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ab 4: Is this America?

Assigned Reading/Viewing:

In this next set of stories, we are going to encounter a new literary device, allegory, and the related parable. Let’s define these terms again here:

  • Allegory: The concrete presentation of an abstract idea, typically in a narrative…with at least two levels of meaning. The first level is the surface story line, which can be summed up by stating who did what to whom when. The second level is typically moral, political, philosophical, or religious.
      • Examples: Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, “Young Goodman Brown”, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman
  • Parable: A short, realistic, but usually fictional story told to illustrate a moral or religious point or lesson; a type of allegory.
      • Examples: Jesus’ parables of the talents, the prodigal son, the rich man and Lazarus, the rich young ruler, and the lost sheep.

In your upcoming writing prompts, you are going to be examining how this week’s stories hold up a mirror (an often unflattering one) to us as a society and individuals. These types of stories allow us to see sometimes dark and ugly things we couldn’t look at if it were presented to us straight. It can work the opposite way as well — highlighting beauty and peace, but you should know by now I’m probably heading in the darker direction. (There are some sweet love poems coming up. Just bear with me).

So to introduce these thought processes, I’ve linked above to two cultural artifacts from recent years that did exactly what I describe above. In “This is America,” Childish Gambino presents a starkly symbolic performance that is hard to watch — and also necessary to watch. Jordan Peele’s Get Out did something similar on the big screen. I want everyone to watch and read about “This is America,” but if you want to make the time to work with Get Out as well, I’d highly recommend.

As you watch, I want you to do what we typically do, picking out details that spark some reaction in us and share why. This time think particularly in terms of allegory and watch for strong symbols. Identify three images/sounds/quotes/scenes that really stand out and explain your reaction. If, as I say, these artists are trying to hold up a mirror to our society, what is it they want us to see? (And feel free to think more about what each means by “us” as well; Peele did that in his follow up film). You’ll see my standard language below to keep us on track, but honestly, there’s room to explore this assignment a bit more loosely if something sparks your interest and you want to follow up.

  • Important note: If you go out looking on the internet for more info about these sources, be sure to CITE.

Same set up as previous labs, read and watch the links above. First try to just enjoy. Then choose THREE QUOTES and/or specific details that you find particularly compelling. I want to see AT LEAST TWO of the three options reflected (so you can do one from each or two from one and one from another). Then, for each of your three chosen quotes, write a SUBSTANTIVE AND POLISHED paragraph (7-12 sentences – this is college!) explaining why this struck you as important.

I look forward to your thoughts!

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  • Watch/ Read links listed above.
  • Take notes as you watch/listen.
  • Choose THREE quotes or specific details and type them in Word doc.
  • Add a SUBSTANTIVE AND POLISHED paragraph under each quote explaining its significance and interest to you.
  • Proofread and polish in the Word doc.
  • Cut and paste into the thread and submit.

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