Relationship between Serial Killers and Detectives (Movie Review Sample)
IAH204, Sec. 10-15, Dr. Sheng-mei Ma, Spring 2017
Paper 2 instruction and sample ideas:
This paper focuses on a single or several texts—literature and/or film—of the semester thus far. This analytical paper follows the MLA format: printed in 12-point font, double-spaced, with 1" margins on all sides, unjustified on the right-hand side, stapled, and printed on one side only. Paginate throughout. This is a paper of close reading and critical analysis. Devise your own paper title on the basis of the myriad of topics we have discussed in class as well as those provided below; however, you are advised to go beyond these suggestions and make up your own title, thesis, and argument, as long as your paper is well-argued based on textual evidence.
Following a concise, illuminating title that includes specific text(s), your introduction would open briefly with the context of your argument, main points of the chosen text(s), and a strong thesis and insights. Give quotes to substantiate your argument, but do so only when you are ready to closely read those cited passages for imagery, language, theme, refrain, rhythm, and so forth. A strong paper must demonstrate clarity, force, grace, and originality of thought. Do not summarize the plot for the sake of plot summary; rather, recast certain episodes succinctly in your own words in order to tease out an innovative idea, one that is neither a repeat of the plot nor of the class discussion. Put simply, be a Houdini: don the straitjacket of the plot in order to escape from it, to flee into your own reconceptualization of the texts. Eliminate overly personal, subjective voice in academic discourse. Avoid, as well, a pompous, high-flown style, marked by turgid and flowery expressions and the paucity of original thought. Be precise and concise.
Demonstrate in this critical paper your insights into our texts. Strike a balance between generality and particularity, between quotation/plot and analysis, and between bold, unique ideas and methodical textual analysis. Note that the thesis statement must be one that could be sustained throughout the paper. Outside sources are not necessary; check with me if you have such needs. Plagiarism would result in failing the course and an academic dishonest report in the student's record. Seek a pair of fresh eyes from the Writing Center to critique and edit your paper. Include the word count in a parenthesis at the end of the paper.
Some sample ideas. We have covered some and will cover others in class:
1. This IAH spans many texts from a thousand years and from diverging cultural backgrounds. Thematically, however, they all hark back to the myth over some worm-like creatures. We began with the primordial behemoth of dragons. We then moved on to the symbol of otherness in snakes. We conclude with the dark side of globalization in the miniature evil dragon of germs. Construct an argument against this progression. For instance, argue that these three creatures are unrelated to one another and prove it through textual evidence from the semester. Or you can argue that the horror genre stands on its own, with no connection to mythical dragons. The alternatives to this course's argument are infinite. What would be your unique interpretation of the triptych of dragon, snake, and germ?
2. Serial killers and detectives appear to be each other's doppelganger (shadow, alter ego, second self, mirror image), playing a never-ending game of deadly hide-and-seek. Their roles of the hunter versus the hunted keep flipping. In fact, they are almost symbiotic, like Siamese twins of virus and vaccine. Analyze how the twins coexist and the problematics in this coexistence through textual evidence. Relate specifically to the paradox of diseases spread by viruses as well as of cures based on those very viruses.
3. We have several films toward the end of the semester from very different genres. Whether sci-fi or anime, whether adult thriller or children's film, cultural struggles of East and West, old and young, human and superman seem to run through all of them. This fits well the course's focus on “Anglo-Asian Literary and Visual Relations.” Zoom in on one of these contending cultural forces. Construct a thesis around it. Analyze how such a cultural force is played out cinematographically.
4. We have several renditions of serial killers in Red Dragon by, for instance, Harris, Mann (Manhunter 1986), Rattner (Red Dragon2002), and Fuller (Hannibal 2013-15). Compare these interpretations of heinous crimes via a central motif. You could critique the pop psychology behind the childhood trauma and disabilities. You could examine how the atrocities—the process of killing and the product of corpses—are laid out artistically by the author and filmmakers. You could focus on the investigators or investigations in that how they are drawn close, perhaps a bit too close for comfort, to the monsters. You could even bring to the fore supporting cast or minor characters. You could even focus on oft-ignored props or sets in words as well as on screen, such as what we had discussedon “Where Have All the Kewpie Dolls Gone?: Red Dragon on Paper and on Screen.”
5. Relate Red Dragon to The White Snake via a theme or a common thread. Although the former appears to be on a serial killer called Red Dragon, the protagonist's alleged “becoming” has more to do with the evil snake shedding skin rather than the dragon. Although the latter purports to tell the story of a demon snake, the female protagonist comes across as a traditional, self-sacrificing Chinese woman. Find a unique thesis that combines these two texts. You can certainly draw from visual representations of these stories.
Relationship between Serial Killers and Detectives
The relationship between detectives and serial killers is best analyzed by taking a look at the works of Thomas Harris. The renowned author established himself in the field of fiction based on extensive research on the topic of psychopathic killers and the law enforcement's strategies employed in countering the heinous criminal activities. The inept tendencies within human beings that define a person's sanity or psychological wellness are perceived through both the serial killers and the investigators charged with putting an end to the serial killers' continuous trends. The works of Thomas Harris such as Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal depict some of the most horrific and terrifying acts of murder. In countering the monstrous actions of the deranged antagonists, the author introduces various detectives who are ambitious in their endeavor to understand the psychology of the serial killers which eventually helps in their apprehension. The murderous actions of the serial killers can be perceived as some ailment which has to be stopped by coming up with a vaccine or a cure for the virus spreading the disease in the society. It is the mandate of the detectives to provide come up with counter measures of keeping the virus at bay and hence stopping the proliferation of the terrifying disease that knows no boundaries.
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