Bad Objects (Final Project)

Final Project (7-10 pages)
due Monday, May 12
(25% course grade)

Bad Object Presentation
in class on Tuesday, May 6
(10% grade)

Assignment Objectives

The midterm assignment was designed for you to demonstrate a grasp on the key concepts around which major twentieth-century aesthetic theory and larger ideological debates revolved, and still persist, perhaps imperceptibly, in popular thinking today. Having defined, synthesized and problematized these foundational categories last month, you’re now equipped for both parts of the final project: the ‘bad objects’ presentation on the last day of class, May 6, and the final paper of 7-10 pages due Monday, May 12. Whereas the midterm was more about general mastery of the course material covered before spring break, the final project presents you with the opportunity to engage all of our reading as you pursue an original research topic of your choosing. You are encouraged to play up your innovative ideas from whatever disciplinary angle you hail, or tap into the class’s interdisciplinary electricity as you examine a “bad object” picked out in consultation with me.

What’s a bad object and how’m I supposed to write about it?

Your bad object can be anything, so long as you scrutinize its construction according to some standard of taste, which you will also want to make apparent in your paper. You may want to do this synchronically, by looking at the object from all sides in a single historical moment or immanent cultural context, considering, for instance, how it is deployed on the battlefield of culture in conservative or resistant ways by dominant and dominated classes. Alternately, you may take a diachronic approach, and look at the longer cultural life of your object by asking how and why attitudes toward it have changed over time. As with the midterm, you must contextualize your object, providing helpful historical, cultural, social and aesthetic coordinates to orient your analysis. You are also allowed to pillage your blog posts for repurposable material, so long as you synthesize this ‘vintage’ verbiage into a cohesive original argument for this composition.

Beyond page count and the inclusion of secondary literature, the paper’s parameters are pretty open. Likewise the final presentation is formally free in the style of the bad taste demos. Expect to talk for a total of 7-10 minutes, introducing your object of study to the class, explaining the basic shape of your argument and the animating questions of your analysis. Leave a few minutes at the end of your allotted time to poll your peers about your research, and field their questions about your argument in turn. Our motley makeup as a group means you may be asked to think about your object by your colleagues in ways you’d never come up with on your own. You will have additional opportunities for feedback from me and your classmates built into preceding meetings.

To ensure that you’ve carved out sufficient time to meditate on your final project theme, and devise a sound plan of attack to it, you must come armed with an object or two, or a general theme of interest to our paper conference next week. You are not expected to arrive in my office next week with a polished plan for a perfect composition. On the contrary, I believe the best ideas start out somewhat amorphous and stay supple–they may even be messy at first–but ultimately evolve and expand or contract in scope and stakes as you move through the process of composing (which can often feel like ‘decomposing’ alone at the computer). I am happy to meet with you during regular office hours or by appointment at any stage in the writing process but the last. Harried emails sent in the eleventh hour will not be answered, nor will they make a favorable impression on your professor—or serve you as a scholar in the short or long runs.

Formatting and Submission Requirements

Your paper must be typed in a 12-point, standard font, in a double-spaced Word or Pages document with 1” margins and in-text citations (Chicago, MLA, APA or another conventional style). You must either include full citations in footnotes or endnotes, or supply a list of works cited at the end of the paper.

Submit your document online to the designated drop-box on Moodle, or mail it to me at before the clock strikes midnight on May 12, and Monday turns into Tuesday, the 13th. Extensions will be granted only with my pre-approval; late papers are otherwise docked one full letter grade per day. I’ve given you as much time as possible before the semester officially ends to guarantee you write a good paper that interests you and me both, but the slim margin before grades are due means you must be timely!

So how to prepare and what to expect when we meet next week?

You should start homing in on a topic before our mini paper conference, at which I’ll return your midterm papers with my written and oral feedback on substance and style. Some of you may find it helpful to set goals for your future writing when we meet. For those of you who have already selected a ‘bad object’ of investigation, we can talk in concrete terms about how to approach your final project; cobble together lists of secondary literature or related primary material; and otherwise strategize ways for you to pursue personal interests from your particular disciplinary background (or not), while deriving maximum intellectual use and pleasure from your research!

The schedule of mini conferences appears below. Please make any changes by replying to the post or emailing me.

Midterm/Final Project Paper Mini Conferences

Monday, April 14, 2014
11:00-11:15 Dan
11:15-11:30 Erica
11:45-12:00 Maddie
12:00-12:15 Kevin

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
3:00-3:15 Katherine
3:15-3:30 Zosha

Thursday, April 17
3:00-3:15 Luc
3:15-3:30 Kevin
4:20-4:35 Abby


One thought on “Bad Objects (Final Project)

  1. Hi Anastasia, I’d also like to snatch your availability after 12 on Monday to talk about my presentation on Camp. Sorry if this ruins anyone else’s plans.

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