Tutor profile: Tate J.
When should you use the second-person "you"?
In academic writing: never. Full stop. It's unprofessional, and your readers won't take you seriously. In other, more casual forms of writing, it's up to you. Saying "one" all of the time becomes stuffy after awhile, and if you're writing something like a blog post, readers probably won't like it. Similarly, if you're writing something instructional (like this!), using "you" is almost always appropriate. In creative writing, it's tricky. Don't do it unless you have a good reason; most of the time, the second person will feel gimmicky and cheap. That being said, though, "you" can also be a powerful tool. It is especially effective in particularly personal or dreamlike scenes.
To what extent should you consider an author's identity when analyzing his or her work?
You should only consider authorial identity insofar as the context is relevant to your interpretation. It is important, for example, to know that Aristophanes' Lysistrata was written in 411 B.C.E. and that at the time, the concept of female involvement in politics was strictly comical and in no way progressive. The fact that Aristophanes was a man, that his father's name was Philippus, or that he was known for being boastful is less relevant (if relevant at all). Focusing too much on biography will almost always get in the way of a good analysis. Determining when the context is relevant, however, is particularly tricky. Some argue that an author's identity is in no way relevant to how his or her work should be interpreted; anyone can write about anything. Others argue, however, that things like an author's race and gender are key to interpreting his or her work correctly. Identity influences the choices writers make. Is there a difference between a male author sexualizing a woman, and a female author doing the same thing? The answer is subjective. The bottom line is that whether you're going to consider an author's identity or not, you should have a good reason for what you choose to do. If discussing an author's gender, for instance, will strengthen your argument, do so; but if it will only distract from your work, focus on the text instead.
Subject: Gender Studies
In her seminal essay, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Laura Mulvey utilizes a psychoanalytic framework in order to describe the misogynistic way in which gender relations are usually represented on screen. Psychoanalysis, however (especially when Mulvey wrote her essay in the 1970s), has often been instrumentalized to patriarchal ends. What is the effect of using such a patriarchal framework, then, in a feminist essay?
Modern academia does not draw upon the psychoanalytic elements of Mulvey's work often. Rather, academics tend to focus on the core of her theory: that in cinema (and other forms of media), men are active agents, while women are reduced to passive objects. Psychoanalysis, however, is central not only to Mulvey's argument, but why that argument has been so successful. When Mulvey published "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" in 1975, she was writing to an academic audience that was dominated by men. Patriarchal modes of analysis were popular; psychoanalysis was, therefore, exceptionally popular. By speaking through such a dominant discursive mode, Mulvey was able to convince her audience of her argument's worth. But Mulvey's use of psychoanalysis is more than a calculated move, and understanding this element of her approach is essential to interpreting her work. By using psychoanalysis in a feminist argument, Mulvey argues against not only the ways in which men represent women, but why they represent them that way, drawing attention to unexamined biases and patriarchal modes.
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