english 124the thin blue linepaper H u m a n i t i e s

english 124the thin blue linepaper H u m a n i t i e s

English 124

The Thin Blue Line

Paper #2

Length:5-7 double-spaced, typewritten pages

Value:200 points

First part of the paper, the rhetorical analysis, due: Thursday, Nov. 5th

Second part of the paper, “The Postmodern Challenge,” due: Tuesday, Nov. 10th

Final draft due:Thursday, November 19th

The purpose of this paper is to analyze and explain how visual rhetoric works in a documentary film, especially to shape viewers’ responses to the film and the filmmaker’s argument. A secondary purpose is to understand the role of film criticism to involve viewers in a process of reflection and reconsideration of their cinematic experience.


After careful consideration of Errol Morris’s documentary The Thin Blue Line, and a thorough reading of Richard Sherwin’s “The Postmodern Challenge:A Case Study,” write a paper that 1.) analyzes and explains how Morris rhetorically constructs his film in an attempt to persuade his audience and 2.) defines Sherwin’s postmodern challenge and explains how it complicates Morris’s argument.

Part 1:In order to write this paper, you will first need to isolate particular rhetorical strategies that Morris employs and explain how he attempts to shape the audience’s thinking and attitudes.Specifically, identify what Morris does to encourage the audience’s distrust of the criminal justice system, David Harris, and the eyewitnesses, and to elicit their sympathies for Randall Adams.Identify at least three of Morris’s strategies, explain how they work in particular instances in the film, and explain the desired effects on his viewers.

Part 2:After the rhetorical analysis of Morris’s cinematic strategies, you should then transition to Richard Sherwin’s The Postmodern Challenge, explaining how it complicates viewers’ understanding of the film.What non-linear, acausal narratives does Sherwin identify that complicate the case supporting Adams’s innocence, and why are they abandoned by the end of the film?Why, according to Sherwin, do viewers disregard the non-linear, acausal narratives?In other words, what expectations do viewers bring to criminal and courtroom narratives, and how do their expectations limit their ability to perceive and judge reality?

Evaluative Criteria:

  1. Do you thoroughly and thoughtfully analyze and explain how Morris uses his film to construct an argument?Do you isolate particular rhetorical strategies and explain Morris’s attempts to influence the audience’s thinking about the Randall Adams case?
  2. Do you smoothly transition to Richard Sherwin’s “The Postmodern Challenge,” accurately define the postmodern challenge, and thoroughly explain how it complicates Morris’s narrative?
  3. Have you chosen a structure for your ideas that will convince an audience of your argument most effectively?Do you lead the reader carefully from one idea to the next?Are your paragraphs fully developed and cohesive?
  4. Sources:Do you incorporate examples from the film and quotations/paraphrasing from Sherwin successfully into the essay?Do you strike an effective balance between their ideas and your own, moving smoothly between the two?
  5. Mechanics?Is your writing free of mechanical and grammatical errors that might interfere with a reader’s understanding?Do you cite sources according to proper MLA conventions?

This is the link to the first part of the movie