Anthony Hawboldt: Argument Reflection

Confession: I’m not an English Major. I’m an Anthropologist and Archaeologist by training. When it comes to creating an argument for a paper, I tend to use these disciplines to help me stay organized. Within the Anthropology and Archaeology department, An(th)arky has become our created word for any thing that blends the two, so that will be the title of my style. Here’s a breakdown of my process:

STEP ONE: HYPOTHESIS

Most assignments are easy in that they give you the thesis that they expect you to write about. When the assignment is more open-ended, I tend to choose a topic that I think would be interesting. The hardest papers to write are ones that are boring, so I try to avoid those topics.

STEP TWO: OBSERVE
In Archaeology we look at a list of various traits on all artifacts. Books or films are really no different then any other artifact. The diagnostic traits that I tend to focus on are things like repetition, symbolism, text structure. I’ll write these down in the left hand side of my notebook.

STEP THREE: ANALYZE

Now that I have the primary data that I think is necessary, I’ll look at it and see if there are any trends that appear. Also, I’ll look to see if any of the features that I was looking for seems to be connected to another feature. Anything that I think is important will be written down in the middle of my notebook.

STEP FOUR: THEORIZE

Now that I’ve refined the data into something that I can use to make my arguements, I’ll start looking for any theories that I feel I could use, and write them down on the right hand side of the notebook. This enables me to quickly organize a theoretical perspective, evidence and specific examples for my arguements, as well as the way in which they are all related.

STEP FIVE: WRITE

Now that I have everything that I need, i’ll just sit down until I’ve got everything that I want to say down on the page.

STEP SIX: EDIT

I’ll often print out a copy of my arguement and read it out loud. I feel that this is a more effective way to notice any mistakes or sentances that seem oddly written. I alway do a primary edit, and I’ll do another round of editing if I have enough time before it’s due.

Let’s see all of this in action:

From Throne of Blood, Washizu is terrified of the incoming arrows

From Throne of Blood, Washizu is terrified of the incoming arrows

Let’s assume that we’re being asked to create an argument that Throne of Blood (Kumonosu-jō) relies on Japanese cultural motifs more than Shakespeare.

For the Left Column: Removal of major characters from text. Old Hag is taken from other Noh plays. Washizu’s face and dynamic motion taken from Kabuki. Symbolism of the forest and the animals on Washizu and Miki’s flags. Kabuk/Noh instruments instead of cinematic score

For the Middle Column: Emotional moments are created with sound, not by incorporating characters from Macbeth. Old Hag (Onibaba) and the flags taken from Buddhist theology. Spider’s Web Forest creates a dichotomy with the castle (Man-Nature)

For the Right Column: I’d probably incorporate theories about concepts like the Sacred-Profane dichotomy, Liminality, Environmenal Determinism.

After, I’d combine it all together into a thesis statement. This would be organized along the lines of “How Throne of Blood relies on Japanese theatrical traditions to help explain a man vs. nature story, and the role of destiny (pre-determination) instead of attempting to be a cultural translation of the Macbeth story”.
There may be a more effective way to write for English, but I’ve never been taught how. This Anthro/Arky style of argument writing is the way that I feel most confident writing in, and that’s why I keep using it, even if it’s more work.

Anthony Hawboldt: Argument Reflection

Confession: I’m not an English Major. I’m an Anthropologist and Archaeologist by training. When it comes to creating an argument for a paper, I tend to use these disciplines to help me stay organized. Within the Anthropology and Archaeology department, An(th)arky has become our created word for any thing that blends the two, so that will be the title of my style. Here’s a breakdown of my process:

STEP ONE: HYPOTHESIS

Most assignments are easy in that they give you the thesis that they expect you to write about. When the assignment is more open-ended, I tend to choose a topic that I think would be interesting. The hardest papers to write are ones that are boring, so I try to avoid those topics.

STEP TWO: OBSERVE

In Archaeology we look at a list of various traits on all artifacts. Books or films are really no different then any other artifact. The diagnostic traits that I tend to focus on are things like repetition, symbolism, text structure. I’ll write these down in the left hand side of my notebook.

STEP THREE: ANALYZE

Now that I have the primary data that I think is necessary, I’ll look at it and see if there are any trends that appear. Also, I’ll look to see if any of the features that I was looking for seems to be connected to another feature. Anything that I think is important will be written down in the middle of my notebook.

STEP FOUR: THEORIZE

Now that I’ve refined the data into something that I can use to make my arguements, I’ll start looking for any theories that I feel I could use, and write them down on the right hand side of the notebook. This enables me to quickly organize a theoretical perspective, evidence and specific examples for my arguements, as well as the way in which they are all related.

STEP FIVE: WRITE

Now that I have everything that I need, i’ll just sit down until I’ve got everything that I want to say down on the page.

STEP SIX: EDIT

I’ll often print out a copy of my arguement and read it out loud. I feel that this is a more effective way to notice any mistakes or sentances that seem oddly written. I alway do a primary edit, and I’ll do another round of editing if I have enough time before it’s due.

Let’s see all of this in action:

From Throne of Blood, Washizu is terrified by the incoming arrows

From Throne of Blood, Washizu is terrified by the incoming arrows

Let’s assume that we’re being asked to create an argument that Throne of Blood (Kumonosu-jō) relies on Japanese cultural motifs more than Shakespeare.

For the Left Column: Removal of major characters from text. Old Hag is taken from other Noh plays. Washizu’s face and dynamic motion taken from Kabuki. Symbolism of the forest and the animals on Washizu and Miki’s flags. Kabuk/Noh instruments instead of cinematic score

For the Middle Column: Emotional moments are created with sound, not by incorporating characters from Macbeth. Old Hag (Onibaba) and the flags taken from Buddhist theology. Spider’s Web Forest creates a dichotomy with the castle (Man-Nature)

For the Right Column: I’d probably incorporate theories about concepts like the Sacred-Profane dichotomy, Liminality, Environmenal Determinism.

After, I’d combine it all together into a thesis statement. This would be organized along the lines of “How Throne of Blood relies on Japanese theatrical traditions to help explain a man vs. nature story, and the role of destiny (pre-determination) instead of attempting to be a cultural translation of the Macbeth story”.

There may be a more effective way to write for English, but I’ve never been taught how. This Anthro/Arky style of argument writing is the way that I feel most confident writing in, and that’s why I keep using it, even if it’s more work.

Anthony Hawboldt: Film Review

Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V is good Shakespeare, while still being good film. Branagh makes an effortless transition of the play into the screen, and his expertise with the play truly shows on screen, a true accomplishment, especially for a first time director like Branagh. Branagh’s cinematography is simple and to the point. He keeps his focus as close to the actor’s as possible, drawing on their skills to keep the audience’s focus. His shots stay close as possible, zoomed out just enough to show as much of the setting as possible for the audience to understand the context. Just as the director draws on the portrayals of the characters to carry the film, certain characters are also the downfall of the movie.

The film’s unique twist on the character of The Chorus is perhaps the most brilliant tool in Branagh’s arsenal. The character is a bit of an oddity, addressing the audience directly to reinforce their attention. In a limited stage setting like in Shakespeare’s time, this would be a valuable tool, but for the age of cinema, it’s mostly obsolete. On film, you can tell the audience where the scene is taking place by simply throwing up text telling the current location. Instead, The Chorus shows up throughout the film, addressing the audience just like the original play, but in the same space as the film. He doesn’t exist as a disembodied voice, or narrator telling the audience from a separate space, but rather travels with the plot, yet remaining magically unseen by the other characters. This version of the Chorus takes upon the role of a guide for the audience, easily enthralled by Derek Jacobi’s commanding voice. Not only does this provide the audience with the same exposition as a theatre audience, but it also enables the film to remain closer to the original text.

The character of Falstaff is enhanced on screen as well. In the text of the play, he is only mentioned and not shown, since they mention that the character has passed away. Branagh chooses instead to show Falstaff, by having Nym, Pistol and Bardolph remember him through flashback. While no such scene exists in the play, Branagh takes these scenes from Henry IV, which helps to blend the scene into the film. To any viewer not familiar with the original play, it’s almost impossible to tell that the scene was added in. This further helps the viewer to understand the relationship between Nym/Pistol/Bardolph and Henry. This helps to carry the severity of Henry’s decision to hang Bardolph for theft. Without establishing this relationship, Bardolph’s execution simply seems like a way to tie up the side plot of the three, but Branagh’s decision helps to give this scene the importance it deserves.

Robbie Coltrane as Falstaff

Robbie Coltrane as Falstaff

Branagh’s adaptation is not without weakness, however. The viewer’s introduction to Katherine takes the brunt of this criticism. Even within the play, this scene feels unnecessary. While it may serve as an introduction to the character of Katherine, we don’t really discover anything about her that seems to be important. She struggles with English in the scene, but we could easily figure this out in the final scene in which her and King Henry meet. Her handmaiden speaks in a cartoonishly high pitched voice and it ruins the believability of the scene. While it would be more or less “proper’ to include the scene out of respect to the original material, Branagh’s usage of content from Henry IV shows that he’s willing to break this rule, so there’s really no excuse to include this scene.

Kenneth Branagh as Henry

Kenneth Branagh as Henry

While the above mentioned scene with Katherine is weak, Emma Thompson’s portrayal is commendable, and the entire film is not completely ruined by the inclusion of the scene. The strength the rest of the cast more than picks up the slack, making Henry V the standard for stage-to-screen adaptations.