Response Papers

Response Paper #6

Gertrude Stein Selections

Please pick one of the pieces that we’ve read by Gertrude Stein and narrate your reading experience. What is it like to read Gertrude Stein? How did you react to her? Did you find yourself imitating her? Could you hear her voice in your head?

(Please post on the blog no later than 10PM on Wednesday, November 16)

Response Paper #5

“Best in Show”

Audre Lorde, Selections

OPTION ONE: Movie Review

For this option, you will write a movie review of “Best In Show.” Your review should do more than just state that you liked or disliked the film. Keep in mind that good movie reviews address questions like: Did the film work? Why? How? What message do you think the director was trying to convey to viewers? Why make a movie like this? What impact did the film have on you, as an audience member?

Be specific and use details from the film and from your experience as a viewer to prove the thesis or argument you make about the movie’s success. Make sure to give your review a title!

(You can read sample reviews of other movies here and here!)

OPTION TWO: Select one of the Audre Lorde poems from this week’s reading and imitate it. If you choose this option, your response will likely be less than a page and should look like a poem. Hints:

  • Translate the poem line by line or write between the lines of the poem
  • Think about the theme of the poem you’ve chosen and try to write a poem on the same theme
  • Borrow a title from Lorde, but write your own poem.

DUE: Thursday, November 10 (please post on the blog no later than 10PM on Wednesday, November 9)


Response Paper #4

Hawthorne, “The Birth-mark”

Ehrenreich, “Chapter Seven: How Positive Thinking…”


This option is an exercise in comparing and contrasting. Select two of the four stories we’ve read thus far (“The Birth-mark,” “Hills Like White Elephants,” and “The Story of an Hour”). Think about what these stories say about “happiness”–do they depict a uniform view of how people experience happiness? Why or why not? How?

You might even want to pick two specific characters to work with. For example, how does Jig’s experience of happiness differ from Georgiana’s?


In “Against Interpretation,” Susan Sontag famously writes, “the modern style of interpretation excavates, and as it excavates, destroys; it digs “behind” the text, to find a sub-text which is the true one.” What is Sontag saying about how we read?

For this response paper you will pay close attention to how you read. In fact, I’d like you to write this short paper immediately after finishing reading the Ehrenreich or the Hawthorne, or both.

What do you notice in the text(s)? What do you think about while you are reading? After reading? Is your experience as a reader different when you read a story than when you read an essay or book chapter? This does not have to be a formal paper; it can take the form of a journal entry or a “stream of consciousness”-type response.

DUE: Thursday, October 20 (1-2 pages typed)


Response Paper #2

Plato, Republic (Book One & Book Seven)


The beginning of Book Seven is often referred to as the “allegory of the cave,” one of the most famous moments of Plato’s Republic. Perform a close reading of this “allegory.” Why would the book begin with the desire to “compare our natural condition, so far as education and ignorance are concerned, to a state of things like the following…” (514a-514b)? What happens in the cave?


Write your own dialogue, playing with and off of Plato’s style. This work should star Socrates and Plato and should revolve around “happiness.”

DUE: Please post on the Blog by Monday, September 19, no later than 5PM

Response Paper #1

Aristotle’s Ethics (from Books One and Ten)


Respond to the following passage from Augustine’s The Happy Life. Be sure to use what you’ve read by Aristotle to support your points. Do you agree or disagree with Augustine? Why?

“We wish to be happy, do we not?”

No sooner had I said this, than they agreed, with one voice.

I asked: “In your opinion, is a person happy who does not possess what he wants?”

They said: “By no means.”

“What? Everyone who possesses what he wants is happy?”

At this point our mother said: “If he wishes and possesses good things, he is happy; if he desires evil things—no matter if he possesses them—he is wretched.”

(from Chapter 2)


Select one section from Aristotle’s Ethics, Book 10 (Pleasure and the Life of Happiness) and rewrite it so that it is relevant to your life today. This is an exercise in creativity—you need to play with Aristotle’s ideas and make them fit what you want from your own world/life.

DUE: Thursday, September 8, 2011 (1-2 pages typed)


IMPORTANT: due to technical difficulties, our lexicon page will not be working just yet. For Tuesday, September 6, please choose one of these assignments to type and bring to class:

OPTION 1: Write 3 potential entries for the lexicon which you will add once that page is working.

OPTION 2: How does Aristotle define “happiness” in the segment you’ve read? Do you agree or disagree with his definition? Why or why not?

The Class Lexicon (semester-long dictionary)

A lexicon by definition is “a language’s vocabulary, including its words and expressions.” A lexicon can also be thought of as a way to organize one’s “mental vocabulary.” For the purpose of this class, we will keep a semester-long lexicon, on our class “wiki” page:

This semester we will read a number of very different, and at times challenging, texts. The lexicon will help us to keep track of new concepts we are thinking about, new words we might learn, and help each other think through the texts we read.

Each time you see “entry for class lexicon” on the syllabus, you must select one word or phrase that you are not familiar with, but interests you, and write a paragraph defining it. Post this to the lexicon (which you can do by visiting the page and clicking edit.

Do not do any research, this paragraph should reflect a definition or understanding you came to through your reading experience. I am not interested in seeing definitions from dictionaries or encyclopedias, but rather new definitions, ideas, and thought experiments! Feel free to be creative and to use images and other media forms to help you define your terms. Make sure you sign your name at the end of your definition.


3 thoughts on “Response Papers


    The allegory of the cave is an interesting idea proposed in book seven. The book attempts to explain an idea of education leading to a superior soul. A superior soul is one that receives knowledge through experiences. These experiences are explained by Plato in steps, steps in departure from the cave. While in the cave, the prisoner sees shadows as the realest thing possible. Then the prisoner is allowed to see the statues, he realizes that the statues that cause the statues are realer then the shadows. However, the shadows are still part of the prisoners reality. The prisoner is thrown out of the cave ; he is fascinated by the sun, the light that cause everything he sees. The prisoner sees that the statues were just mere copies of the true world around him. He understands that the statues are only replicas of everything in this world. Book seven states that this is a theoretical process of how knowledge builds the soul. The soul is a primitive idea without knowledge.

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