Representing Everyday Life

Representing Everyday Life in Literary and Visual Cultures 101917
Spring 2019
Essay Topics
Weighting: 40%. Due Date: Monday 4 November by 11.59pm. Submit an electronic copy to
• Write a 1500-word essay on one of the topics below.
• You must develop an argument in relation to the topic. So even if the question directs you
to ‘discuss’ a topic, you must develop a thesis (an argument, a position, an approach) in
relation to that topic and support it with relevant examples from the primary text as well as
ideas from your selected secondary sources. Remember to use the Chicago (Humanities)
referencing style or MLA, and to reference all sources including lecture material.
• In this essay you must engage with a minimum of two secondary sources (i.e. further
readings). Secondary sources can include: prescribed critical and theoretical material (e.g.
essays by Lefebvre, Highmore, Felski, Friedan, Bauman); scholarly books, book chapters
and journal articles (including those I recommend in my weekly lecture slides).
• The following constitute primary texts for this essay: Revolutionary Road (dir. Sam
Mendes); Things: A Story of the Sixties (Georges Perec); Saturday Night and Sunday
Morning (dir. Karel Riesz); White Noise (Don DeLillo); Being John Malkovich (dir. Spike
Jonze). While it is fine for you to draw some comparisons between texts, in your essay focus
predominantly on one primary text.
1. “Here we don’t die, we shop. But the difference is less marked than you think.” (Murray,
White Noise, 38). Using Murray’s comment as a starting point, explore the relationship
between consumer culture and everyday life in one of the following texts: Things: A Story of
the Sixties, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, White Noise or Being John Malkovich.
2. Paying close attention to film techniques in your response (e.g. acting styles, setting, miseen-scène), discuss how gender is portrayed as a daily performance or act in the film
Revolutionary Road.
3. In “Simulacra and Simulations,” Jean Baudrillard argues that since the late twentieth century
the distinction between reality and its representation (i.e. image, copy) has broken down.
Examine the role of the simulacra/simulation in either Don DeLillo’s account of everyday
life in White Noise (focusing on three examples from the novel) or Spike Jonze’s film Being
John Malkovich.
4. This semester we have seen that everyday life is the space within which social norms are
reinscribed and reproduced. With this statement in mind, explore the theme of social
conformity and individual resistance in either Revolutionary Road or Saturday Night and
Sunday Morning.
5. Lefebvre argues that “we work to earn our leisure, and leisure has only one meaning: to get
away from work. A vicious circle” (Critique of Everyday Life, in Highmore 234). Discuss
Lefebvre’s view of the work-leisure relationship in one of the following texts: Things: A
Story of the Sixties, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning or Revolutionary Road.
6. “So what do a couple of people like you have to run away from?” (John, Revolutionary Road)
“We can put you inside someone else’s body for fifteen minutes” (Craig, Being John Malkovich)
Discuss the theme of escape and/or escapism as it relates to representations of everyday life
in one of the following texts: Revolutionary Road, Things: A Story of the Sixties, Saturday
Night and Sunday Morning, White Noise or Being John Malkovich.
Assessment Criteria (Please see the Learning Guide for the full Marking Criteria)
1. Addressing the question
Your essay must address the set question fully and in a clear and methodical way. It must demonstrate an
understanding of the primary text in relation to the set topic.
2. Argument
Your essay must present an argument in response to the question. The argument should be clear, logical and
well-supported with evidence from the primary text and secondary material.
3. Engagement with secondary material
In the essay you must consult at least three secondary sources (prescribed theoretical material, suggested
further readings from the Lecture Notes, or other scholarly material that you source yourself from the Library).
It is important that you use secondary material in a meaningful way – that it informs and supports your
argument and analysis.
4. Written expression
Attainment of the minimum standard for writing and presentation at 2nd and 3rd year level is necessary to pass
this assessment.
5. Acknowledging sources
All sources (both primary and secondary) must be acknowledged through an appropriate referencing system. In
this unit Chicago (footnotes) or MLA are the preferred referencing styles.

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