Overview In this essay you will analyze A Serious Man. This 2009 film, written and produced by Joel and Ethan Coen, employs dark humor to explore questions about knowledge, responsibility, and purpose.
Approaches For this essay, you will choose one of the following approaches:
Analyze the cultural representations in the film. The film’s portrayal of suburbia, education, family life, ways of reasoning, religion, and other cultural elements are detailed and very much connected to underlying values.
If you choose this approach, you may wish to start by exploring the chapter titles inAmerican Ways. You could then compare and contrast the film’s representation with that described in your text.
Another possibility would be to analyze how this film’s representation of culture compares to that of another fictional portrayal (e.g. another film, a TV show, a novel, a short story, etc.).
If you choose this first approach, make sure that you focus your analysis on one major idea (e.g. family life, education, etc.) and use specific details from the film in discussing your points.
If you prefer not to focus on the film as cultural representation, you may instead analyze it as a text. Here are some possible questions with which you could begin:
– What is the film communicating about the nature of knowledge?
– How does the mini-story at the beginning (about the dybbuk) connect to the main story?
– Based on the messages of the film, what is a ‘serious man’?
– Explore the roles of the three rabbis. What worldviews do they advocate and how do those philosophies connect to Larry’s situation?
– Analyze Larry’s dreams. What do they reveal about Larry as a character?
– What connections do you see between Larry and Danny?
– In the film, what are the differences between men and women?
– What is the function of storytelling in the film?
Regardless of your topic, make sure that your focus is specific and that you use details from the film to support your points.
As we study the film and then as you write about it, more emphasis will be placed on increasing the academic quality of your writing. Thus, strive to do the following in your writing:
– avoid directly addressing the reader (i.e. eliminate ‘you’)
– choose words that communicate an academic tone — avoid language that is more used in spoken, informal situations
– vary your sentence structure in order to best communicate your ideas
– eliminate unnecessary repetition — be careful of redundant introductory phrases
Effective introduction (with an engaging start and clear thesis statement)
Main points are clear and effectively organized
Specific details and clear analysis supports main points
At least two sources are used; these sources are used with purpose and deepen the analysis
Correct MLA format used (in-text and end-text)
Quotations are integrated smoothly
Conclusion emphasizes relevance of paper
A variety of sentence structures are used; comma splices, run-on sentences, and sentence fragments are avoided
Proofreading is evident
An academic tone is communicated throughout the essay
3-4 pages in length, double-spaced, 12 pt. Times New Roman font, 1 inch margins
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