Textual Analysis Exercise

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Tolentino, Jia. “Always Be Optimizing,”Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-DelusionRandom House, 2019, 63-94.


Once you have finished reading Jia Tolentino’s essay, carefully reread the passages reproduced below. Take notes as you do so, asking yourself the following questions in particular: What question or problem is this passage exploring? What are its KEY TERMS? Its themes? Its examples? What broader implications might the ideas contained in the passage have for the text as a whole?

Once you have taken thorough notes on each passage, produce AT LEAST TWO substantive paragraphs of at least 300 words each. Each paragraph should consider (and quote from) ONE of the selected passages, ANALYZING the ideas you encountered while avoiding SUMMARY.

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Total of at least 850 words.

  • ➢ ANALYSIS explores and explains; it says something new. It requires that we consider implications, that we interpret the language and structure of a text. Analysis looks for patterns, dissects concepts, and explores (rather than merely presenting) evidence. It asks (and answers!) HOW and WHY questions.
  • ➢ SUMMARY reports on what has already been said. It generally asks and answers WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and WHO questions. Summary adds nothing new to the conversation. To focus your writing, begin by choosing one KEY TERM that you think matters for the passage, and incorporate it into your topic sentence. Some examples of KEY TERMS one encounters while reading Tolentino include: the ideal woman, optimization, capitalism, patriarchy, self-delusion, independent thinking, mainstream feminism, etc. (though you can make nearly any idea that explores and explains into a KEY TERM through emphasizing it). PASSAGES I like trying to look good, but it’s hard to say how much you can genuinely, independently like what amounts to a mandate. In 1991, Naomi Wolf wrote, in The Beauty Myth, about the peculiar fact that beauty requirements have escalated as women’s subjugation has decreased. It’s as if our culture has mustered an immune-system response to continue breaking the fever of gender equality – as if some deep patriarchal logic has made it that women need to achieve ever-higher levels of beauty to make up for the fact that we are no longer economically and legally dependent on men. (Tolentino 78) The root of this trouble is the fact that mainstream feminism has had to conform to patriarchy and capitalism to become mainstream in the first place. Old requirements, instead of being over­thrown, are rebranded. Beauty work is labeled “self-care” to make it sound progressive. In 2017, Taffy Brodesser- Akner wrote a story for The New York Times Magazine about the new vocabulary of weight loss, noting the way women’s magazines replaced cover lines like “Get lean! Control your eating!” with “Be your healthiest! GET STRONG!” People started “fasting and eating clean and cleansing and making lifestyle changes,” Brodesser-Akner wrote, “which, by all available evidence, is exactly like dieting.” (Tolentino, 80-81)


You must proofread carefully.

Quotations should be carefully transcribed, punctuated, and attributed. For bibliographic conventions, use MLA style. Use 1.0-inch margins on all sides, double-spacing, and twelve-point Times New Roman font. Number all pages. Your submission should have your name, the date, and course information on the first page. Submit your work via Canvas in either .doc .docx format. Pdfs, Google docs, and .pages files are not acceptable. Email submissions are not acceptable.

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Last Updated on September 8, 2020 by Essay Pro