Exercise 4 – Master narratives
Scholars argue that contemporary culture perpetuates the master narrative of the black freedom struggle. In this essay, you have a chance to demonstrate such an analysis by watching either “Mississippi Burning” (1988) or “Ghosts of Mississippi” (1996). They are on reserve at Lilly Library, and are also available through Netflix and local video stores. Just as we have done in our other document analyses, “read” the movie you choose as you would any other text. Watch it one time through, without taking notes. Then watch it a second time, making careful note of what you see and hear, including the film’s assumptions and subtexts. I expect you to quote from the movie as you would other texts, so be sure to jot down the right times from the video in order to go back. During your viewings, keep in mind these questions:
What roles do African Americans play in the movie? Whites? Women? Working-class folks?
Does the movie offer some sort of argument – or at least a lesson? And if so, what is it?
What motivations do civil rights activists have in the film?
What other themes do you notice?
Are there any counter-narratives in this reading, and if so what are they?
Then craft an argument on how the movie reaffirms a master narrative of the movement. In this essay, view the film primarily as a secondary source, while recognizing that it also speaks to race relations of the 1980s and 1990s, when the films were produced. Feel free to forward and/or counter the arguments of Lawson, Payne, or the authors in Romano and Raiford, as you see fit.
This essay’s purpose is to combine several skills we have worked on so far. A successful paper:
identifies a predominant, or “master” narrative
reads the film as a text, recognizing its often implicit argument and assumptions
crafts a clear, concise claim on how the film perpetuates a particular interpretation
supports your claim with specific pieces of evidence – both paraphrased and judiciously quoted – from the film and other sources cited, forwarded, and/or countered
uses proper citation format
This assignment prepares you for P1 in which you will use primary document analysis to enhance, challenge, or complicate a master narrative of the Montgomery bus boycott.
Format: 500-750 words; double-spaced; 12-point font; 1-inch margins on all sides; page numbers
File name: include your last name and assignment name (for example, Mantler E4.docx)
At top of the first page include: your name; the course and section number (Writing 20, Section
2, 3 or 43); and the assignment name (E4)
Citation form: Chicago or Turabian-style footnotes (see Footnote Citation Guide in the syllabus)
Due: 9 p.m. Sunday, February 14, under Assignments, E4 on Blackboard (for Monday’s class)