Academic writing

Some Social anthropology, interdisciplinary academic writing and English literature




Social Anthropology

The titles here are fairly self-explanatory. Each pdf opens in its own window.

What is distinctive about social anthropology and its methods?
Why did evolutionism become discredited in anthropology by about 1920?
Are ethnic identities immutable or created?
Why has kinship been so important in the development of anthropological theory?
Why do humans marry?
What use is ritual?
What truths, if any, do myths convey?
How exceptional are western notions of individualism and the person?
In what ways have anthropologists approached the study of time?
Why has the concept of exchange proved such a useful tool of analysis in anthropology?
Thinkers such as Foucault and Bourdieu have claimed that subordinate groups internalise the reasons for their disadvantage and thus fail to recognise them. How realistic is this?
Are stateless societies more unstable than state ones?
Does it make sense to study women's models of society separately?
Linguistics is often represented as the social science where scientific laws have been found to be most applicable. Does this represent a complete picture of it as a discipline?
What are the cultural ramifications of international migration?
With reference to "nikkeijin" - ethnically Japanese Latin Americans in Japan.
What has been the impact of literacy on human society and thought?
Are witchcraft beliefs irrational?
Is aesthetics a cross-cultural category?
What insights have anthropologists been able to provide into activities such as development and famine relief?
Evaluate the debate between those who think that globalisation leads to homogenisation (including 'McDonaldization') and those who claim that it fosters increased cultural differentiation (what some call 'Balkanization')
(Dissertation) Men Performing Women: Constructions of Gender in Contemporary Japanese Comedy





Interdisciplinary academic writing



Ninagawa Yukio and the Act of Cross-Cultural Transmission

What do we think we see when we watch a Ninagawa production? Specifically, his 1999/2000 King Lear with Sir Nigel Hawthorne as Lear.


How do political jokes differ between totalitarian, post-totalitarian
and authoritarian regimes?

Dry analysis of the kinds of political joke that circulated under differing political regimes.


Hybridity in Caribbean writing: postmodern jouissance / postcolonial dislocation

How Caribbean literature responds to hybridity in the act of writing national literature.


What does neo-classical economics teach us concerning virtue, short-term gratification and poverty?

Why blaming the poor is part of our upbringing.


The Great Divorce: C.S. Lewis - Falling between the cracks

In the context of a discussion seminar on Augustine's City of God, I proffered this scattergun overview of C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce.


Can Globalisation Help? - Keeping the faith in globalisation

I try to untangle four ideas - globalisation, Americanisation, modernity and development - in an essay that fairly belts along like a Post-it® note to self.


An analysis of the rhetoric and the ideology of The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 2002

A paper in which I tried to deconstruct archetypal rhetoric of the first W. Bush administration.


Understanding the Sri Lankan Conflict

Having started with the somewhat naive question "Why are they fighting?", I ended up proposing a four-part model which helped me to believe that I had gone some way towards answering the question.


Language can be thought of as metaphor. Is this an appropriate metaphor?

An exploration of what metaphor is and how it should shape our conception of language.


What are the weltanschauungen espoused by these tragedies?

Looking at Aeschylus' The Oresteia Trilogy, Sophocles' Antigone, and Euripides' Iphigeneia at Aulis and assessing what world-views they project.


Alternatives to Marx: an overview of models for ideological influence

Or perhaps "How to make friends and develop models of ideological influence which aren't conspiracist in their sense of Orwellian oppression".


Kawabata Yasunari no Nihonposa

This is in Japanese, was written as a speech, and questions to what extent it could be said that Yasunari Kawabata "expresses the essence of the Japanese mind" - as the Swedish Academy declared upon awarding him the 1968 Nobel Prize in Literature.


The World's Other: Othering through a Literature of History and Ethnography

A survey of alterity in some of the great works of the world's Literature. At one stage in its development, this was entitled "The World and his Wife and a bit of the Other". Thought better of it.


The sexual drive as a political problem

Disruptive sexuality in Georg Büchner’s Danton’s Death, Friedrich Hebbel’s Agnes Bernauer, and Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit.


Does Natsume Soseki present loneliness as a virtue in Kokoro?

Natsume Soseki suffering the maladjusted gladly in Kokoro.


The Primary Ambivalences of Contemporary Japanese Society

Feels reverse-engineered but reads well. 1980 to 2003, supposedly.


“Taking the Biscuit” and the Sociological Theories of Elias, Parsons, and Bourdieu

Take Douglas Adams' biscuit mixture, sift using Talcott Parsons and Pierre Bourdieu, then add Norbert Elias, reduce and critique remaining theoretical models according to taste.


What does it mean to be well-adjusted in Kobo Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes?

Complicit confinement in Suna no Onna by Kobo Abe. To make a virtue of necessity, this essay was written without reference to secondary texts.










Undergraduate writing: English Literature


These PDF documents were originally written using Lotus AmiPro, then converted to Word. As a consequence the pagination and alignment has shifted from the originals and there are some formatting quirks such as the doubled numbering of footnotes.


Which writers on the African Literature course take the reader most vividly into the mental labyrinths of the exiled self?

Mrs. G. Blore of London was one of many people asked by Paul Tabori to define exile. She
describes a land, "where the people speak differently, where they live and laugh differently ...".


Contextual Commentary on two Modernist Texts

"I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know ... It echoed
loudly within him because he was hollow at the core ...". Thus Marlow talks of Kurtz in
Conrad's Heart of Darkness. In this essay, I compare T. S. Eliot's The Hollow Men with an
extract from The Passage to India, in the context of Modernism. Using the leit-motif of
"hollowness", I examine ways in which both texts are hollow.


"Marry, our play is "The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Tragedy of
Pyramus and Thisbe". A very good piece of work and a merry"
(A Midsummer Night's Dream, I, ii).
Discus this mixture of "cruelty" and "merriment" in Shakespearean comedy.

Meredith, speaking of the ridiculous person, says "If you laugh all round him, tumble him,
roll him about, deal him a smack and drop a tear on him, own his likeness to you and yours to
your neighbour, spare him as little as you shun, pity him as much as you expose, it is a spirit
of Humour that is moving you". This is a warm, open hearted merriment, a sympathy which
says "there but for the grace of God go I" and revels in our ridiculousness as we look to one
another, each of us shod in feet of clay. However there is a laughter which goes further than


"Il n'y a pas de hors-texte" (Jaques Derrida). Does contemporary fiction tend to
confirm or resist the notion that there is no "outside-the-text"?

"The author should die once he has finished writing. So as not to trouble the path of the
text". Umberto Eco's provocative pronouncement, made whilst he himself was writing
Reflections on 'The Name of the Rose', represents part of the debate about the origin of
meaning with regard to text. In this essay, I shall examine how Possession and The Name of
the Rose
both confirm and resist Derrida's claim that "Il n'y a pas de hors-texte". The thrust
of my argument is that A.S. Byatt's work resists the assertion and that conversely, the overall
effect of Umberto Eco's novel is to confirm the remark.



Inclusion and Autonomy: A study in belonging

We are social animals and we need to feel a sense of belonging, and yet independence is
important to us and we would like to believe that we behave as individuals. This is the first
premiss upon which this dissertation is based. The second is that belonging to a group
precipitates a degree of ideological interpellation within the group members. I ask the
question: how far is it possible to belong to a group and yet to retain autonomy of identity,
autonomy of moral self-legislation, and ideological autonomy?

[This dissertation centres around the following texts: Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake, Kevin Sampson's novel Powder, and Jane Austen's Emma.]


Explore the work of ONE or TWO writers which address a sense
of dislocation from the past in either the characters, or poems'
speakers, or the audience/readers, and consider the ways in which
they go about this.

I will examine the ways in which both Philip Larkin and T.S. Eliot address a
sense of dislocation from the past in their poems. In their work, both Larkin and
Eliot demonstrate how dislocation from the past can become expressed by a loss
of identity, and how a life deprived of the narrative of chronological memories
can trap a person between an inexpressible past and a futile future.


A passage from Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in
England, 1845
, from Chapter 3, 'The Great Towns';
Discuss in the light of selected aspects of two of the theoretical approaches
introduced to you this term.

How Marxist was Engels? Approaching his writing about the slums of London from a critical
Marxist approach, certainly opens our eyes to this question. I have endeavoured to avoid
Leninist Marxism, selecting instead the theoretical aspects of Engelsian and Althusserian
Marxism. My second approach to the text is to deconstruct it along post-structualist


Analyse in some detail two of the following passages, discussing in what ways
they are representative of their authors and of the Victorian period. Take
account of such things as tone and style, and, where it seems appropriate,
comment on any lines of comparison or contrast between the passages you have

Standing in the midst of the grandeur of a Brazilian forest, Darwin once wrote in his journal,
"it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, admiration and
devotion which fill and elevate the mind". Later, upon looking back, he remarked "I well
remember my conviction that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body. But now
the grandest scenes would not cause any such convictions and feelings to rise in my mind".
This transition between one awareness of the world and another epitomises the struggle of the
Victorian consciousness with religion. Both Tennyson and Hopkins were faced with serious
and troubling doubts about their Christian faith.


"Again and again in Shakespeare we are tantalised by the possibility of an
escape from theatricality and the constant pressure of power, but we are, after
all, in the theatre, and our pleasure depends upon the fact that there is no escape,
and our applause ratifies the triumph of our confinement" (Stephen Greenblatt).
Consider the implications of this remark for our enjoyment of Shakespearean

Stephen Greenblatt's remark implies that "theatricality" and "the constant pressure of power"
are linked. I will examine how power uses theatricality to confine us and ask why we applaud


Many Augustan writers would claim that their work aimed to improve public
and private morality.
In what ways is this manifested in the work of any two writers of the period?

Satire is the primary technique by which Swift in Gulliver's Travels and Fielding in
Shamela sought to improve the morality of the society into which the works were


The Victorians appear to have had a fondness for reading scenes of strong
sentiment and passionate melodrama.
With close reference to the work of at least two novelists, show what particular
features of taste and belief this reveals.

A melodrama is a "sensational dramatic piece with crude appeals to emotions" in the terms of
the Concise Oxford Dictionary. Given that the Victorian era has become synonymous with
restraint, it is surprising to note the passionate sentimentality of its literature. In this essay, I
examine the theatricality of Dickens' writing in Hard Times and the schematised passion of
Hardy in The Mayor of Casterbridge;


Consider the way in which Zizek's focus on fantasy has helped him to develop
the notion of ideology and how it works.

"Even this imperfect consciousness faded away at last, and he dreamed a long, troubled
dream". In using Zizekian ideas about ideology and fantasy to interpret Stephen Blackpool's
dream in Hard Times, I will be referring to Zizek's conception of fantasy as discussed in The
Sublime Object of Ideology


"The dead generations weigh like a nightmare on the brains of the
living" (Karl Marx). Can literature be a means to escape the
oppressive weight of the past and define a more fruitful
relationship to history? Answer with reference to two texts.

Graham Swift's Waterland and Julian Barnes' A History of the World in 10 [and a half]
are both examples of historiographic metafiction. This essay refers to
both texts in examining how literature can relate to the past.


Examine the presentation of crime and transgression in any two modernist texts

I often think of those lines of old Goethe:
Schade dass die Natur nur einen Mensch aus dir schuf,
Denn zum wurdigen Mann war und zum Schelmen der Stoff.
Nature, alas, made only one being out of you,
Although there was material for a good man and a rogue.
Sherlock Holmes applies these words to himself at the end of The Sign of the Four. In this
essay, I first demonstrate how Holmes represents transgression,


"Eve, whose fault was only too much love,
Which made her give this present to her dear"
(Aemelia Lanier, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, 1611)
Discuss Milton's interpretation of the Fall (in Paradise Lost) in the
light of Lanier's comment.

Could it really be the case that Milton, who has been accused of a number of
prejudices, and among these misogyny, presents in his interpretation of the Fall
an Eve "whose fault was only too much love"? In one respect, this can be said to
be true. Yet


The following extracts are all from satirical works which focus in part on the
lives of the upper classes. Select two of these passages for detailed discussion.
Take account of such things as imagery, theme, tone and technique.
Where it seems appropriate, relate the extract to the context of the work as a
whole and comment on lines of comparison or contrast between the passages
you have selected.

In this essay, I examine two extracts - from Pope's The Rape of the Lock and from Defoe's
Moll Flanders; attempting in both cases to relate the satirical and narrative techniques of the
passages to the quality of what each text seeks to undermine.