Rethinking the Social “Other”

Paper length / format: 4-5 pages, double spaced, MLA, Times New Roman 12pt font, 1”margins.

As you write your essay, support your thesis through the analysis (claims and explanations) of specific episodes or passages in the text(s) (through citation, paraphrase, or summary) that speak to your thesis. No secondary sources/research required.

You can write on one text if it (and/or its cultural background) provides enough material for you to generate a substantial response, or you can write on two texts, either to further elaborate on one topic, OR to generate your assertions through compare and contrast, if you like that format.

Pay particular attention to the questions in bold, which are designed to help you generate YOUR thesis. However, don’t feel you have to answer all the questions programmatically – if you need to tweak or rewrite one of my questions in order to derive your best thesis, then do so! Also, if your prompt has more than one question and you feel one of the questions doesn’t pertain to your specific topic/focus, then ignore that question. Lastly, the phrasing of the questions in bold usually refer to “the text” in the singular, but if you choose to write on more than one text, then you’d apply the thesis-generating question(s) to each text that you choose to write about.

Rethinking the Social “Other”

Some of the texts we’ve studied represent socially-marginalized or disempowered people in ways contrary to normative/mainstream beliefs about these people at the time. Some examples are:

• Slaves • Beggars • Lunatics • The Poor

Often the texts represent these people differently in order that British readers will see these social “others” differently (and perhaps also see supposed “normal” people differently, in the case of legislators, or slave owners/traders, or average Britons, for example). Sometimes these attempts to change common perceptions of the social “other” are part of a larger social program, for example, the attempt to abolish slavery or to improve the treatment and condition of the poor or beggars. What is the (likely) normative opinion most mainstream Britons had of the specific social “other” that you are focusing on? How does the text challenge or revise that opinion? What does the text reveal or argue about that social “other” in presenting a contrary, different view? And how would such a revision help a specific social cause, if at all?

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