We’ve discussed just a few of the principle pressures that have formed how we understand the ways “mothers” function in both the private sphere of home and the public arena of community and work. We’ve also looked at the functions of motherhood and the way these functions have been understood, complicated, and challenged.
In Noah Baumbach’s film, Squid and the Whale (2005), The Berkman family is beset by a whole host of issues that stem from and precede the divorce of its two principle characters: Bernard and Joan. While the conflict is largely confined to the sphere of domestic life (infidelity, unhappiness, custody, finances, etc…), each family member (including Walt and Frank) struggles, in large part, from their desire to create and from their desire to have their creations heard, read, and understood.
Write a 4-5 page essay that engages one of the prompts below. Incorporate references to a minimum of 3 additional texts (beyond the film) that we’ve read and discussed in class. Read further instructions below.
• Joan, whether consciously or not, responds to and challenges the expectations that motherhood and matrimony place upon her. These challenges are understood in light of the work, the material set of arrangements, and the opportunities that arrive in the person of Ivan, her emergence as a writer, and the dissolving relationship between her and Bernard. Similarly, Peggy, from Tony Earley’s short story, “Here We Are in Paradise,” faces a new set of challenges with her diagnosis and invasive cancer. Surprisingly, we discover that she finds new ways to articulate her responses to her “world,” and this world, with its new textures and ever shifting dimensions, becomes abundantly real, even as it threatens to dissolve and fade away. For this paper, create an argument that works to frame, interpret, and examine notions of the women’s choices, especially as they pertain to expression (physical, domestic, emotional, social, historical, etc.) and the ways these expressions render and reveal desire (and its unusual manifestations—love, fear, anger, loss, pleasure, pain).
• A big part of this film centers on the slippery slope of familial discourse. That is, the terms of Joan and Bernard’s divorce take on multiple meanings, and impact Walt and Frank in far ranging ways. Does the rhetoric (“the art of persuasion”) of their agreement (or lack thereof) say anything about the family dynamic? Consider the conditions, and the terms, and the meanings associated with specific arrangements like “joint custody”, and designations such as “Philistine.” How do these arrangements, and designations, alongside any others you might identify, further complicate Walt’s (intellectual) and Frank’s (physical) development? Consider the tensions presented by the boy’s individual trajectories.
• Write a 4-5 page paper that engages one of the two prompts listed above.
• Create an engaging introduction that incorporates a quote(s), a brief overview of the subject, and a brief summary of the controversy.
• Be sure to situate your paper in the context of the topics presented in the film and the readings we’ve completed to this point of the semester.
• Consider the views that Noah Baumbach’s film, Squid and the Whale, is responding to. While you will want to identify the argument(s) presented in the film, ultimately you will construct your own argument in response to the arguments you encounter.
• Write a thesis statement that presents a stance that reveals and blends well-informed and a multi-faceted position.
• Write strong body paragraphs develop the idea found within your topic sentences.
• Incorporate a minimum of three sources according to MLA format.
• Write a strong conclusion that re-states your thesis and offers any further implications your findings have for the future of the subject.
• Be sure to use the texts we’ve covered in class: Rebecca Jo Plant’s chapter “Banishing the Suffering Mother: The Quest for Painless Childbirth”, Tony Earley’s “Here We Are in Paradise”, Rebecca Kulka’s “Ethics and Ideology in Breastfeeding Advocacy Campaigns”, and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”, and “Rhetorical Visions.”
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