Topics for Final Paper, REL353 Dark Self

Double-spaced, 5-7 pages (approximately 1500 words). Write your name, the name of the class, topic number, and the title of your topic at the top of the page. (See the "Paper Writing Guidelines." You may use footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical notation to indicate page numbers for textual references. A general rule of thumb: If you have one main idea in a paragraph, and you are indebted to some outside source - readings, lectures - then one reference will help the reader to check for accuracy and fairness should a question arise). Some of the paper topics are designed around a dialogue or a creative, imaginative situation. Referencing your ideas for these topics is just as important as for more conventional topics. Be sure include direct quotations and/or page references from the readings relevant to your chosen topic in developing the body of your paper. 

Due in class Tuesday, March 14.

Be sure to write your name, the name of the class, the title of your topic, and the TOPIC NUMBER at the top of the page.

You may write on your own topic if you wish. However, you must: 1) Submit a one-paragraph description by email to the instructor. 2) You must submit your topic by Wednesday, March 7. 3) You must obtain approval from the instructor.

I also strongly encourage you to read the essays on my Writing web pages, especially "Four Keys to Writing in the Humanities," "Paper Writing Guidelines," "Checklist for Papers," and "Writing: The Bridge between Consciousness and Unconsciousness."

 

Topics (Select one of the following topics)

1. It can be argued that Zhuangzi takes the reader through a progression from the understanding of diverse perspectives (perspectivalism) (pp. 32-33); to the dissolution of boundaries through the mutual interpenetration or transformation of things with one another p. 44); to the realization of the oneness of all reality with oneself (p. 38). Show how this kind of development might be applied to the case of Jacob in Jacob's Ladder or Naomi in Tales from a Traveling Couch? In what ways don't they fit this paradigm?
 
2. Select two thinkers we read from the first five weeks (i.e. through Shinran) and have them analyze reality as it is presented in the film Jacob's Ladder. For example, Zhuangzi might comment upon the nature of dream-like reality (see "butterfly episode" p. 45), and Rubin Carter might comment on the relation between inner and outer reality. This is a complex topic, so one of the challenges will be to fit your analysis into the page length guidelines.
 
3. Sandy Gunther argues that there are three realities in Jacob's Ladder. Vietnam, New York, and Transcendent. Examine this view from the perspective of one of the thinkers we read for this course. How accurate is Gunther's analysis? Where might it be lacking? Or, how might it be augmented.
 
4. Apply Audre Lorde's analysis of gender, sexual orientation, the erotic, and spirituality to The Color Purple. As part of your paper, discuss where potentially they diverge or disagree as well as where they agree or correspond with one another.
 
5. Critique the view of the erotic as presented by Audre Lorde from the perspective of another author or work examined in this work (such as Kierkegaard, Catherine Keller, Jacob's Ladder). Either as part of the main body of your paper or as an extra one- to two-paragraph section at the end of your paper, discuss how Audre Lorde might respond to this critique (You can use either first- or third-person voice. That is, you can describe how she might respond, or you can depict her possible response in her own voice.)

6. Select two thinkers we read for this course; compare and contrast how they might define the meaning of spiritual freedom. Include in your discussion how they would define the relation between spiritual freedom on the one hand and economic and political freedom on the other.

7. Near Death. You have a terminal case of liver cancer. Several months have passed since the diagnosis and now the end is near. Your lover/partner is far away and is unable to share this time with you, caught in a foreign land with an invalid passport. You are writing a letter to your lover/partner expressing what the past has meant to you, what you have learned as you struggled with the illness and impending death, and how you now see life and death. Write this letter drawing on the works we have read. You may combine insights from more than one text if you like, but it is recommended that you restrict your sources to two or three sources and not try to do too much.

8. Relate what you wrote about in your first paper to two or three texts/thinkers/films we have read in the course. Include at least one film and one text. Also, if you wrote about a similar topic for any of your previous paper, be sure to discuss at least one book or article that you have not previously written about. Examine how these texts/thinkers have changed or affected the views and/or experiences of the relationship between inner darkness and society. What are some points in these texts/thinkers that may be problematic or that trouble you?

9. Scenario: You have just suffered a loss in a relationship (death of family or friend; breakup of friendship, romance, or marriage). Somehow, this loss has led you to think about the dark side of the self in a way different from before. There is a mentor in your life who is currently overseas, and you wish to communicate the difficulty of the loss, what you have learned through this loss about the dark side as well as possible illumination (currently unfolding or peeking through on the horizon).
Drawing on two or three of the texts/films we studied in this course, write a letter that describes your reflections and communicates your learning process to your mentor. Include as part of your reflections at least one paragraph about the significance of listening deeply (to others, to your own inner voice, to the deeper currents of life).

For topics 7 & 9, you should write the the paper in a normal "letter" tone, as if you were really writing a letter. However, you still need to include page references and citations for ideas from the readings and films, and you can work in more distanced or academic reflections by using direct quotations or by setting them off in the letter, using rhetorical devices: "I remember reading . . . ," "When I was in college we studied . . ." and so forth.

10. Compare and contrast the view of nature and society as found in Antonia's Line and the Zhuangzi. One theme that is present in the film but not in the Daoist classic is sexuality. Address the effect, if any, that this difference has on the understanding of nature and society in the two sources. Be sure to discuss which character's views you are presenting in any particular discussion of Antonia's Line; you are free to cite the views of multiple characters. Be sure to provide page and/or direct quotation references from the Zhuangzi.

11. Antonia's Line. Write a series of letters between Celie from The Color Purple and one of the main female characters from Antonia's Line concerning the relationship between religion, spirituality, sexuality, and gender. In addition, include an exchange on the issue of race (It may be interesting to show some tension between the two letter writers on this point, but you are not required to do so). In these exchanges show how the letter writers' views each evolve over the course of the years. Be sure to provide page numbers and/or direct quotations from The Color Purple, and as much as possible specific scene refernces from Antonia's Line in composing your exchange of letters.