Below is the definition essay assignment due on Tuesday, January 15. If you would like a word document that you can save as a separate file, the link can be found here: Definition Essay.
Every word in our language has a meaning; however, not all words or concepts have concretely defined meanings. These are typically what we would refer to as abstract words or concepts. Such abstract words or concepts are often specifically defined in the context of the person using the word, and it is important as a writer to be able to explain to your readers how you are defining these words and concepts to avoid confusion and misunderstanding in your essays. For example, writers have attempted to define the various Constitutional Amendments for their own purposes for decades, and how they interpret these amendments affects our understanding of the position they are taking in their arguments. Also, it is often necessary to define cultural attitudes (what do emo or goth really mean?), religious beliefs (what the Koran teach or why are Passover or Hanukkah important to the Jewish faith), or racial identification (is the correct response Hispanic, Mexican, Latino/Latina, or Mexican-American and how do those outside the race know?). Definition helps explain these words or concepts more clearly.
Sometimes, however, we simply need to define what something is so that the reader understands it the same way we do. This is what your definition essay will do. Just like Sayoh Mansaray’s “The Offbeat Allure of Cult Films,” which you should have read for class, your first assignment will define a particular sub-genre of movie, music, or television program. In other words, you need to choose a sub-genre you find interesting and define it for the reader, using both examples of the sub-genre and sources that will help you define the particular sub-genre you have chosen. In other words, help your readers understand this group in a new and interesting way like Mansaray does.
You are free to choose a genre that interests you, but don’t pick broad genres. This assignment will only work if you narrow your choices to a single, but recognizable sub-genre like Mansaray does. For example, on television, drama is too broad of a category to cover. Cop shows, court room dramas, domestic dramas, and medical shows are all dramas with distinctive features. Therefore, focus on one of these sub-genres of drama rather than drama itself. Even though medical dramas, like Gray’s Anatomy, House, and Scrubs, all start with a different premise (or distinctive group of characters), they all build on the same basic needs to maintain the medical drama genre: hospital setting, plots centered on patient care, character conflicts based on patient or hospital administration conflicts, and pivotal moments focused on medical trauma, the correct care to provide, or potential death. Therefore, the medical sub-genres can be easily developed and defined by the specific criteria listed above.
The same applies to movies. If you choose to examine movies, something like horror films is too broad. Saw and Nightmare on Elm Street both have the basics of a horror movie, but they are very different genres of horror movie. Nightmare on Elm Street has the supernatural bad guy, the girl who always opens the door, the boy who has to save her, spooky use of music, close ups on disappearing props and closed doors, but it is also both formulaic and campy. Saw, on the other hand, dwells heavily in a psychological world of pain and torture and draws attention for its particularly graphic images, making it more of a psychological thriller. Yes, Jigsaw is the bad guy, but his way of attacking his victims and the presentation of the horror are dependent on psychological fear not formulaic plots and campiness. These movies are, therefore, very different sub-genres of the horror movie genre, but either sub-genre could be examined for this essay.
Music also has various...