Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Alligators of the Mind

America likes horror movies.  So much so, in fact, that it may have become central to any study of the American zeitgeist and collective psyche.  (For example, the Saw franchise continued for long enough that, while in the process of grossing more than $400 million, it ran out of Roman numerals.  That tells us something, whether or not we want it to.)  As we move through a series of arguments about horror, terror, torture, and fear, we’ll consider these questions:

  • Why do many Americans love horror films?
  • What do cinematic violence and the business of fear teach us about our society?
  • To what extent is the last decade’s trend of so-called “torture porn” a sign of depravity?
  • If “torture porn” is no longer earning as much at the box office, have we grown a conscience, or are we simply desensitized?
  • To what extent are the creators of cinematic violence ethically responsible to society?
  • To what extent can we agree on the definition of obscenity or profanity?

To answer these, we’ll read and respond to a few experts.  The ultimate goal is to fold their perspectives into your own arguments, synthesizing details and meaning deliberately to argue a position about horror films, the audience/voyeur dynamic, and the line between art and depravity.  You will also be asked to consider your authors’ claims and warrants, using the Toulmin model as necessary to develop and review your understanding.

A document will be created for you that archives various approaches to the Toulmin model. Here is one of them (drawn originally from one of the many resources available to you online, should you wish to branch out beyond the packet you receive):

For some (and maybe all) of the following texts, you will complete a version of the same sequence: First, you will read the text alone and annotate it; second, you will work in your collaborative group to refine and revise your analytical understanding; finally, you will respond argumentatively to the central claims of the piece.  If a text has an additional analytical assignment or set of questions on rhetoric and style, it is also included below.

Most of the documents above are hosted at a previous year’s AP blog, but they should load without an issue. Email me if there are any problems. Note also that this post is an archive/overview of texts and focuses for the next few weeks, so the comments section is closed; separate posts will be created for discussion, specific assignments, and so on.

*This review is profane by any definition (I love that etymology, by the way), but do not let that profanity overwhelm your reading.  In terms of argument, it is solid, and it is stylistically effective—precisely in how it uses profanity, in fact.
**And because he reviewed both movies at the same time, awarding each one zero stars.
***A splendidly written argument, but quite dense and difficult. If we can get to it, we’ll break it down together.

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