Short Paper 4: Supermarket Pastoral Exercise Purpose: This assignment is similar
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Short Paper 4: Supermarket Pastoral Exercise
This assignment is similar to Short Paper 1 and Short Paper 3, assignments for which you were asked to analyze a food blog and a frame from a graphic memoir respectively.
For Short Paper 4, we will continue to focus on analysis. One thing unites these papers: You are being asked to analyze some sort of human artifact. However, pragmatic, prosaic, or novel, the texts you’ve been asked toanalyzeare artistic human creations. I hope you now see how an assignment like this one helps us assess your mastery of the course outcomes.
If you need a refresher, here they are:
Demonstrate an understanding of the consequences of human actions in social and environmental contexts, and an ability to consider the ethical and practical implications of those actions
Demonstrate an ability to recognize the importance of creative human expression
Demonstrate an ability to recognize and respect the rights of the individual and to appreciate the complexity and variety of divergent attitudes, values and beliefs in society
Demonstrate an understanding of the cultural and historical heritage of contemporary society and the implications of this heritage
To put it more specifically into Paper 4 terms, when we analyze the products that populate our daily lives, we dig deeply into the social, ethical, environmental, and cultural implications of our actions. When it comes to thinking aboutthe messages that food packaging sends, we are certainly confronting human expression ina way that invites us to think about practical, industrial, and commercial arts.
Write a 750-word analysisof the packaging of two brands of one type of food item from the grocery store where you regularly shop. For example, if you choose milk, pick two brands and analyze both cartons.
Go to grocery store and pick a product with packagingthat you find especiallycompelling (it’s pretty, makes you wantto buy it, rubs you the wrong way, seems particularly faddish, etc.). The product doesn’t matter. You can choose milk, eggs, salami, crackers, beer, canned vegetables, frozen meals—anything you want. (Obviously you don’t have to stand in the grocery store to write this. Take a picture or get enough specific information to find a reliable image online. Heck, buy it and see if theproduct fulfillsthe expectations set bythe packaging.)
Make sure your essay has clear and thoroughdescriptions of the packaging—both the pictures and words. This should be legible to someone who has never seen it, so think about how to organize your description. Do you read it from left to right? Top to bottom? Do you use words that let us know the image is in the bottom left hand corner?Can you capture what a block of text is doing without quoting the whole thing?Next, analyze the images and words. I would take Pollan’s approach. Think of packaging asaway of telling stories. What storiesdo your packages tell? How does the packaging go about telling that story? How do the stories compete? That is, how might thecompaniesbe using their stories to outmaneuver each other for market share?Perhaps they don’t have the same market in mind at all. How does this company’s storyattempt to establish that their eggs, crackers, milk, or whatever is obviously the best option on the shelf? What does their story suggest about their view of consumers? After “reading the story,” what do you think the company assumes about their audience’s wants, needs, beliefs, concerns, etc.?Do you see any of the issues we have discussed this semester in those stories?Here’s a more generic way to think about analysis: Explain what the packages do, where the company’s interests seem to lie, how it’s trying to get the consumer to buy their product instead of the one next to it, etc.For example, how are the image(s) and words trying to draw or attract new and old consumers? Who is the audience? (Be specific. Don’t just provide generic demographic information like “rich people.”) What does the packaging suggest about whowe (or companies) thinkbuys certain types of food and how food companies exploit these assumptions?As usual, keep the analysis sandwich in mind. You need to establish your claim, show specific evidence, and interpret that evidence.
As I hinted above, this assignment is inspired by Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He opens Chapter 9, “Big Organic,” with a meditation on the different ways products are packaged. More specifically, he’s looking at products sold at Whole Foods.He discusses the marketing of high-end food products at his local Whole Foods in terms of a contest between stories. He claims that “[it is] the evocative proseas much as anything else that makes this food reallyspecial” (134). He then goes on to read the packaging of what he calls “storied foods” (135). He eventually creates a genre for these stories: Supermarket Pastoral (137). While you do not have to confine yourself to writing about your packaging through the lens of the Supermarket Pastoral, the opening pages of Chapter 9 (especiallypages 134-140) provide some excellent models of what you need to do for this assignment. Criteria for EvaluationYou have a clear thesis statementthat makes an arguable and significant claimand clearly establishes that you will be analyzing food packaging
You support theclaim made in your thesis and subordinate claims made in your body paragraphs with specific evidence from the two texts/artifacts/packagesYou clearly explain or demonstrate how the evidence from the text supports yourclaim (i.e., you are reproducing your way of understanding/reading the frame)You provide a clear and thorough description of the packagingyou have chosen to work with; it should be clearand thoroughenough that someone who is unfamiliar with the packaging can“see” it (this includes organizingyour description logically) Your essay is 750 wordsYou use MLA formatting and citations—and use them properly. That means you have a heading, title, and a Works Cited pageYou use varied language and sentence structures to produce lively and interesting proseYou write at a college level: language, grammar, sentence structure, etc. This also includes basics such as properly inserting author names and the titles of the texts you are using Your writing is free of common composition errors, especially run-on sentences and fragments