Politics of Prison Abolishment
This assignment is designed to allow learners to advance their critical thinking skills by providing a close reading or “explication de texte” of a previously undiscussed media text – the Netflix docu-series When They See Us (WTSU) based on the true story of the exonerated Central Park 5.
GENERAL DIRECTIONS FOR ANALYTICAL PAPER: In a 2 to 3 page, double-spaced, analytical paper conforming to one of the following parenthetical citation methods (MLA, CMOS author-date, or APA), use one of the concepts developed by one of the following authors we have discussed (Davis 2003, James 2005, Gilmore 2007, Kleiman 2009, Alexander 2010, or Dilts 2014) alongside the concept of abolition (Abu-Jamal 2018 or Kaba 2020) to interpret a scene from your assigned part of the series (either 1 or 2, see discussion board pages in this module for those individual assignments). Make sure to write your paper in a word processor (Microsoft Word, Google Doc, etc), save as PDF, and then upload to this portal by the due date and time (10/6, 3:30 pm).
SPECIFIC DIRECTIONS FOR ANALYTICAL PAPERS: An analytical paper requires a question, to which your thesis is the answer, a defense of that thesis, and a conclusion where you consider possible other answers but reinforce to your reader why your answer is the most accurate. This means that analytical papers follow a structure: introduction (with question and thesis), body paragraphs (supporting evidence), and conclusion (with possible counter-thesis). Attached you will find an example from a former student for this very assignment (Example Paper <link is hidden> You will also find an attached rubric for both Paper A & Paper B for this course (note that it has changed slightly from the rubric attached to the example paper).
Quick Guide for Explication de texte
An explication de texte (cf. Latin explicare, to unfold, to fold out, or to make clear the meaning of) is a finely detailed, very specific examination of a short selected passage from a longer work, in order to find the focus or design of the work. To this end, “close” reading calls attention to all dynamic tensions, polarities, or problems in the passage.
Close Reading or Explication de texte operates on the premise that any text (novel, film, art, philosophical treatise, etc.), as artifice, will be more fully understood and appreciated if one pays close attention to the nature and interrelations of its parts. This kind of work must be done before you can begin to borrow or develop any theoretical approach. You want to engage close reading or “explication de texte” so you don’t end up with a conclusion like that of Mrs. Arable who responds to the magical web of Charlotte’s in Charlotte’s Web, “I don’t understand it, and I don’t like what I don’t understand.” Finally, the explication de texte should be a means to see the complexities and ambiguities in a given text, not for finding solutions and/or truisms.
GUIDELINES FOR EXPLICATION DE TEXTE: Follow these steps before you begin writing. These are pre-writing steps, procedures to follow, questions to consider before you commence actual writing. Remember that the knowledge you gain from completing each of the steps is cumulative. There may be some information that overlaps, but do not take shortcuts.
Figurative Language. Examine the passage/scene carefully for similes, images, metaphors, and symbols. Identify any and all. What visual insights does each word give or what words come to mind for each image? Look for multiple meanings and overlapping of meaning. Look for repetitions, for oppositions. Consider how each word/image or group of words/images suggests a pattern and/or points to an abstraction (<link is hidden> time, space, love, soul, death). Can you visualize the metaphoric world? Are there spatial dimensions to the language? Etc.
Diction. Look up as many words as you can in a good dictionary, even if you think that you know the meaning of the word. The dictionary will illuminate new connotations and new denotations of a word. Look at all the meanings of the keywords. Look up the etymology of the words. How have they changed? Be careful to always check back to the text, keeping meaning contextually sound. Do not assume you know the depth or complexity of meaning at first glance. Rely on a good dictionary, particularly the Oxford English Dictionary. (<link is hidden> – you can gain access via UDC library)
Assessment. This step is not to suggest reduction; rather, a “close reading” or explication should enable you to problematize and expand your understanding of the text. Ask: what insight the passage/scene gives into the work/episode as a whole? How does it relate to themes, ideas, or larger actions in other parts of the work? Make sure that your hypothesis regarding the theme(s) of the work is contextually sound.
Context: If your text is part of a larger whole, make a brief reference to its position in the whole. Do this briefly but completely.
Thesis: An explication should most definitely have a thesis statement. Do not try to write your thesis until you have finished all the above steps. The thesis should take the form of an assertion about the meaning and function of the text which is your subject. It must be something that you can argue for and prove in your essay.