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Essay Progression Five: Texts-in-Contexts

Overview: 5-6 pages final draft, with appropriate MLA formatting.

You will make an essay that focuses on a body of work by a specific filmmaker or writer, analyzing and interpreting that body of work in the context of a critical or scholarly conversation about that work.

Your fifth progression essay will require you to choose and analyze at least 4 or more works by a single maker (or, in the case of the Maysles, makers) from the list below. The idea is to come up with an interesting, persuasive interpretation of these multiple works that somehow allows for you to figure out an overall argument about the figure(s) you’ve chosen: what their work means, how it works, and why it matters (what its contexts are)

Choose one of the following to focus on, for Progression 5:

Maxine Hong Kingston (memoir/essay)

Alice Munro (stories)

The Maysles Brothers (documentaries)

Martin Scorsese (narrative film)

Bong Joon-Ho (narrative film)

Liz Garbus (documentaries) /full

Frederick Wiseman (documentaries)

Ursula Franklin (essays and speeches)

Teju Cole (essays)

Susan Sontag (essays)

John Berger (essays)

Joan Didion (essays)

Prompt for Progression 5 (Texts-in-Context AKA Secret in the Texts):

In about 5 pages or about 1,250 words, though you may go longer, write an essay that focuses on a single filmmaker or essayist. Your job is to include at least 3-5 works by your chosen figure, representing and synthesizing these works as well as incorporating at least 1 critical resource that adds to your interpretations (you may include more and are encouraged to do so; aim for sources that don’t just support or disagree with you, but instead allow you to make multiple connections about your chosen figure).

Your central task with this essay is to create an interesting interpretation of the central figure you’ve chosen—delivering a close analysis of several films, you will show us the connections you’re figuring out between the filmmaker’s works—the themes and formal gestures that you see traveling across the work, which allow you to make an intriguing, non-obvious claim or reveal a “secret” about the maker’s style and significance. The magic is all in the reading and illumination of the evidence. In stepping in and out of the specific details of those movies and your interpretations, and working with the claims of other critics, you need to organize the presentation of the evidence in a way that isn’t chronological but conceptual (in other words, the movie-texts come up in a sequence that arises from your mind’s making sense of them, not in the order that X made them or when they were released).


–Representation/analysis of least 3-5 works by the chosen figure

–At least 1 outside critical resource

–Title, MLA formatting, Works Cited


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