Humanities 110

Introduction to the Humanities

Paper Topics | Spring 2023 | Paper 6

Due Friday, March 10, 5:00 p.m., to your conference leader

Target length: 1700-1800 words

Choose one of the following topics:

  1. Compare the Lienzo de Tlaxcala and the casta paintings in terms of their figuring of social hierarchy and social categorization. How does each work assert difference visually? What categories of identity are emphasized? How do they express social superiority or inferiority? You are encouraged to root your analysis in a close reading of 1-2 cells of the Lienzo and one casta painting.
  3. Analyze the rhetoric of religious experience that we find in Laso de la Vega’s Story of Guadalupe and Sor Juana’s Loa. How is religious experience described in these works? How does it differ (if indeed it does) from the description of more mundane experiences?
  5. Analyze Sor Juana’s defense of education for women in her Reply to Sor Filotea. How does Sor Juana justify women’s right to education? Does she make a universal claim (i.e., would education be a right for all women)? How does her rhetoric maintain deference to authority while asserting something that would be considered controversial?
  7. In his introduction to Massacre in Mexico, Octavio Paz claims that the real reason for “the terrible violence visited upon the students” must be sought not in the nature of the modern Mexican state, but in the deep history of Mexico, and proceeds to make a variety of sweeping claims about Mexican society: “The military attack on them was not only a political act; it also assumed the quasi-religious form of chastisement from on high. The morality of a wrathful God the Father Almighty. This attitude has profound historical roots; its origins lie in the country’s Aztec and colonial past. It can be traced back to a kind of petrification of the public image of the head of the nation, who ceases to be a mere man and becomes an idol to be worshiped. It is yet another expression of the machismo, and above all of the pre-eminence of the father in the Mexican family and in Mexican society” (Massacre in Mexico, 10). Is this claim supported by Massacre in Mexico or Los Olvidados? What is to be gained and what to be lost by thinking about violence and the problems of the modern state in this way? 
  9. Compare the treatment of racial and culture mixture in one casta painting with that in either Rivera’s “Creation” or Orozco’s “Cortes and Malintzin.” How are racial and cultural mixing defined? How are racial and cultural mixing related? What is emphasized in each, and how do their tones compare? 
  11. In what ways do the works of Frida Kahlo or Maria Izquierdo respond to ideas of Mexican identity drawn from either the “Big Three” muralists or the cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Tepeyac? Compare one or two works by Kahlo and Izquierdo with either a mural by Rivera, Orozco, Siqueiros, or a work associated with the Guadalupe cult.
  13. Consider the relationship between central theme and peripheral detail in two or three panels from either Rivera’s mural at the Ministry of Public Education or Orozco’s murals at the Colegio de San Ildefonso. What is the function of these peripheral details? How do they affect the larger message? Are they part of that larger message or somehow a distraction from it? Do they have a political resonance?
  15. Benedict Anderson defines the nation as an “imagined community” rooted in a sense of “deep, horizontal comradeship” (see fuller quotation on the handout for Margot Minardi’s lecture on February 17). Compare how two of the following texts seek to create, maintain, or complicate this “horizontal comradeship” among Mexicans: any of the primary texts discussed on February 17, the Mexican Constitution of 1917, the Plan de Ayala, one of Diego Rivera’s murals, or any of the Zapatista texts.
  17. In Los Olvidados, how and why does Buñuel incorporate non-human animals into certain scenes in order to make an argument about the human condition and/or the conditions of urban life in modern Mexico? Your essay should revolve around a close analysis of two scenes from the film that involve non-human animals.
  19. In what ways does Los Olvidados reflect or critique some of the measures in the Mexican Constitution of 1917 and/or the Plan de Ayala? Pay attention to how specific characters, scenes, or images might stand in for historical and political forces.
  21. In consultation with your instructor, write on a topic of your own devising or develop a research topic.