16 November, 2008

Another seven page paper!

Well, I've got another 7-page paper assigned in American Civ. The prompt is even more exciting than the last one. Seriously, you could write a dissertation on the thing. The actual prompt is only a sentence long: "Does Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom's Cabin betray or convey the slaves' own argument against slavery." Ok. Maybe on first reading it doesn't sound all that enthralling (or maybe it does). But if you've been doing the reading, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, if you know even a bit about the virulent controversy revolving around the question of the proper way to interpret the slave's demand for freedom and the black Americans' demand for civil rights (Martin Luther King vs Malcom X, anyone?), and if you've just been bowled over by the realization that Uncle Tom's Cabin isn't just a silly, sentimental novel but has a valid and well-structured argument at its base, you probably will reconsider.

Add to that the fact that Dr. Hanssen handed out several very cool readings - one from Cicero (De Officiis) on how we can understand man's natural rights in terms of his moral obligations, one from Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, an excerpt from John Paul II's "Veritatis Splendor" which discusses intrinsically evil acts, part of an address from Pope Benedict, and a very interesting chapter from a book about women's experiences in slavery by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese - and you can see how this paper has the potential to be very fun indeed. I'm going to argue that Uncle Tom's Cabin, contrary to the ideas of more recent literary criticism ("more recent" being the '60s), does in fact convey the Douglass' and Jacob's main argument against slavery. How does it do that? Well, that's where everything should get so interesting, of course.

I shall post about it tomorrow.

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