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Halloween Rhetoric

Your task is to dig a little bit on one of these topics that came up in our brief conversation following Kling's "Waiting for Mr. Mershing" and to answer this question: how is Halloween rhetorical? Post your findings on your blog today in class (or later if you don't finish).

Here's the infographic here about sexy costumes that shouldn't be sexy.
  • Why do people wear sexy costumes (or "sexy" costumes...)
  • What does it suggest about people/American culture/society
  • Are there sexy costumes for men? explore this...
  • If you explore costumes in more general terms, consider why and how certain trends emerge. 
  • How come it's okay for little kids to dress up as the devil, as a witch, as a tiny vampire. These are really dark do we make them suitable for children--what's the argument here?
Candy/Trick or Treating
  • Where does this practice come from?
  • What's it all about?
  • Has it changed at all? 
  • Is it really all about sweet things? What about the tricks?
Haunted houses/house decor/superstitions
  • How are these things related?
  • Why do we decorate our houses on holidays?
  • Where do superstitions come from? how do they continue?
  • Seriously, what's the deal? Where does it come from?
  • While were at it, what about other symbols of Halloween, like black cats?
  • Why do we enjoy being scared?
  • Why do we watch horror/slasher movies?
  • What does this say about us (culture, society, humans)?
Zombie/Vampire obsesh
  • Where did we get the idea of zombies? the term? why?
  • Why do they eat braaaaaaaaaains? 
  • Go watch this scene from Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) 1:15:26 
  • Maybe read this
  • And this
  • Why are vampires suddenly all the rage? Read this
  • Where did our vampire obsession stem? what started it all? Watch this
  • How has the vampire image changed or remained the same?  
The Gross-out Factor
  • Halloween parties featuring gross food items, like "severed fingers" and "brains" and "eye balls" and "baby guts" and deep-fried spiders (which some people somewhere actually eat).
  • General indulgence in all things "icky": spiders, snakes, bats -- things we normally object to, we celebrate. Why? Why do we do this?


Non Sequitur


Contrary to what some of you believe, understanding how and why something is funny does not, in fact, ruin its humor. I argue that it enhances it. Why is this bizarre little video amusing? Well, simply because it's a current political reference, taking reputable public figures and twisting the dialogue from politic to a string of non sequitur and red herring statements. Bizarre and unpredictable. 


Browse Articles? Whaa?

For your next essay, you will critically analyze the glittering rhetoric of some article. I have a bunch to get you started, but I'm probably going to add a few more and maybe remove a few that are lame. Perhaps you will find one that you'd rather analyze than the ones provided for you. Fine.

Here's a link to that website that I'm supposed to  be phasing out. Find the yellow box called "Rhetorical Analysis" toward the bottom left; articles are located there. Length shouldn't be a factor in deterring or enticing you.

I will explain in more detail tomorrow (Tuesday) and give you The Assignment Sheet (which is epic, by the way) that articulates exactly what you need to do. After we finish the presentations tomorrow, you'll have time to browse and Wednesday will be a day of annotations and analysis.

Right, and we'll do a bunch of vocab on Wednesday, because I've been neglecting it. And I'll collect your scored Jesse Jackson essays. And we'll rejoice that we have Thursday and Friday off.

Except that EVERYONE WILL BE GONE FOR THAT SILLY PSAT TEST! So vocab will just have to wait. Again. Ugh. Look for an update that tells you what to do for your MEA weekend blog post and probably some other stuff, too. 


On Ethics, Philosophy, and College

Window into my undergrad years: I fancied myself something of a philosopher. A yuppie, middle-class philosopher, attending an expensive private liberal arts college (strictly on scholarships and loans, mind you). Remember that metaphor Joan Didion used about the shaky passport and false papers and being afraid of being found out? That probably applies here. I became intrigued with philosophy as a senior on high school. I wanted to know everything there was to know about philosophy, and the world--well everything that was actually knowable, that is. Wait, how do we know what is knowable? According to whom? What is knowledge anyway?


I was kind of ridiculous. A strange hybrid of too-serious, pseudo-intellectual and selfish, materialistic, semi-entitled suburban kid. Ah, youth. 

This pursuit of knowledge often consumes the undergrad, and for good reason. New surroundings, new ideas, new responsibilities, new opportunities for cultural awareness--it's all very exciting and dizzying. See what you have to look forward to? College is awesome.

So this philosophy stuff. I did an independent study on ethics one semester with this professor who unexpectedly burst into fits of shouting about the ontological argument and the problem of evil: Oh, look! Little pieces of evil! --It was rather entertaining. But we read and discussed Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics and while I can't pretend that I have retained everything from that (or any other) semester, the concept of "happiness" as well being or eudaimonia, has stuck with me. This is what Vicki Hearne was getting at when she went on and on about animals deserving to be happy. She wasn't talking about smiley, giggly, I am so happy happiness; she was talking about living a full life.

I know, you didn't sign up for philosophy lit. and your patience is fading, but guess what? If you're going to write a compelling argument-driven essay, you have to consider virtually everything. Fun, right?


Composition requires thinking. Critical thinking. Clear thinking. Creative thinking--it's mental gymnastics, people. Start training.