Topic: Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse
1. Have a clearly defined thesis. You should be able to say in one sentence, “in this paper I argue that ___________.”
2. Articulate your thesis in your opening paragraph.
3. Emember that posing a hypothetical question is not the same thing as articulating a thesis.
Your thesis should be in the form of a declarative statement
4. Take intellectual risks and make your thesis interesting. If you’re stating the obvious or
regurgitating exactly what you read in class then you’re not thinking hard enough, and I will
5. Saying “Gosh, things sure have changed since then” is not an acceptable thesis for a history
paper. You need to explain how and why things have changed. Similarly, saying “Let’s review everything that happened in the past 500 years” is not a thesis. You need to make an explicit argument about historical change.
6. Consider that generally it is better to go narrow and deep than wide and superficial. Tackling a few texts and offering a focused inquiry is better than trying to include everything. If you try to cover the waterfront, you will not venture beyond the shallows.
7. Stay off the soapbox. Righteous indignation is a poor substitute for thoughtful analysis. 8. Avoid hyperbole. Exaggerating facts and overstating your case will weaken your paper.
Exploring subtleties and addressing contradictions will strengthen it.
9. Do not ask hypothetical questions that you have no intention of answering.
10. Support your thesis throughout your paper. Your paper should be structured as one big
argument proving your thesis. Draft an outline of your argument before you start writing. 11. Keep your eyes on the prize by ensuring that each paragraph advances a new point or a new
example in support of your thesis. Every paragraph should have a point, and you should have no more than one point per paragraph. Think of each paragraph as a mini essay, with a thesis articulated in the first or second sentence, followed by example or elaboration.
12. Be sure your paragraphs flow by being attentive to transitions. Signposts like “Next I’m going to talk about X” or “Moving on to Y…” are red flags indicating a weak expository structure and an ill-formulated thesis.
13. Use specific examples and quotes from the texts we’ve studied to support your argument. Be sure to cite the page numbers of the passages you quote.
14. Remember that summarizing a text or quoting from a text is not the same as analyzing it. Texts are never self-explanatory. You need to explain how you are interpreting each passage you quote.
15. Make your conclusion intellectually provocative or otherwise interesting. If you’re just repeating what you say in the introduction or the body of the paper then you’re not challenging yourself, and I will be bored. End with a bang, not a mumble.
16. Write clearly. I am impressed more by lucid prose than fancy words. Fancy words used incorrectly impress me not at all.
17. Do not rely on iWikigoogleazon for your information. Everything you read online is a lie.
Social Movements Essay #1: Stuck Rubber Baby
Your assignment is to write a 3-5 page paper on Howard Cruse’s graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby (SRB) in relation to our readings on social movements. You have a wide degree of latitude with respect to what you write about and how you approach the assignment, but here are some general guidelines:
Pick a single page (or even a single panel) of SRB to focus your discussion. You can and should of course discuss other parts of the book, but be sure to root your argument in specifics. Focusing on a particular part of the book will help you do this.
Write on a single question. Do not try to cover everything in the book that is relevant to the history of social movements. The narrower your thesis, the stronger will be your paper.
Follow the guidelines in “How to Get an A on a Verter Paper.” And see the guidelines for written work at the end of our syllabus.
Here are SOME of the questions you can write on. DO NOT EVEN TRY to write on them all (see #2 above). These are just to get you thinking. If there is some aspect of the book not mentioned here that you would like to write on, go ahead. Just make sure it has some relevance to the subject of our class.
? How does Toland’s social consciousness change over the course of the novel? How does he become involved with the cause of racial justice? Why does he participate to the extent that he does? What holds him back? How are his personal struggles with his sexual identity related to the larger political struggles around him?
? Consider one or two of the other activists – Ginger, for example, or Rev. Harland, Mable, Anna Dellyne, Shiloh Reed, Sledge Rankin, Raeburn, Esmo, etc. How would you characterize him or her? What defines that person’s activist style? What seems to motivate him or her, and what personal struggles must he or she overcome? How would you compare them with some of the other characters in the books?
? Trace some of the social networks that unite civil rights activists in the book. What different worlds are brought together? What parts of society are excluded or uninvolved? What resonances are there with McAdam’s characterization of the activists recruited for Freedom Summer?
? Is there a common culture or consciousness that unites the civil rights activists in the book? What builds community among them? Consider the role of music, for example, or of particular forms of humor. Try this thought experiment: Two characters in the book meet for the first time. Neither is carrying a protest sign. How might they recognize the fact that they are both sympathetic to the struggle? What signs or attitudes might they share?
? How do movement leaders in SRB organize the ranks? Consider Rev. Pepper, or the organizer on p. 67. What specific actions are they trying to catalyze? What are they trying to avoid? Are they successful? Why or why not?
? What resources do civil rights leaders in SRB mobilize to get people going? Think about Aldon Morris’s discussion of what churches offered to organizers of the early sit-ins. Do you see similar uses of resources here? What resources does Rev Pepper use that are not covered in Morris’s discussion. How, for example, does he get the fence torn down at Russell Park?
? What incidents get people in SRB more mobilized and committed to the cause of racial justice? What gets them discouraged? What effect is generated by the opposition of the police, the procedures of the courts, and other representatives of state power?
? Consider the role of Sutton Chopper. Raeburn and his friends suggest they manipulate him. Are they right or are they fooling themselves? What are the advantages and disadvantages of goading the oppressor? How does their goading jive with Rev. Pepper’s discussion of nonviolence and the “strategic advantage” of refusing to “take their bait” (p. 111)?
? There are several movement-related deaths in the book – Emmet Till, Sledge Rankin, the innocents at the Melody Motel, and perhaps Sammy Noone. What sort of reactions are generated by this violence? Are martyrs inevitable in a social revolution? Are martyrs necessary? Can non-violence be sustained in the face of violence? Why does Les say his slumping days are over (p. 201)?
? Orley is one of several deeply religious racists in the book (see p. 88, for example). How would you compare their religious and social perspectives with those of, say, Rev. Pepper’s? How do you make sense of the different combinations of spiritual and racial attitudes?
? Riley suggests that the news media replicates the culture of white supremacy: “Crackers write the news an’ crackers read the news that crackers write. All of us are crackers too. We were raised to be crackers. There ain’t no fuckin’ way not to be a cracker around here!” (p. 99). Is he right? Is the news media part of the problem? Can social activists get a fair shake from the mainstream media? Can the revolution ever be televised?
? The Rhombus, the Alleysax: is the overlap in SRB between civil rights activists and the gay subculture coincidental? Consider Sammy’s confrontation with his paralyzed father in which he embraces his identity as a “nigger-loving queer” (p. 163).