In a Tortoiseshell: In her exhibition statement for a hypothetical museum exhibit, Shirley prepares her readers to encounter exicon terms visually and spatially. She provides her audience with orienting information on architectural estrangement, with clear motivating questions to guide audience members’ experience of the exhibited objects, with evidence in the form of the objects themselves, and with suggested routes of analysis in the way those objects are displayed in the exhibition space. Overall, Shirley’s exhibition invites hypothetical museum-goers to join a scholarly conversation on architectural estrangement and to find their own argument in the exhibited objects. Continue reading
In a Tortoiseshell: In his paper for Anthropologies of Climate and Change, Liam Seeley argues that we can rethink our relationship to our changing climate by focusing on how it interacts with our lungs. Climate is not fully external to us, as air enters our bodies with each breath we take. Liam treats the lungs as a metaphor for the functioning of climate on a larger scale; the lungs offer a microcosm of the social and political facets of climate change. His essay has a particularly powerful narrative, driven by stories about how the lungs live in—and are damaged by—the world. Liam’s treatment of narrative is essential to his motive, thesis, and scholarly conversation. Continue reading
In a Tortoiseshell: After establishing her thesis, Akhila moves towards orienting. Tasked with the tricky dilemma of introducing the reader to both the general subject area and the scholarly conversation that surrounds her work, Akhila deftly sets a foundation that allows a compelling argument to follow. Continue reading
Most recently on my queue of bingeable Netflix shows has been Grace and Frankie, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. In the television comedy, two recently divorced women in their late seventies kindle an unlikely friendship. Grace is a high-powered entrepreneur obsessed with her appearance, taking great care to strut around daily in pantsuits and stilettos despite her age. On the flip side, Frankie, clad in heavy clogs and baggy trousers, is the exact opposite, centering her life on grassroots activism and psychedelic drugs.
From its onset, the show draws on the stark dichotomy between the two women to stir up punchy comedy. Each woman continually badmouths the other, complaining about what they each perceive as immoral behavior. Stuck living in the same beach house, Grace and Frankie scheme about how to remove the other from the property.
In a similar vein, scholarly motive is often set up in the hopes of pitting two authors together. Mark Gaipa’s Breaking into the Conversation labels the fifth scholarly motive strategy presented as “Playing Peacemaker.” For this setup, an author steps in to identify a conflict between two scholars before resolving it. To effectively execute this strategy, writers are tasked with first finding two scholars at odds with one another.
However, issues arise when writers morph their scholarly sources into a heightened state of antagonism. In an effort to create a more compelling “disagreement” between two scholarly sources, students may feel compelled to construct a “straw man” argument for their sources, interpreting their two arguments to be more contradictory to each other than they are intended to be. In other words, the writer might unfairly pit two scholars against each other, making it easier for the author to “swoop in” heroically to resolve an imaginary tension.
Similarly, Grace and Frankie begins by presenting our two protagonists as bitter enemies. However, as the show progresses, both the audience and the two women begin to realize that differences in life priorities and personalities do not need to translate into antagonism. By the end of the first episode, Grace accidentally ingests Frankie’s peyote, leading to a beautiful scene where the two women open up about their shared hopes for the future.
The show has recently wrapped up its final episode, having lasted for an impressive 7 seasons. Part of the longevity and continued enjoyment of Grace and Frankie is owed to the framing of the relationship not as an antagonistic stand-off, but as a slow exploration of two very different individuals grounded by their love and friendship for each other. Similarly, when setting up two scholarly sources to introduce a tension, it can be more fruitful to honestly explore the differences and similarities between two scholars. A great paper will acknowledge the delicate nuances between them instead of forcing an antagonistic conflict.
–Diane Yang, ’23
I love watching South Korean mukbang. It’s a genre of online video in which streamers eat excessive amounts of food (usually very unhealthy) in front of a camera. The term roughly translates to “eating broadcast,” which I think encapsulates the primary purpose of mukbang pretty well. However, the genre also lends itself to a surprising amount of depth. In this post, I’d like to speculate about why one popular mukbang personality—tzuyang—is able to consistently enthrall her 5.58 million subscribers and other YouTube-watching enthusiasts. I find tzuyang’s videos appealing because they seamlessly integrate “textual motive” and other kinds of motive.
Traditionally, mukbang is done in the comfort of one’s home, and the unmoving camera simply captures 1) the food and 2) the person who eats the food. Within this setup, the host answers “textual motive” questions (What does the food taste like? What’s the best way to prepare and eat the food?) by “analyzing” her “primary sources.”
This is tzuyang in a more “classic” mukbang setting.
Although tzuyang has, of course, recorded these more “traditional” mukbang videos, most of her videos actually blur the boundaries between traditional mukbang, vlog, and even documentary. Tzuyang’s most recent video, in which she visits a traditional market in Daejeon, South Korea, exemplifies this genre-bending style. The video was sponsored by the Daejeon Tourism Organization, and it clearly aims to display the appeal, variety, and authenticity of traditional market food. Thus, the video not only focuses on the delicious food (and tzuyang’s astounding appetite) but also captures the environment/atmosphere of the traditional market. Tzuyang, then, embeds her eating within a larger context. In writing, we might think of this move as situating our main analytical work in a “scholarly conversation.”
In another recent video, people in the fish market abandoned their stalls to watch tzuyang eat.
Another aspect of tzuyang’s videos are her interactions/conversations with food stall and restaurant owners. Although many of them recognize tzuyang, they are nevertheless amazed upon seeing how much food she can consume. (These owners, who are generally older, also love to give tzuyang extra side dishes and tea. They treat her like she’s their granddaughter.) These live interactions are both funny and heartwarming; altogether, they add yet another dimension to the “scholarly conversation” of tzuyang’s videos. Some shopkeepers initially express skepticism, while others wholeheartedly cheer tzuyang on. Regardless of what onlookers say, tzuyang responds to all of them through her engagement with food.
This informal analysis now brings me to why I (and millions of others) keep returning to tzuyang’s videos. Although eating remains a focal point of tzuyang’s channel, her videos are also engaging because they show how tzuyang navigates different food landscapes and converses with local people. Together, these elements also allow tzuyang to promote older or lesser-known food locations across South Korea, which have been heavily impacted by the global pandemic. Mukbang videos can have a global motive!
Drawing inspiration from tzuyang’s multilayered videos, I would encourage students to incorporate different layers of motive in their own writing. While watching—or, in my case, describing—how people eat lots of food is somewhat puzzling in itself, this content allows us to simultaneously think about larger environments, communities, and global contexts.
–Christina Cho, ’24
For me and my friends in the class of 2022, Wintersession has been a time for relaxing, catching up on sleep (and our favorite TV shows), and stressing about how much work we have left to do on our senior theses. My thesis stress looks a little bit different than my friends’, though. That’s because my thesis is a play (Lia) that will be performed in the third week of the spring semester. So while my friends have been writing and researching, I’ve been attending Zoom rehearsals, scrambling to find lighting and sound designers, and coordinating with the SHARE office so that they can provide support to audience members during the performances. Although writing my thesis has been a very different experience from the writing I’ve done for my classes, I’ve also been struck by the parallels between the way I approach writing a play and writing an academic essay.
Like almost every paper I’ve written at Princeton, my play began with in-text (or evidence-based) motive. When I set out to write a paper on performative madness in Hamlet and Twelfth Night my sophomore fall, I found myself instead re-reading every scene between Hamlet and Ophelia and recognizing how much Hamlet’s actions are informed by his fixation on and problematic views regarding female sexuality. I began to draw out a series of interconnected questions, tensions, and puzzles that Hamlet raised for me. To name a few: Why does Hamlet seem more disturbed by his mother’s marriage with Claudius — going so far as to imagine details of their sex life (see Hamlet 3.4.205 onwards) — than by Claudius’ murder of his father? Why does Hamlet suddenly lash out at Ophelia in scene 3.1? Has there been some crucial turning point that we don’t get to see? Why does Hamlet, after brutally rejecting Ophelia, launch a series of a series of one-sided sexual puns at her in scene 3.2? How are we to account for Ophelia’s madness and ultimate drowning?
And yet, I didn’t feel that I could sufficiently address these motives in a traditional academic paper. While my questions were grounded in the textual details of Hamlet, the answers I wanted simply weren’t there. However closely I studied the text, Ophelia’s story as it is written felt incomplete to me. I realized that I didn’t want to reconstruct Shakespeare’s Ophelia from the fragments that the play gives us. I wanted to use those details as a jumping-off point to write my own Ophelia and allow her to tell her story on her own terms.
So rather than joining a scholarly conversation about Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I decided to join Shakespeare in the “creative conversation” surrounding the story of Hamlet — because Shakespeare’s Hamlet is neither the first nor the only version of the story! In many ways, making my contribution to the “creative conversation” feels parallel to joining a scholarly conversation. Much as I might draw on another scholar’s terms and redefine/extend/adapt them to make a unique argument in an academic paper, my play both draws on many elements of Shakespeare’s play and reimagines and reconfigures them to tell a new story. Ghosts become a way of thinking about trauma as something visceral and real. Hamlet‘s constant blurring of performance and reality becomes a way to reflect both on the behavior patterns of abusive men in positions of power and on the constant self-doubt and fragmentation of memory that survivors often experience as they attempt to reconstruct themselves and their past after a traumatic event.
Writing this play has introduced me to a new mode of responding to evidence-based motive and of engaging critically with a work of literature. But it has also taught me that analyzing stories and telling stories are not as different as they might seem. Both can be equally valid contributions to a scholarly and/or creative conversation, and both can be guided and informed by the principles of motive.
— Meigan Clark, ’22
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet from The Folger Shakespeare. Ed. Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine. Folger Shakespeare Library, January 24, 2022. https://shakespeare.folger.edu/shakespeares-works/hamlet/
In a Tortoiseshell: In the concluding section of her final project for Cognitive Psychology, Kennedy Casey adeptly discusses her research on generalization during word learning. She clearly summarizes her findings and their limitations, while also defining her contribution to the scholarly conversation and calling attention to her global motive. Continue reading