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3 Possible Research Paper Topics

27 Oct

1) The 1960’s – How historical events and political ties influenced American culture.

I’ve always been interested in the culture of the 1960’s – it was a time when most Americans started to become socially and politically active. The youth embraced liberal lifestyles and student activists became more radical. The Civil Rights movement, the Space Race, Anti-communism, and the Vietnam War were all a part of this decade. I would love to research more about this time period and understand if and how these monumental events changed the mindset of Americans. It would require historical research as well as many sources to comprehend the rapidly changing society of the 60’s.

http://www.history.com/topics/1960s

2) Banksy: Should his controversial graffiti art be considered a violation of property or a valuable insight on politics, culture and ethics?

Banksy is an English graffiti artist, political activist, film director and painter who goes by a false identity. For years, his art has mysteriously showed up on many of the world’s streets, walls and bridges – giving off controversial dark humor. He is famous for using a stenciling technique in his painting, which sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars by art auctioneers. Each picture has a story or message behind it, making onlookers and observers intrigued by his opinions on society. However, his art has become a huge controversy among police and government officials, who label graffiti as vandalism, much to the contempt of Banksy’s supporters.

3) Can modern controversies be explained by the religion of Buddhism?

Abortion, war, sexism, and economic policies are just a some of the controversies that we face today. It seems interesting to find out how to conquer these problems through simplistic Buddhist views. In a world where most religions have rigid opinions and ideologies, I want to see if Buddhism offers a fresh perspective on solutions. Has the philosophy really helped its followers understand overcome consequences of social problems and find “peace within themselves?”

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James Needham: Reflection narrative

23 Oct

While researching the life and accomplishments of James Needham, I found it very challenging to find a great deal of information. There was a lack of online sources and journals that even mentioned his name. Needham’s personal life concerning life, death and family were nowhere to be found, so I continued researching his career accomplishments. Needham proved to be a notable figure through his leadership roles in various abolitionist groups. I expanded on those groups and communities – garnering clues about what type of person he might have been. I could not find any information on his individual role at the convention, but based on his previous leadership positions, I made an educated guess that he was a relatively vocal and active member of the convention.

The articles that I found covered important historical events in the 20th century. Local newspapers printed stories about the abolitionist movement, the Emancipation Proclamation, and of course, the Colored Convention. Although very few of these articles mentioned anything about Needham, they provided great insight on what type of African American activists took part in them. Needham’s experiences and association with the church proved that he, like many other abolitionists, was determined to give blacks equality. Realizing Needham’s life goal made the unfound information of his personal life seem rather trivial. It is not clear whether he was from an affluent family or an impoverished one, but his participation in the Philadelphia Vigilance Association and Sunday schools highlighted his relentless efforts for a good cause.

While writing this biography, I considered my potential audience to be teachers and students who plan on researching James Needham in the future. They may also want to know about the groups that he was a part of, so I divided that information into paragraphs. The language that I wrote with was similar to that of most biographies. It is similar to how most students will write when uncovering the history of black abolitionists.

James Needham: Paving The Way for Abolitionists

23 Oct

James Needham was an African American officer hailing from Philadelphia, active in many political causes and deeply committed to the abolitionist movement. Like many black men at the time, he worked intensively to gain leadership positions in reform organizations, finding ways to spread hope, knowledge, and protection to slaves.

In August 1835, he was one of the nine black abolitionists to create the Philadelphia Vigilance Association. The committee’s main goal was to “fund aid to colored persons in distress.” They helped runaway slaves find shelter, clothing, medicine, and money. Needham and his fellow members educated the slaves on their legal rights and protections, later giving them temporary jobs before sending them off to the safe haven of Canada. The association elected James Needham as the Treasurer, along with James McCrummell and Jacob C. White as President and Secretary, respectively.

On November 5th, 1841, The Liberator published an article reporting on the National Convention, in which a committee of twenty-four men met in concern for the “colored people of the United States.” Needham, the chairman of the committee, discussed several aspects of the lives of African Americans, hoping to fix depravations and issues that blacks were facing at the time. The article went on to list the views of the committee, concluding with the general consensus that blacks ought to freely express their voice, and be given the same rights and privileges as whites. In the end, James Needham was the first to sign, implying that he had a massive input in the writing.

Needham was also an active participant in the church sector – giving speeches in various Sunday schools. On August 1, 1842, the “Colored Sunday Schools” of the city and county of Philadelphia had exercises opened with prayer by Rev. Joe Cox. The singing was conducted by Robert C. Jones, and the address on the event was by Bishop D.A. Payne. The address to parents and teachers was by S.D. Hastings, and finally, the address to children was by James Needham.

Around 1870, when the 15th amendment was finally being ratified, a San Francisco-based newspaper called The Elevator reported that people across the country were preparing for a celebration. African Americans were rejoicing in the fact that the government had secured to them (in the constitution) something that they deserved from the very beginning. James Needham was interviewed from Philadelphia, saying, “Our folks here are making preparations to celebrate the 15th Amendment, when the Proclamation is issued. It will be a great jubilee, and I hope it will be duly observed throughout the country. We anticipate having a fine time here.”

James Needham’s significance in the Colored Convention was the sheer amount of experience and expertise he carried. Representing so many groups and gaining solid positions in all sorts of abolitionist groups gave him an edge, especially in a group masterminded by men with such similar experiences. Needham was among the myriad of courageous men who were willing to stand up for justice for African Americans. He was committed to the end of slavery – and did just about anything he could to make sure it came as soon as possible.

Not just Needham, but all of the blacks who came together in the Colored Convention, give us great insight on how to go about solving our problems and circumstances today (unemployment, abortion, taxes). Thanks to their efforts, we have now achieved relative equality in all races and ethnicities. Racism has vastly improved – and in the 21st century, our country has become smart enough to realize that there are far more imperative issues left to fix, much of which can be solved by starting off with a dream, a vision, and group of highly effective, determined individuals.

Sources/Writings of Needham:

http://stillfamily.library.temple.edu/historical-perspective/essay-reflections-underground

http://infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/infomark/812/619/198420528w16/purl=rc1_NCNP_0_GT3005848890&dyn=7!xrn_1_0_GT3005848890&hst_1?sw_aep=udel_main

http://infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=E50E4BPAMTM1MDM0MjQ1Ni4xOTU4MDE6MToxMzoxMjguNC4xODguMjIx&p_action=doc&s_lastnonissuequeryname=3&d_viewref=search&p_queryname=3&p_docnum=4&p_docref=v2:1314AA70AC23F712@EANX-1318B7D82903ADF8@2407816-1317FCEB987B0B48@1-138B6CF68CCEF924@%5BRev.+Jos.+Cox%3B+Robt.+C.+Jones%3B+Bishop%5D

http://books.google.com/books?id=Sj-jv2g7utcC&pg=PA91&lpg=PA91&dq=colored+convention+james+needham&source=bl&ots=ovzMKc17Gq&sig=VZE_3LHJmdEVwx_lKv0nYJy7itM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=rQ5-UL6uIpOA0AGvyIC4CQ&ved=0CDcQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=colored%20convention%20james%20needham&f=

Analyzing Photographs

29 Sep

Branching off of persuasive rhetoric is a another very interesting topic of discussion – the photograph. Pictures and images we see in our daily life make us predisposed to certain judgments and reactions. In class, we analyzed various pictures of President Obama in his element: wearing some concoction of red, white, and blue, and conveying a powerful message through his speech. It gave us a sense of patriotism, a sense of relief – to know that our nation is in the hands of a man who is serious about his work. Soon after, we saw an image of the President in a reclined, laid-back pose in his office. It offered us another facet of Obama’s personality – casual, carefree, and loving. His family pictures were sitting on his desk and he was flashing a million-dollar smile. In the job of politicians, and amidst all the legal, social, and corporate work, there seems to be a fine line between the professional character and real character of a person. This picture suggests Obama’s real personality – how he acts in his off-time.

We came to these conclusions after closely examining every aspect of the images. The distance from subject, angle, framing, light, focus, lines, and color all affect the way we perceive images. For example, the vantage point from which the photograph was taken loosely tells us the status of the person in relation to us. A low angle makes the subject look much larger, proposing that we are looking up at the subject. Likewise, a high angle implies that the subject is smaller. An angle that is on the same level as ours implies equality, as many of Obama’s pictures do.

Images can be used for a wide range of reasons. Advertisements – ones that contain some sort of written and visual material – are used to promote a product. Ads are there to sell an idea (to a certain demographic), and they have to be very efficient in doing so. Using the same examining techniques, we can look at movie posters and how they affect us.

Take, for example, Little Miss Sunshine. It was a relatively small, independent movie, so it wasn’t fated to receive global recognition. However, its advertisement is a simplistic, appealing, and persuasive. Besides offering a wide range of actors (Greg Kinnear, Steve Carrell, Alan Arkin), this movie poster is an artistic rendering of simple comedy – the kind that makes you want to know more. If we examine the distance from the subjects, we are not very close. This implies that the overall concept is perhaps not very serious. The angle of the picture is leveled, showing that these characters are running to catch up to a van. The quirkiness of the characters and framing devices reveal that this film has an eccentric vibe. The light and colors of this are bright, wholesome, and inviting.

You get the point.

There are a variety of spaces, shapes, words, and lines that we can examine – things that will always imply something about the advertisment. At a certain point, when we get the general idea, we can deem the advertisement successful, and succumb ourselves to the powerful visual rhetoric that is before us. In other words, go watch the movie.

The Writing Process

24 Sep

When we are in the process of writing, we find ourselves deleting, adding, editing – routinely changing our words and ideas. When we start writing an essay, we can never surely know what the outcome will be. Writing is somewhat comparable to a problem-solving process, in that it requires a myriad of drafts and steps to achieve a finished product. To me, writing is a very complex thing. It requires a lot of thinking on the writer’s part, in order to present a thesis and ideas in a coherent manner. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to perfect an essay in just an hour or two. It requires hours of patience and step-by-step analysis.

In schools and universities, teachers often enforce peer editing skills, in which we garner others’ opinions about our paper. We get secondhand advice concerning global issues, local issues, as well as constructive criticism. It’s always best to have someone else read the rough draft. They can look at it from a reader’s perspective and tell us exactly what we’re missing in our writing. Local revision is when we make changes to a text affecting only one or two sentences that we are in the middle of writing. On the other hand, global revision is when a change in one part of our draft drives changes in the other parts of the draft. We should always start out with global and end with local – just to keep things from becoming too convoluted. There are many other habits which are important to adapt, such as scheduling a good time, discovering which specific methods of drafting work best, thinking about audience and purpose from the start, etc.

Sometimes, we may feel utterly dumbfounded and frustrated when we are in the middle of the writing process. It’s safe to say that all famous and renown writers went through the same situation – a perpetual cycle of drafts before creating a final masterpiece. Sylvia Plath, one of my favorite authors/poets, was known for her constant scribbling and writing and editing. Many of her handwritten drafts and typescripts are on the web, and you can see that she was always trying to find a way to improve her writing. This specific draft is from her femist poem, “Stings,” which about the unbalanced relationship between men and women, husbands and wives, and Plath’s overall resentment between the role of women in society.

 

How exactly do messages persuade?

18 Sep

In the past week, we learned many ways in which messages can persuade us. Writers can convince the reader of a certain topic or idea through their angle of vision. They do this by stating their point of view directly, selecting some details while omitting others, and only choosing words and figures of speech that will be beneficial to their argument. They emphasize some points and de-emphasize others – a clever, shrewd tactic that even we use on a daily basis.

Writers also persuade through appeals to logos, ethos, and pathos – terms coined by our very own philosophical genius Aristotle. Logos is the appeal to reason: a writer makes good use of it when he asserts his thesis in a clear and concise manner, providing a good deal of evidence and reasons to support it. All the claims that a writer makes should be supported with examples, illustrations, studies, statistics, or something in between. Ethos is the appeal to the character and ethics of the writer. He should prove credibility, be familiar with the subject matter, and show integrity and self-understanding. Pathos is known as emotional appeal – directly affecting the audience/readers. Whatever sympathies, values, beliefs, and emotions that the writer personifies are meant to sway the audience. This could be through different tones, emotional descriptions, figurative language, etc.

If you look back in time and study historical events, you will find that there has always been a powerful rhetorical speaker behind every successful revolution. Martin Luther King Jr., notably regarded as the “king” of rhetoric, gave speeches that would give you chills and new level of motivation and insight. He was an extraordinary thinker – his words served a purpose – and he made sure that the audience would take with them a new outlook on life. So how did he go about doing it? Simple rhetorical strategy. In his speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” King exemplified rhetorical mastery, using logos, ethos, and pathos to unify his fellow African Americans through the nonviolent movement in Memphis, Tennessee.

Image

In this speech, King appealed through logos in a variety of different ways. With a career of ministry under his belt, King alluded to several biblical stories (“…I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, of rather, across the Red Sea, throught wilderness, on toward the Promised Land”). He referred to the U.S. Bill of Rights in asserting that blacks were given freedom of assembly, freedom of press, and all the same freedoms as white people. He even gave examples of companies (Coca-cola and Wonder Bread) who were unfair in their hiring policies. King urged blacks to boycott these products in making a difference.

Furthermore, King used ethical appeal in his speech, in order to convince the audience that he was open-minded, trustworthy, and noble. The entire point of his speech was promoting his good character – he wanted equality for blacks. He wanted to end segregation, but without using any violence. He presented ideas of boycotting, protesting, and other forms of peaceful resistance. By his appeal through ethos, millions of people around the country were affected and craving change.

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Martin Luther King used emotional appeal as the final touch in his speech. As he did in other speeches, King came up with inspirational words to live by – he used certain phrases and word choice that would directly tug at people’s heartstrings (“The masses of people are rising up. And wehrever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee, the cry is always the same: ‘We want to be free'”). King used a motivational, determined tone in which he expressed confidence in the future of blacks. He used constant parallelism. In the end, the audience was captivated – and persuaded – to take control of their lives and seek freedom together.

Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasion

11 Sep

In the past week of our English 110 class, we delved into the concept of rhetoric, and its impact on individual ideas, actions, and beliefs. As simple as it seems, rhetoric has such a prevailing effect on the world at large. Language and words can change the way we think, and consequently, change our actions in ways we cannot even comprehend. When we find a question or idea that piques our interest, our mind fixates on it and it becomes an integral part of our daily thoughts. And that’s precisely what writers aim to do – they aim to please, amuse, enthrall, intrigue – all of which happens through a process of effective writing strategies.

Aristotle once said that rhetoric was “the art of making messages persuasive.” So how exactly do writers go about influencing/informing/brainwashing us? “Thinking rhetorically” is an imperative part of the process, in which writers must write according to their specific purpose, audience, and genre.  Most importantly, good writing goes hand-in-hand with a riveting question or theory – one that gets our mind fluttering with endless ideas and possibilities.

Take, for example, an article written by Ian Bogost for The Atlantic. Called “The Cigarette of this Century,” this was an insightful commentary on how smartphones and Blackberries are nearly consuming us and affecting social behavior – just as cigarettes did in the 1960’s. It seems impossible to imagine a world without smartphones, as everyone has their life set around this high-capacity gadget.  More importantly, it seems to help us flourish in social interactions, which is slowly drifting from the traditional tête-à-tête. Bogost compares this technology to the cigarette, which was also once a placeholder for the meaningful conversation that we avert from nowadays. The most remarkable part is that we won’t completely understand the extent to which these technologies affect us – until time has passed and it becomes replaced by something bigger and better. For now, all we know is that the Blackberry is virtually impossible to live without in our ever-growing, materialistic society.

The way Bogost wrote the article was in a free-flowing, open-form prose. He aimed this at busy, intelligent, educated readers who probably owned smartphones. His purpose was to enlighten them with this idea that the smartphone was inexplicably taking over their lives, and that perhaps they should stop checking it at the dinner table every once in a while. The conventions, content, and structure that he used correlated with a blog/news article. Writing carefully with his purpose, audience, and genre in mind, Bogost wrote an article that impressed myself as well as the rest of my class.

Just like news articles, there are many other mediums in which rhetoric can be used. It can be a simple word, quote, or video. The three aspects of purpose, audience, and genre apply to just about anything. “Through the Wormhole” is a wonderful video series exploring philosophical and scientific questions that seem virtually impossible to grasp. Hosted by Morgan Freeman, and discussing  theories of genius astrophysicists, this series exudes powerful rhetoric, better than I could ever find elsewhere. Information is presented in an articulate, imaginative stream of thoughts. Its target audience is anyone remotely interested in understanding the world, and finding out big unanswered questions about black holes, time travel, time, creationism, and the extent of the universe.

When I first watched this video about time travel, I was taken aback. My mind wandered for an entire day about the possibilities, and I soon became fascinated with all of the videos. To me, that’s the best type of rhetoric – words that consume you, engross you, immerse you entirely into a world unknown.