I expect an essay of at least 5 paragraphs. You may refer to any of the recent readings that we have done on the theme of the stranger in the village, and you may also refer to other texts that you are familiar with. You may refer briefly to your own experiences, but please keep most of the essay focused on the readings you choose.
There are FOUR choices. Select ONE. Please don’t copy the question.
​Effective papers will:
–Stay focused on the key terms and/or criteria (such as personas or speaking in code) from the question you select.
–Refer not only to specific authors and texts but to carefully selected statements, images, incidents, metaphors, and so on. You have plenty of examples to refer to–but please don’t write a list. I’d prefer a patient discussion of one or two texts rather than a hasty reference to four or five.
–Carefully quote or paraphrase a few key sentences or phrases or lines from these texts. (See the attached sheet on Quoting from a Poem.)
–Present a neat and organized paper with a minimum of distracting grammar errors.
–Provide much more than a summary of basic ideas that we’ve already discussed. Essayer is a French word meaning to try, and that’s what I expect from your essay. So please try some new idea or image, some bold response or challenge, some serious question or doubt. (HINT: Your last paragraph might be good place to do so–it’s a lot better than just summarizing what you’ve already said before.)
A) MASKS and PERSONAS: In his well-know song The Stranger, Billy Joel declares:
Well, we all have some faces that we hide away forever
And we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone.
Some are satin, some are steel.
Some are silk and some are leather.
They’re the faces of a stranger–
But we love to try them on.
Please explain how the idea of masks/personas has become important for modern poets and musical artists. What masks/personas do they choose, and why might this matter? And what does this have to do with the theme of the stranger?
B) SPEAKING IN CODE: In his essay Negative Space, Jay-Z states that Poets and hustlers play with language, because for them simple clarity can mean failure. They bend language, improvise, and invent new ways of speaking the truth (3). Please take a look at some of our recent readings. Try to provide and explain examples of how writers often experiment with the language and forms they choose, and with strange ways of speaking the truth.
C) I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS (AND MAYBE YOU DON’T): Maya Angelou’s well-known poem boldly emphasizes her claim that I know why a bird sings of rage and captivity and freedom. Some of our other readings make similar claims in which an artist writes of how he or she can know or speak for those who are considered strangers. Yet as we discussed in class, artists also raise the issue of credibility (or authenticity or credentials or other terms). That is, certain artists or groups may resist these claims, and say in effect, You don’t really know me–and you can’t really know me. Please select and explain some relevant examples.
D) PROUD TO BE STRANGE?: The famous film-maker Orson Wells once said that,
A good artist should be isolated. If he isn’t isolated, something is wrong. In several of our readings, artists or writers depict themselves as strangers–and they often are not looking to be made a guest of honor in the village. How do they refer to their own strangeness from the village–and what might be their attitude about it? With humility, rage, humor, irony, confusion, some personal declaration of independence?
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