and 4) to utilize the writing center’s services to ensure the submitted term paper is of the highest quality and, thus, more likely to receive a higher mark. Please note that term papers will be graded in a rigorous fashion, thus As are reserved for outstanding or excellent work, Bs for very good work, Cs for satisfactory work, Ds for poor work, and Fs for unacceptable work.
Important note, papers that fail to engage with assigned course materials, including readings and lectures, will earn a grade of no greater than 50%. The purpose of the term paper is to assess students’ understanding and ability to apply key ideas from the course. In order to demonstrate this understanding and ability students must explicitly engage with those key ideas.
Important note: Putting Names and Ideas to Faces: Students are required to include a head-shot at the top right of all formal assignment submissions including the Term paper. The requirement of the head-shot is to aid the professor in recognizing students by putting ideas and names to faces. Include a photo of yourself at the top right of page one, below the header with your name and page number on page one, only. The absence of the photo on the term paper will result in a 2% deduction.
Option 1: Cultural Analysis
Author a 1,200 to 1,400-word critical interpretation of a cultural artifact—movie, book, TV series, album, work of art, comedy act, monument, historical site—that is relevant to one or more of the major themes discussed in our course: the value of the humanities (including the arts), thinking philosophically, the meaning of life, the good life (happiness, pleasure), truth and knowledge, political philosophy and power, philosophy of education, and the existence (or non-existence) of a divine force in the world (God/gods).
Students must develop a research question to answer.
The following are examples of humanistic research questions but not prompts. Students should develop a question that interests and motivates them.
- What is the meaning of Childish Gambino’s song, “This is America,” and music video for the song?
- Is the Purge movie series cathartic or does it constitute entertainment violence as Sissela Bok defines the concepts?
- Is the R-rating given to Eight Grade (2018) by the MPAA justifiable?
- What vision of a meaningful life does Slipknot’s Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses convey to listeners and how does it relate to existentialism?
- How does Twenty One Pilot’s “Stressed Out” question conventional notions of human happiness, and how does it relate to the ideas of Epicurus (or Seneca, etc.)?
- How does Edge of Tomorrow (Live. Die. Repeat) (2014) relate to the idea that human beings have a fixed destiny and Sartre’s contention that human beings are condemned to freedom?
- Why do I agree/disagree with the vision of a meaningful life projected by the film Seeking a Friend for the End of the World?
- What do popular Halloween costumes teach us about dominant American culture? What does it say about our values, fears, conceptions of gender, the good life, fun?
- In what way might it be argued that the virtual reality realm of Ready Player One (2018) represents an exemplification of the Nozick’s “experience machine”? Do the protagonist’s actions support Nozick’s claim that the pleasure the “experience machine” gives us is insufficient for a truly good or meaningful life?
General questions to consider in formulating your research question include:
- What meanings are presented? Are multiple meanings offered? Which ones do I agree with and why?
- What does this cultural artifact say about the meaning of life, truth, education, and/or God’s existence?
- Does this historical site or monument present an honest portrayal of the past? Does it feature some bias?
- In what way does this work of art affirm what is best in humanity? Does this work of art have anything to teach us about the difference between the ends and means of life?
- In what way does this cultural artifact exemplify or communicate thinker from our course’s philosophy?
- How does this event, place, or object relate to the humanities and its concern with developing our species’ humanity?
All papers must put the given cultural work into conversation with key authors of our course
- Draw on the ideas of key thinkers throughout the course to interrogate or examine the cultural work in question
- Ask yourself how it relates to the ideas of Seneca, Epicurus, Aristotle, Plato, Martha Nussbaum, Adrienne Rich, Paul Goodman, Father Gerl, etc. What would they say in response to the work? What would they say in response to your perspective?
- For example: What would Seneca have to say about the vision of purposeful existence suggested in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World? How does the movie relate to Epicurus’ ideas?
All papers must also be comprised of:
- Introduce the subject of your analysis, the question(s) you intend to answer, and your thesis: what you will be arguing.
- Background/Summary of cultural work
- Provide your reader with key information they may not already have about the work in question. When was it made, how many copies sold (how popular is it), how did critics respond to it? What is the short thumbnail sketch of the work—the “trailer” if you will.
- Analysis (featuring consideration of opposing or contrasting perspectives)
- Your analysis must feature
- interpretation and/or evaluation of the work (see below)
- engagement with and/or application of ideas from course materials
- consideration of opposing or contrasting perspectives
- Your analysis must feature
- Interpretation: Explain your interpretation of the work’s relevance to your research question
- What does the work say to the audience about the meaning of life, God, truth, happiness, the good life, the importance of the arts or philosophy? Justify your claim: What is the basis of this interpretation?
- What does the work suggest is a good life? What does it teach us about the meaning or importance of truth? What vision of life does it promote? Justify your claim: What is the basis of this interpretation?
- Example of interpretative claim: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World suggests the most purposeful life is to be found in romantic love. You would then give reasons why you believe this to be an accurate representation of the movie’s aim. To do so you might discuss the way the film highlights Dodge and Penny’s lives, and how each finds a way pass suicide, returning to the family, survivalism, or nihilism. You would provide key details: discuss scenes, dialogue, visual representation, plot, etc.
- Evaluation: Explain your evaluation of the work
- How does the message of the cultural artifact compare, contrast with views of authors from our course?
- Do you agree: why or why not? Who do you think gets it right, wrong? Why?
- Opposing or contrasting perspectives:
- How might someone else interpret or evaluate this differently than I am? Why would such an interpretation or evaluation be mistaken?
- Briefly reflect on your analysis and its conclusions.
- Identify the significance of your argument.
Option 2: Self-Examination Paper
Author a 1,200 to 1,400-word examination of your present values, beliefs, commitments and/or actions in the light of course readings in topic areas such as the Humanities, Education, the Meaning of Life, and Religion. Students must author a concentrated analysis answering one or more specific questions. Given that the topics of the course are inherently interconnected students may draw on readings from more than one area. The emphasis of this paper, however, should be on providing an in-depth consideration of a particular question or topic. Put differently: do not sacrifice depth of analysis in order to cover a lot of ground. Students are encouraged to identify a particular focus and answer a question that is particularly of interest and importance to them.
Content and form: The paper need not be a cut-and-dry argument driven paper, but it must have discernable purpose and direction. This essay must also directly consider and engage course works and ideas relevant to the chosen topic. Furthermore, students should consider and engage ideas that challenge as well as confirm the author’s own thinking. Finally, be sure to thoughtfully organize and develop the paper: interesting introduction, carefully developed body paragraphs, conclusion.
Keys to a successful Self-Examination paper:
- Identify and articulate the key question your paper is considering and seeking to answer or bring clarity to.
- Draw on, implement and/or critically evaluate course ideas/works relevant to your paper’s focus.
- For example: How does Epicurus’ vision of the good life challenge your present lifestyle? What does Seneca get right/wrong in conceptualizing the happy life? What insights or challenges does a film like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World provoke in you? How does Virginia Woolf’s approach to life validate/support or challenge your way of living?
- Consider contrasting or opposing perspectives (i.e. those ideas you do not (or are less) convinced by)
- Imagine that you were arguing that your philosophy of life is justified. Further imagine that you bring Epicurus into your paper to offer support: you explain how your philosophy of life relates to some of his ideas and why you believe he’s right.
- For this particular paper, for example, considering contrasting or opposing views might involve bringing Seneca or Aristotle’s ideas up as a counter to the view you and Epicurus support, and explaining why those views are not (or less) convincing.
Option 3: How the Humanities Could Me in My Career/Profession
Many are confused as to why they are required to take classes in the humanities since it does not have clear or obvious baring on their chosen academic major. For this option you are invited to author a 1,200 to 1,400-word examining the relationship between the humanities and the profession you plan to pursue (or are now at work in). Draw on, implement and/or critically evaluate course materials to address the question, “How can the humanities help me in my (future) profession”? Students are encouraged to do original research beyond assigned course materials to meaningfully explore and offer an original assessment of how the humanities relates, in ways that are clear or perhaps harder to appreciate, to their (future) career in fields including but not limited to healthcare, practicing law, performing arts, media design, law enforcement, childcare, education, mechanics, entrepreneurial endeavors, and other fields.
Term Paper Rubric
Area of Evaluation
Content: Critical Analysis (64%)
- Meaningfully and fairly acknowledges, articulates, and engages key, relevant course concepts and thinkers
- Provides original analysis (does not simply summarize lectures and readings, but engages them, opening new lines of inquiry or contributing new ideas to the discourse)
- Justifies claims: provides reasoned support for claims
- Clearly explains the relationship between claims and supporting premises or reasons; clearly explains how premise A and premise B produce conclusion C.
- Avoids dogmatic thinking; recognizes that one’s views are not inherently or obviously true and that others’ ideas are not inherently or obviously false
- Avoids egocentric thinking; recognizes that one’s views or perspectives are not necessarily obvious or the same as others; Acknowledges, explains and engages alternative, contrasting, and/or opposing perspectives
- Avoids informal fallacies including unfounded appeals to cultural tradition, popular opinion, and power; avoids personal attacks, stereotyping, and hasty generalizations in analysis
- Showcases appropriate empathy and respect for others (This does not mean that you must agree with a viewpoint of an individual or group of people! Rather it simply means that you are expected to recognize and honor the dignity of others, including those you disagree with.)
Form/ Organization (26%)
- Implements analytical writing: author does not simply tell a story or list facts but offers a critical analysis (though some narrative prose is acceptable the paper must emphasize analysis)
- Deploys appropriately formal tone; avoids inappropriately casual language, turns-of-phrase and the like (when appropriate the use of pronouns such as “I” is acceptable, but abbreviations and slang should not be included unless justifiable)
- Features introduction, body paragraphs developing one’s ideas, and a conclusion
- Formatted according to MLA, Chicago, Harvard or other designated scholarly guidelines
- Provides original title
- Enticing introduction (engaging the reader, inspiring them to read on)
- Includes specific thesis statement indicating not only the topic or subject matter but the central claim being advanced in the paper
- Logically structured paragraphs that support the stated thesis: purposeful paragraphs feature clear topic sentences, indicating the main idea of the paragraph and developing the thesis presented in the introduction, and development
- Provides all appropriate in-text citations indicating source of others’ ideas
- Provides works-cited page
- Minimal direct quotes; summarizes others’ ideas in one’s own words rather than excessively relying on quoting
Grammar/ Mechanics (10%)
Very few if any grammatical errors
- Correct spelling
- Correct punctuation
- Correct word-choice
- Complete sentences; no sentence fragments
- No run-on sentences
- Papers falling under 95% of the required word-count will be receive a penalty commensurate with the missing word-count percentage.
- For example, if the word-count requirement is 1,500 and the submitted paper is 1,000 words it will receive an automatic deduction of 33%, making a 67% the highest possible score. A 750 paper would receive an automatic deduction of 50% because 750 words is half of the required word-count.
- Assignments will receive a deduction of 5% for each day the assignment is late
- An assignment that is 5 days late will receive an automatic deduction of 25%
- An assignment that is 20 days late will receive an automatic deduction of 100%, meaning that the paper will receive an automatic zero
- When a student has a reasonable excuse for submitting a late assignment they should consult with the professor, and after doing so, leave a comment with their submitted work
Fails to follow instructions penalty
- Papers failing to address the assigned term paper prompt will receive an automatic zero.
- Papers failing to engage the concepts, thinkers, and material the term paper is purposed to evaluate will receive a score of no greater than 50%.
- Papers failing to engage the concepts, thinkers, and material the term paper is purposed to evaluate will receive an automatic zero.
- Be sure to follow the assignment instructions
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