Essay Cove

Essay Cove

Medium Critical Analysis Paper Prompt

950-1250-word or ~4 – 5 double-spaced pages; due Feb 11.


Choose one of the following prompts:


  1. Using ideas from Jonathan Sterne and others, analyze Hito Steyerl’s In Free Fall. How does this piece of media “think” (positionally, materially, structurally, historically, economically, and/or politically) about, with, and/or against its subjects? Is format theory a useful theoretical lens to understand this work, or is something else? Is In Free Fall concerned with what Sterne refers to as “mediality” (Sterne 2012, 9) or another mode of association? Sterne and Gitelman suggest that “specificity is key” (Sterne 2012, 11); does Steyerl’s project, which bridges (among other things) events from 1929 with 2008, turn towards or away from historical specificity, and how?
  2. Using ideas from Pooja Rangan and others, analyze Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s Walled Unwalled. Again, how does this media “think” (positionally, materially, structurally, historically, economically, and/or politically) about, with, and/or against its subjects? Rangan suggests forensic artistic practice like Abu Hamdan’s revives an investment in objectivity (Rangan 2021, 2). How is forensic or counter-forensic listening important to Abu Hamdan’s analysis (and to your own experience of listening to the work)? Eyal Weizman writes that forensics supplements the linguistic subjectivity of “testimony, trauma, and memory” with “an object-oriented juridical culture immersed in matter and materialities, in code and form, and in the presentation of scientific investigations by experts” (Weizman 2012, 4–5). Is this tension represented in Walled Unwalled? If so, how?


Rangan, Pooja. 2021. “Inaudible Evidence: Counterforensic Listening in Contemporary Documentary Art.” In Deep Mediations: Thinking Space in Cinema and Digital Cultures, edited by Karen Redrobe and Jeff Scheible. University of Minnesota Press.

Sterne, Jonathan. 2012. MP3: The Meaning of a Format. Sign, Storage, Transmission. Duke University Press.

Weizman, Eyal. 2012. Eyal Weizman: Forensic Architecture, Notes from Fields and Forums: 100 Notes, 100 Thoughts: Documenta Series 062. Bilingual edition. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz.

Some Guidelines and Advice


  • Use Chicago Style for citations. Consult the department’s style guideLinks to an external site. if you are unsure how to cite something. 
  • For this writing, you have a bit more room here to describe the excerpts you’re analyzing in detail; one way you might think of this writing is as a codec – a compression algorithm that keeps the aspects that are important to your argument. This is “lossy”, but lossy compression is also sometimes clear and effective! If the reflection essay was interested in your thinking in response to a work, this one is asking you to do a more of a closer read. I recommend reviewing the work, at least in part. 
  • Keep in mind that the SRT files in Google Drive are also useful for searching and quoting spoken language, it will also point you to the correct timestamp.
  • Please do not summarize the entire extent of the work (but do feel free to make observations about how it works as a whole in relation to your analysis). 
  • Regarding the “and others” in the prompts, you are welcome to cite from any of the readings, viewings, listenings, lectures, or presentations made in the class. Two or three of these should be more than sufficient to build context and support for your analysis. If there’s an outside source from another class or your own reading that you think reflects brilliantly on these projects, you may use/cite it as an aside, but do not make it central to your writing. If you’re able to respond to the prompts solely with the ideas of Sterne or Rangan, that is fine, too.

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