Tutor profile: Scott S.
(As a student): "My teacher wants each of us to write a fifteen-page paper on how our chosen topic relates to American LGBTQ+ history as an entire movement. My topic is New York ball culture, but I have no idea what my thesis should be."
With such expansive parameters ("fifteen-page paper" and "LGBTQ+ history as an entire movement") it is natural to want to make your thesis expansive to match. However, specificity will make for a much stronger paper. A student will often see "fifteen-page paper" and worry that choosing a specific, granular thesis will not provide enough material. But, many academic topics (especially those historical in nature) can become infinitely specific. One should venture as deep into a topic as is required of the page limit rather than see the topic's long surface and presume one is safe to stay above it. What specifically interests you about ball culture? What would you most like to write about, and what aspect ignites the most passion? It could be as specific as a single participant or a single category performed at the balls. Perhaps you're most interested in vogue. You could talk about vogue as a critique of traditional cisgender beauty standards, or you could talk about Madonna's appropriation of vogue. If you choose the former, you can then explore how the queer community has throughout American history critiqued cisgender beauty standards. If you choose the latter, you can then explore how queer ideas have been appropriated by mainstream cisgender heterosexual folks throughout American history. All of this should be done in the context of intersectionality, seeing as how predominately Black and Latinx folks participated in New York balls. This is an opportunity to get more specific: how have Black queer folks critiqued white cisgender beauty standards throughout history, or how have queer Latinx ideas been appropriated by mainstream white cisgender heterosexual folks?
(As a student): I've been assigned to read Gertrude Stein's "Tender Buttons," and none of it makes any sense, and I am supposed to write an analysis paper.
Often, books are written to convey information, and the meaning of a typical book is found within the information it conveys: the words are simply little vehicles to arrive at the intended meaning. Gertrude Stein's work, however, often purposefully keeps its reader from finding meaning in its "information," which forces its reader to reevaluate how one typically reads and digests words. Much of it is stream of consciousness - whatever comes to mind is written on the page, therefore it is impossible to know the exact circumstances or logic behind her words. We as readers must take them at face value - the meaning is in their existence and in the existence of the text that they together create. As a reader, I would encourage you to read "Tender Buttons" out loud, never looking ahead, never skimming, and never finishing her sentences in your head before you read them. As someone who is tasked with analyzing her work, I would suggest doing some historical and biographical research related to Gertrude Stein: why do certain words or rhythms often appear in her work? What was going on in her life and/or in the world that could have informed what her subconscious decided to write? Depending on your teacher's requirements, this analysis could be as granular as exploring how one word appears and repeats throughout "Tender Buttons" as well as what the historical and biographical reasons for this may be.
List what is grammatically incorrect in this sentence: "Although, Matisse felt sick, they continued scrubbing the window sill, and waving to passerbys."
"Although" in this sentence should not be followed by a comma. "Although" means "in spite of the fact that," and one would not say, "in spite of the fact that, Matisse felt sick." The use of the pronoun "they" is correct as long as is applies to Matisse and not an unmentioned group of people. If Matisse goes by they/them pronouns (or if the gender of Matisse is unknown), then the use of this word is correct. There should be no comma after "sill" because the following action "waving" applies to the subject "they." To keep the comma, one must input a new subject ("...they continued scrubbing the window sill, and they waved to passersby."). One may also, after inputting a new subject, end the sentence early ("scrubbing the window sill. They waved to passersby." ) or input a colon or semi-colon ("scrubbing the window sill; they waved to passersby.") instead. "Passerbys" should instead be spelled "passersby," as the plural applies to the passer but not to the preposition "by" describing the passer.
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