In a Tortoiseshell: In this close-reading paper written for the Humanities Sequence, Sandra Chen begins with a detailed analysis of a poem’s text to make larger arguments about its meaning.
In a Tortoiseshell: In her paper, Debby Cheng utilizes her thesis to roadmap her text to explore the nuances surrounding the distribution of blame within the black community during the AIDS epidemic prior to the introduction of an effective treatment. Using enriching and creative sources to provide evidence to her claims, Debby efficiently asks the reader to question, just as she does, the role of the heterosexual black man as the “invisible” force that perpetuated the spread of HIV in the United States during the last two decades of the 20th century.
Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat is just one of many cooking shows available for binge watching on Netflix’s online streaming platform. Nosrat’s approach, however, stands out—unlike many shows, which simply display certain recipes or exotic cuisines, Salt Fat Acid Heat aims to teach viewers the basic principles of cooking. Based on Nosrat’s cookbook of the same name, Salt Fat Acid Heat is a cooking show with a methodology, evidence-based approach, and thesis, which shines through in the title of the show itself. Nosrat claims that by understanding these four basic elements of food, viewers will not only gain an intuitive sense of good cooking, but they will know a bit more about what makes cuisines from around the world so delicious.
At first glance, Nosrat’s methodology appears very similar to other travel-based cooking shows. She visits one country in each episode, focusing on a specific element of cuisine: “Salt” brings her to Japan, “Fat” to Italy, and “Acid” to Mexico. Along the way, however, Nosrat’s approach is uniquely shaped by her thoughtful accumulation of evidence. In Japan, she visits a salt vendor, a traditional soy sauce manufacturer, and a woman who makes her own miso at home. She explains to her viewers how the differences between types of salt can make certain dishes, flavors, or types of seafood shine in Japanese cooking. When discussing how fat is an essential component of good food, Nosrat focuses on how olive oil shapes Italian cuisine. She briefly mentions, however, how different choices have shaped other cuisines—food in the American South uses a lot of animal fat, for instance, while French food is defined by the flavor of butter. Her discussion of acid is particularly illuminating, because this is an element of cooking that’s particularly hard for most people to pinpoint. Nosrat starts the episode in a fruit market in Mexico. She shops for different types of citrus, which is the most immediate association people have with acidity. Over the course of the episode, however, Nosrat shows how other elements of Mexican food like sour cream, vinegary salsa, and honey also provide a delicious acidic zing that can transform a dish. Nosrat’s evidence-based approach allows her viewers to follow her reasoning and intuitively understand her claims.
In the final installment of the show, “Heat,” Nosrat develops the evidence she’s accumulated in her travels into her final thesis about intuitive and informed cooking. She returns home to California in this episode, combining her travel experiences with her Iranian roots and time spent as a chef at Chez Panisse. Nosrat cooks a variety of dishes, including short ribs, steak, fava bean and roasted vegetable salad, and tag dig rice. Each of these meals combines her learnings about salt, fat, and acid with her final element of applying heat—the very essence of cooking. This episode serves as Nosrat’s thesis, demonstrating that with an intuitive sense of these flavors and elements, anyone can learn to be a great cook. Her argument brings simplicity and elegance to the often-intimidating realm of gourmet food.
— Caroline Bailey ’20
In my eternal attempt to get in shape, I recently started attending a group fitness class at Dillon Gym called BODYPUMP. Written by the fitness company Les Mills, BODYPUMP is a strength-training class in which you use a barbell and plates to tone specific muscle groups. The workout is choreographed to upbeat music, where each song is paired with a major muscle group in the body. During one track, we might do different kinds of squats to target our glutes, and in another we might do chest presses and push-ups to work our chest muscles. We do hundreds of reps, until our entire bodies are sore and shaky, but stronger.
While doing all those reps, I started thinking about workout classes like BODYPUMP and how they relate to the Lexicon. They are choreographed just like essays are written, so we can analyze them with the same concepts. They have, for example, theses and motives. BODYPUMP’s mission or thesis is to build strength and tone muscles so that attendees become healthier. Workouts can have structure built around the muscles in the body, like BODYPUMP does, or on skills or techniques that are being used, such as karate or boxing. One might think of individual moves—squats, chest presses, push-ups, etc.—as evidence, since these are what must be manipulated for the workout to achieve its goal (or support its thesis). Our reps of these moves are like our analysis, since they are how we enact our moves (or interpret our evidence). Lastly, specific kinds of reps are the key terms of workouts. For example, in BODYPUMP we have a rep which consists of a move done quickly twice in a row followed by the same move done slowly with pulses. We perform this kind of rep with all our moves—squats, deadlifts and rows, chest presses, etc.—and it marks our maximum effort level for each muscle group. Like key terms, it is versatile, gives each of our tracks a focus, and helps the workout feel cohesive.
Next time you are at the gym, think about how you structure your workout to achieve your health goals. Maybe you’ll find that your “evidence” is not varied enough, or that you aren’t doing enough “analysis.” And if you don’t even know where to start, try out a class like BODYPUMP and let them structure your workout for you. I hope to see you there!
— Leina Thurn, ’20
Believe it or not, even unscripted competition shows can be understood through writing lexicon terms!
Project Runway: All Stars is a fashion face-off show where seasoned designers compete in weekly challenges for a grand prize of $100,000. Despite being unscripted, All Stars still successfully develops an argument in each episode regarding who wins and loses each challenge by providing evidence and analysis through the structure of the show. The evidence is presented in the first half of the show, as viewers watch designers go through the process of creating their looks. Through a carefully edited mixture of primary sources—like design sketches, footage of the designers working, and interviews with designers about their looks (excerpted below from episode 10 of season 5; spoiler warning!)—and secondary sources—like workroom advice from their mentor Anne Fulenwider and interviews with designers about their competitors’ looks—the audience is able to see what design choices and fashion contexts direct the analysis provided in the second half of the show. This analysis comes in the form of comments and deliberations from judges, some of which are excerpted below. The judges, who are iconic fashion designers or models themselves, discuss which elements of the designs worked and which did not. Viewers follow the logic of these critiques as they ultimately culminate in the thesis of each episode, that is, whose design was the most successful and whose was the least.
By the end of each challenge, viewers remain either convinced or unconvinced by the evidence and analysis Project Runway: All Stars presents to support each outcome. Regardless of whether they agree or not, viewers still find themselves entertained by the structure of the show’s evidence and analysis, and they inevitably find themselves tuning in week after week to experience it all over again.
— Leina Thurn ’20
In a Tortoiseshell: In this essay on Moretto da Brescia’s painting ‘Entombment,’ the author transitions seamlessly between descriptive orienting and insightful analysis. Using evidence in the form of the painting’s scenery, figures, and lighting, she argues for the nuanced depiction of instantaneous and eternal anguish in the representation of Christ and the Virgin Mary.
In a Tortoiseshell: The discussion, done as well as it is in Ramie’s Molecular Biology Core Lab paper, is a very exciting part of the scientific manuscript because it weaves together specific results into a model with broad implications and opportunities for future research. A logical structure and informative subheadings make the discussion easy to follow, while grounding in published literature gives credibility to Ramie’s explanations.