paper 2 assignment

pdf version of this assignment

What’s the conversation?

This paper is a focused research assignment on finding and describing the scholarly conversation about a specific topic. Ten of you have been assigned randomly one of seven topics. Each fellow is responsible for two of the topics and meets only with the 10 students who have a particular topic. You meet with a different fellow after the first and second drafts. The schedule for revisions is the same as for paper one: draft 1 gets read by a fellow and your faculty section leader; draft 2 is read by a peer reviewer and a different fellow. You discuss the final version with your faculty section leader in the assessment meeting.

In this paper you find a conversation among scholars, sometimes also journalists or public intellectuals, and present that conversation to us, your readers. You are not making arguments, nor, generally, evaluating the scholars’ work in detail. Rather, you are seeking to discover that a conversation among scholars is out there and you want to introduce us to the conversation and its participants. This paper is a small version of what is often called a literature review at the beginning of a larger research project. So you will research the topic, find at least a dozen or so sources that engage with the topic in some way, then present those sources to us. You must use Zotero to save your sources, tag them with keywords that seem to you to name aspects of the scholarly conversation you find, and take notes on them. Write as you read. This is key. Be descriptive in your notes in Zotero. See if you can apply the little knowledge rubric to each of scholars you read: This author

From your notes in Zotero you can then step back a bit and write, first introducing us to the problem and the conversation, before presenting some of the key participants, their interests and claims in some detail. Though you will not make an argument in this paper, you can see how after surveying the conversation, what “they say,” you and your readers would be interested in what you think, the “I say” part of scholarship in the humanities. That move happens in paper 3 and in your research paper.

So, this paper is about the intellectual acts of discovering, connecting, and representing the ideas and claims of others in a specific topical context.

We can imagine you will find between 10 and 20 sources for each of these topics. Engage with—describe, summarize, position, put in a chronological structure if necessary, connect—at least six of these scholarly conversation partners in your paper.

Chicago notes & bibliography style. Make these perfect.


  1. Find out about the different phases of reception of Arendt’s reporting in the New Yorker and then her book on Eichmann and her concept “the banality of evil” (which occurs only at the end of the book). Find and summarize the debates about the “banality of evil” concept.
    This topic may require a detailed understanding of the chronology of the reception of Arendt’s work before you are able to situate a conversation in history. There may be several different related conversations and you may need to focus on just one or two.

  2. How are scholars interested in (or not interested in) Nachtwey’s photographs? Or in similar kinds of photographs about genocide or war? What do they have to say about the aestheticization of violence or death, that is, how photographs or art more broadly can make death beautiful? What’s that conversation about?
    This topic may take you to a conversation not about Nachtwey in particular, but about various aspects of war or trauma photography more generally.

  3. Find out the different ways that scholars treat Gourevitch’s book, subtitled “stories from Rwanda” (as journalism, memoir, history, travel literature, ethics).
    This topic may lead to you a conversation about ethics in journalism, about blame and responsibility, about the differing roles of journalists, historians, policy makers, ethicists, or others, in the context of genocide.

  4. How are scholars using the ideas in Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others in their own intellectual work?
    This topic may require you to learn something about Sontag’s broader work as a critic and public intellectual, in order to be able to situate this long essay in the scholarly discussion about this  book. It may also be that there are conversations that use her phrase “regarding the pain of others” in ways that are not how she understands it. (Perhaps like how Arendt’s “banality” concept takes on a life of its own.)

  5. What is the scholarly conversation around Sarita See and her analysis and theoretical understanding of the postcolonial body and performance?
    This topic may take you to a broader conversation about Sarita See’s work beyond the section that we read in unit 3.

  6. What is the scholarly conversation around Alfonso Lingis’s ideas about rational community and the community of those who have nothing in common?
    This topic may involve fairly difficult ideas about the nature of community as discussed by philosophers, but the conversation may also include anthropologists, linguistics scholars, and sociologists. Your paper may have to differentiate between several conversations.

  7. What is the critical and scholarly reception of the work of our current Baik residency artist Yong Soon Min. What are scholars (and critics) interested in, why, how does this change through time?
    This topic will require close attention to the differences between reviews, discussions among journalists and critics, and scholarly work by art historians, cultural studies scholars, and others.

 your topic assignments and fellows for drafts 1 and 2

paper 2 schedule looks like this

As before, put your work in the proper dropbox folder before the due date and time, with these filenames:

LastnameFirstnamepaper2draft1.docx (or pdf or pages)



Book fellow appointments only with the fellow assigned to your topic for the weeks of 11/4 and 11/11. (See the chart above.)

An excellent conversation paper:   

  • discovers, connects, and represents participants in a scholarly conversation about an idea or problem or complex of ideas that matter for them and for readers;
  • helps your reader understand what that conversation is and why it matters to the participants;
  • describes the work at least six different scholars or critics in the context of a problem or question that matters for them and their readers;
  • supports the summaries of those scholars claims and arguments with adequate textual evidence and a few key quotations from their work; integrates those quotations seamlessly into the summary;
  • illuminates your process of discovery for the reader;
  • presents your readings with clarity and grace, and thus avoids verbal clutter, clichés, typos, awkward syntax, and overly colloquial phrases;
  • acknowledges the work and ideas of others;
  • follows perfectly the notes-bibliography style of The Chicago Manual of Style for punctuation and citation;
  • has a cover page with a title and a bibliography (works cited) page; the pages are numbered;
  • is 1000 – 1200 words long (not including the bibliography), that is, four to five pages, double spaced, in Times New Roman font;
  • is delivered on time to your teachers, fellows, and peer review partners in the dropbox in the proper folder, with the correct filename protocol.