History B357
Second Assignment: due in class, Monday, 12 November 2012
all work submitted after 12:30 p.m. will be penalized as "late"

Write a 3-4 page paper responding to one of the prompts below. In composing your answer, think carefully about how you know the claims you are making: Are you repeating something you have read elsewhere? Are you drawing conclusions on the basis of some textual or visual evidence?

At the very least, I expect you to base your paper on lectures, on the texts we have read for discussion, and on Popkin (or some other reputable textbook). Some of the questions ask you to focus closely on a particular text while others give you more leeway to choose your own evidence. Whatever your paper's source base, remember that you must include properly formatted foot- or endnotes and a bibliography. For guidance on notes and bibliography, please see this webpage. Any paper submitted without proper notes and bibliography will receive a very low or failing grade!

Especially with a very short paper such as this one, success depends on a clear structure and a coherent analysis. In your first paragraph or two, you need to present a strongly formulated thesis statement (for help with writing thesis statements, see this WTS pamphlet). Statements of the form: "In this paper, I will argue that..." are cumbersome and to be avoided in the final draft but you may find it helpful to write just such a sentence at the top of your document as you are writing. The substantive part of your paper needs to persuade your reader to agree with your analysis. As you introduce new material, try to use it as evidence in support of your argument. (For help with using evidence, see this WTS pamphlet.)


Most people's writing would be improved by observing the following recommendations (from Strunk and White's classic text, Elements of Style):

  • use the active voice!! (VERBS. Verbs are good.)

 • put statements in positive form (Please do NOT write: "It could possibly be argued that..." If you're going to argue it, argue it! If you're not going to, forget about it.)

 • use definite, specific, and concrete language

 • omit needless words!! (Note: "The fact that is an especially debilitating expression and should be revised out of every sentence in which it occurs," Strunk and White, p. 24.)

Whatever you do, remember to give your paper A TITLE!

Paper Topics

1. To what extent does Baudelaire's definition of "modernity" depend upon the existence of class and gender divisions within society? In answering this question, you should work closely with the text of Baudelaire's "The Painter of Modern Life." You can find the full text in the library or, at a pinch, you can work with this partial version.

2. In what ways was the Paris Commune of 1871 part of the French "revolutionary tradition"? In what ways did the two diverge?

3. In his Peasants into Frenchmen (1980), Eugen Weber argued that the Third Republic's nation-building policies constituted a form of "internal colonization." What were those policies and do you agree with that characterization of them?

4. "Dreyfus is guilty." Write your own "open letter" to the President of France in which you take this position (in other words, be the "anti-Zola").

5. In the 1950s, Roland Barthes analyzed the emerging consumer culture in a series of essays entitled Mythologies. Selections from those essays are available here (Google Books; the essay on "The Romans in Film" pp. 26-28 and "Soap Powders and Detergents," 36-38 are both excellent examples of Barthes's work) while "Myth Today" (the more programmatic piece) is available here. Other essays available on-line include "Toys" (here) and "The New Citroën" (here --when he refers to the car as a "goddess" it is because the model was the DS and pronouncing those letters in French yields almost exactly the same sounds as the French word for "goddess," déesse). If you understand spoken French, you might want to watch this interview with Barthes on a French literary television program (1957). Based on at least two of these essays, how would you describe Barthes's goal and method in this work? That is, what is he trying to do and how does he do it?


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