Essay Assignment

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GWRIT 102D/Fall 2001
Essay Assignment #2

Essay Topics

Choose one of the following:

1. Research a painting that represents an aspect of history (Picasso's Guernica, is an example, as is Warhol's Campbell's Soup). What do you think the artist's intent was in the way he/she represented the culture or the past? How does the "way you see" the painting affect your interpretation? This essay should include research on the painting itself and on the historical and cultural significance of the subject. It should also include, however, your own interpretation of the artist's goals and an acknowledgement of how your own history affects your interpretation of the painting. These final two elements are going to be the center of your argument. Please also include a reproduction of the painting you are discussing with your essay.

A variation: You may choose a form of art other than a painting. Photography, sculpture, graphic and product design, decorative arts, and so on are all good possibilities. Make sure, however, that you can discuss your subject as Berger would, analyzing it from a cultural/historical perspective.

2. Advertising offers us familiar cultural texts that can be pried open to study critical questions about society, culture, ideology and power in advanced capitalist societies. Advertising is a cultural form that provides an excellent vehicle for developing critical social theory and the study of signs. Berger suggests that advertising today has developed into a dominant discourse in capitalist society -- a discourse that shapes our culture just as profoundly as religion and schooling did in previous eras. Never before in human society has there been such an abundance and concentrated density of visual images. Whether we remember or forget these images, we routinely take them in, if only for a moment. We are, however, so accustomed to being addressed by advertising images that we often become indifferent to their full significance. We tend to take them for granted and they become part of the climate of our lives. Although we may accept, reject, sneer, or shrug our shoulders at any given claim made by ads, we generally accept, without reflection, the total system of advertising images. For this assignment, write an essay in which you analyze an advertisement, advertising image or images that present a discourse. Avoid the obvious forms of manipulations that most of us can identify in typical advertisements (use shampoo "X" and you'll find the man of your dreams), and try to search for deeper implications in advertising imagery motifs that form or profoundly affect aspects of our culture. Feel free to refer to Berger in your essay.*

3. Write your own version of Berger's "Ways of Seeing," for 2002. What would he say now about reproduction, the power of images, how our culture affects the way we "see" images? See if you can find current images that make your point and include these in your essay. Things that we take for granted today such as the internet, satellite coverage-not to mention CDs or color Xeroxes! Feel free, of course, to refer to Berger's work in your essay.


o A minimum of three sources in draft, four sources in revision. Only two sources may be from the internet. One must be from a book (not Ways of Seeing) or an academic journal.
o 1000-1500 words, 12 pts., typed, double-spaced, with a title.
o Copy of image or painting being discussed attached
o Stapled
o Correct citations and correctly formatted "Works Cited" list placed at the end of the essay.

*Adapted from a course designed by Robert Goldman


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