Length: 6 pages (1500 words)* 2
Each student will write TWO argumentative essays on the course material. Both essays
should be similar in format, but will differ slightly in terms of content. The first essay
should be more focused on an explanation of a specific concept and its relationship to the
larger history of ideology and ideology critique. The second essay should be more focused
on using a concept we’ve covered in class to conduct your own ideological analysis of a
cultural text of some kind (film, television show, novel, political event, social movement,
cultural trend, etc.,).
However, both essays should be critical responses to the course content. The essays are an
opportunity for you to engage with a reading in a detailed fashion, or an opportunity for
you to question or critique a reading. Did you find the reading convincing, and if so why?
How did the notion of ideology in one reading compare with that of another? Does some
aspect of our social, cultural, economic, or political environment correspond to a specific
understanding of ideology? Is one of the concepts of ideology outdated, or does it still
make sense today? These are the kinds of questions you might consider posing in both of
your essays. And, of course, when making your argument, you must provide textual
evidence to substantiate your claims. You should always directly cite the reading you’ve
chosen and, in addition to citing course material, you must also cite at least THREE (3)
scholarly sources from outside the course (an academic book, book chapter, or journal
article) that is relevant to the topic you’ve selected.
The structure of your essays should consist – as should all academic essays – of FOUR
The purpose of the introduction, for any academic essay, is simply to forecast the
content of your essay to your reader. In clear and concise terms, tell the reader
what readings and topics you will be discussing, what your specific argument you
will be making, and precisely how you will make your claim. However, do not
make any actual arguments in the introduction itself (no citations!). Simply
articulate to the reader what they should expect to encounter when they read the
essay. Academic essays should not be written like detective fiction: the academic
reader distains mysteries and surprises, so make sure to give away your conclusion
in your introduction! The introduction should be approx. ½ – 1 page in length.
2) Background Information/Definitions:
In the next section of your essay, you need to demonstrate that you understand
what you’re talking about before you begin to make any kind of argument.
Following your introduction, then, you should provide a basic summary or outline
of the reading you’re discussing, and provide a detailed and clear definition of any
of the concepts you plan to use in your essay
For your first essay, this second section should be the main focus (and largest
section). For this essay, you should provide some historical background on the
theorist author in question, and give a clear account of why and how the specific
concept you’re writing about came into being (i.e., what analytic need did it fulfill
that was not already being met by other concepts). What was lacking in older or
previous notions of ideology, and how was this more refined concept you’re
discussing intended to improve upon our understanding and analysis of ideology?
For this first essay, all three of your outside sources should be cited in this section,
and this section should be approx. 4 pages in length.
For you second essay, this section is still important, but it should not be the main
focus of your essay. You still need to provide background information on the
concepts you’re using, and give clear definitions of your concepts, but this should
only be to provide a solid foundation for your subsequent argument or analysis of a
cultural text or political object. For your second essay, this section should be
approx. 2 pages, and you should cite at least ONE outside scholarly source in this
section as well.
For your first essay, this section shouldn’t be the main focus. However, after
providing your detailed background information on the theorist/concept, you
should say something about the potential relevance of your concept for
contemporary cultural or political analysis. Very briefly, then, you should discuss an
example or two that suggests the potential utility of the concept you’ve discussed for
cultural and political analysis today. These suggestions or connections needn’t be
very detailed or thorough, but should just merely gesture toward some cultural texts
or political objects that we might learn something about when examined using the
concept you’ve discussed. For your first essay, this section should only be about 1 ½
pages in length
For your second, essay, however, this section will be your main focus. Here, you
should choose one specific cultural text or political object, and conduct a
thoroughgoing analysis of your text or object using the concept or concepts you’ve
chosen. What do we learn from examining this text or object through this
conceptual lens that we wouldn’t have learned otherwise? How does this concept
change our prior understanding or presuppositions about the text or object? What
forms of power (political, economic, social, cultural, class, race, gender, etc.,) are
bound up in your text or object, and how does your concept allow us to gain a
clearer view of these otherwise hidden or obscured power relations? Or are there
limitations to what the concept allows us to do or see in terms of ideological
analysis, and what issues or problems might arise because of said limitations? For
your second essay, you should cite at least two outside scholarly sources in this
section. This section should be approx. 3 pages in length.
Your conclusion, for both essays, should resemble your introduction grammatically,
semantically and mechanically. All your conclusion should do is briefly summarize
the work that you’ve already done, and provide some closure to your essay. It
should tell the reader that you have, in fact, done exactly what you’ve set out to do
in the introduction. DO NOT introduce new ideas, themes, or references in the
conclusion. The conclusion should be approximately ½ page in length.
All pages should be numbered, double-spaced, with 12-point “normal” font. No title pages
are necessary. Simply locate the title of your essay on the top of the first page. Titles should
clearly indicate what the content of your essay is. Students must also include their name,
student number, course number, and date, somewhere on the top of the first page.
When citing sources, you may use either a parenthetical or footnote/endnote style in your
essays – MLA, APA, Chicago, etc., – as long as it is consistent throughout. When in doubt
about citation format, check an online, library guide and use common sense about what
information should be included. Making it clear and easy for your reader to find your
source material is the most important thing. And always be consistent.
*For almost all citation styles, book titles are italicized while book chapters and journal
articles appear in “quotation marks.”
All academic essays must include a Works Cited listing (bibliography) at the end of the
essay (an extra page isn’t necessary if you have space on your final page). Any and all
references made to external works of any kind must be included on the Works Cited
listing. Listings should always be in alphabetical order, and be consistent in their format
If you have any questions about the essay, or anything else about the course, please feel
free to contact me. And I am more than willing to look over any rough drafts in order to
offer some constructive comments on how you might improve your argument,