ENG 103 Syllabus

January 10, 2011

ENG 103 Sections 103-3 and 103-7 Syllabus

103-3: MWF 9:00-9:50 AM; RB 112

103-7: MWF 11:00-11:50 AM; RB 292

 

Your Professor:

Tyler Petty

tjpetty@bsu.edu

RB 283

Office Hours: Monday 1-2, Wednesday 12-1, Friday 10-11, and by appointment

 

Course Description

ENG 103: Rhetoric and Writing (3) Introduces and develops understanding of principles of rhetoric; basic research methods; elements, strategies, and conventions of persuasion used in constructing written and multi-modal texts. Prerequisite: appropriate placement.  Not open to students who have credit in ENG 101 or 102.

 

Course Goals

  • Understand that persuasion—both visual and verbal—is integral to reading and composing
  • Understand how persuasive visual and verbal texts are composed for different audiences and different purposes
  • Develop effective strategies of invention, drafting, and revision for different rhetorical situations and individual composing styles
  • Compose texts in various media using solid logic, claims, evidence, creativity, and audience awareness
  • Integrate primary and secondary research as appropriate to the rhetorical situation
  • Develop strategies for becoming more critical and careful readers of both their own and others’ texts
  • Demonstrate a professional attitude towards their writing by focusing on the need for appropriate format, syntax, punctuation, and spelling
  • Take responsibility for their own progress
  • Develop the ability to work well with others on composing tasks

 

Required Texts

Mauk, John and John Metz. The Composition of Everyday Life: A Guide to Writing, 2009 MLA Update Edition, 3rd Ed. Cengage (ISBN 0-495-80203-4)

 

BallPoint (Ball State Writing Program Handbook): http://cms.bsu.edu/Academics/CollegesandDepartments/English/Academics/WritingProgram/BallPointHandbook.aspx

 

Note: Other texts, videos, podcasts, etc., may be assigned during the course of the semester.

 

Attendance Policy

“Attendance…is especially important in Writing Program courses; the process of learning to write demands the creation of a strong community of supportive writers and learners. Much of the work that occurs in a writing class—from the initial creation and sharing of thoughts final polishing and evaluation of ideas—depends on daily interaction among the members of that community.…The Writing Program mandates that a pattern of unexcused absences amounting to more than 20% of the classroom learning hours in a course will automatically result in a failing grade” (BallPoint, page 8).

 

Sitting in a seat does not automatically mean you are attending class. I reserve the right to count as absent students who talk/text on cell phones during class, use computers or laptops for activities unrelated to class activities, sleep, or otherwise show disinterest or disengagement with the class. Examples of unrelated computer activities include accessing social media (checking Facebook, Twitter, etc.), checking email, using the Internet for personal purposes (shopping, checking the weather, etc.) and playing games, such as solitaire, during class time.

 

You will be counted as “Late” if you come to class 5-15 minutes after class begins. Three “Lates” equal one absence. If you are more than 15 minutes late, you will be counted as absent, whether you come for any part of class that day or not.

 

In other words, take this class seriously and pay attention, and you should be okay.

 

Excused Absences

“Legitimate excused absences include those resulting from illness, the death of a family member, a university field trip, or some other required academic business that cannot be rescheduled [such as sporting events for athletic team members]” (BallPoint, page 9). For absences that you know about in advance, such as class trips or sporting events (if you are on the team), you will need to provide me with written documentation about them before the class period(s) they will cause you to miss, or the absences will not be excused. I am willing to be more lenient with absences because of emergency/ unforeseen circumstances, but simply telling me you will miss class does not guarantee the absence will be excused.

 

An excused absence, however, does not excuse a student from completing and turning in any required assignments missed during the absence.

 

Late Work

Except in certain circumstances arising from legitimate excused absences, extensions will not be granted. The grade on any work turned in late (after 5:00 PM on the day it is due) will be lowered one full letter-grade for each day it is late.

 

 

Disabilities

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible.

 

Academic Ethics and Plagiarism

Plagiarism is “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work” (Dictionary.com).

 

Plagiarism will not be tolerated in any form in this class, and could potentially result in immediate failure of the course and additional consequences. If you are unsure of how to cite a source, or whether it needs to cited, or whether something you are doing might be considered unethical, ask me about it as soon as possible, and especially before you put it in writing. There are no penalties for asking questions.

 

Writing Center

While I am available and willing to help you with your projects for this class, the reality is that I will not have time to work with each one of my students individually whenever they (you) might need help. The writing center, located in RB 291, provides free assistance and feedback for any writing projects you will have in this and any other classes. I worked there last semester, and I know they do good work. Visit the writing center website for more information.

 

Required Assignments

Since this is a Writing Program course, the focus of the class will be on developing and producing written texts. In addition to a few small assignments during the semester, there will be four major writing projects during the semester. Note that since you will be sharing your work with classmates during peer-review sessions, you should avoid writing about things you would not want the class to know about you.

 

Assignments may be turned in by either printing a hard copy and bringing it to class, or by emailing the work as a Microsoft Word (.doc) file. Use 12-point (size) Times New Roman, Helvetica, Cambria, or Arial font. If you forget to bring an assignment to class, you will need to email it to me by 5:00 PM the day it is due in order to avoid having it counted late.

 

The four major writing projects in this course are designed to work in a sequence and to build upon one another.

1. “Snap Judgment” Personal Essay

Snap Judgment” is a  radio show and podcast produced by National Public Radio (NPR) about “about the decisions that change everything. Storytelling. With a BEAT.” Gylnn Washington, host of the show, has said, “Snap Judgment is born of the energy in the slam poetry movement. This is slam storytelling.” In addition to producing stories for the radio show and podcast, Snap Judgment is also  a multimedia storytelling platform for the general public. That is, fans of the show can write, record, and produce videos to tell their stories, and upload them to the website for other fans of the show to read.

 

Taking our cue from Snap Judgment, our first writing project will require you to tell a story about a  pivotal or important event or time from your life. For some guidelines, refer to the “Tell Your Story” section of the Snap Judgment website. You are not required to submit your story to Snap Judgment, but extra credit will be available for those who do. Snap Judgment guidelines recommend stories be 6-9 minutes long, which translates to 3-5 pages of double-spaced text.

2. Artifact Analysis Project

For the second writing project, you will select an artifact (an object, character, phrase, place, concept, etc.) from your personal essay and analyze its significance in the culture in which you grew up. This will require you to describe and examine the artifact in detail, define your home culture in a specific way, and consider how your artifact “fits” in your culture. You will need to find at least 2 secondary sources for this assignment, and the finished project will need to be 3-5 double-spaced pages long.

3. “Broadening Your Horizons” Cultural Project

The third writing project will require you to take the artifact you analyzed in the second project and investigate its importance and relevance in a culture outside of the one in which you grew up. This could mean the culture of a foreign country, but it doesn’t necessarily have to; there are numerous different cultures within the United States itself (for example, rural Appalachian culture is significantly different from metropolitan Boston culture). Because cultures have different values and ways of expressing themselves, you might need to “translate” your artifact into a new form in order for it to make sense in the culture you study. Because the scope of this project is larger than the other writing projects, we will spend more time working on it. You will need to use at least 5 sources for this assignment, and the finished project will need to be 6-8 pages long.

4. Reflective Project

The fourth, and final, writing project will be a hybrid, combining individual and collaborative work, as well as multimodal presentation. The individual portion will be a personal reflection on how your understanding of your artifact has changed based on the research and writing you have done this semester (2-3 pages). Next, you will work in groups to prepare a multimodal presentation  about one or both (if possible) of your artifacts. Multimodal essentially means “something other than a normal written document,” and can include video, audio, performance, physical objects, etc. The presentations should be 5-10 minutes long and will be done in class.

 

Additionally, you will complete 4 minor assignments during the semester that are designed to help prepare you for the major projects. These will be a personal reaction, a rhetorical analysis, a cultural/personality quiz reflection, and a multimodal rhetorical analysis. Each assignment will be 600-700 words long.

Grading

Grading for this class will follow the Writing Program Rubric (available on BallPoint, page 10f). Note that in order to move on to ENG 104, you need to complete ENG 103 with a grade of at least a C. A grade of C- or lower means you will have to repeat ENG 103.

 

The grading scale for this class is 93-100 = A; 90-92 = A-; 88-89 = B+; 83-87 = B; 80-82 = B-; 78-79 = C+;73-77 = C; 70-72 = C-; 68-69 = D+; 63-67 = D; 60-62 = D-; 59 and below = F. (Remember, however, that a C or above is required to take ENG 104.)

 

Grading Breakdown: The grade for this class will be calculated out of a 1000-point total:

Personal essay 150
Artifact essay 200
Cultural essay 250
Reflective paper 100
Group project 100
Minor assignments 100
Participation/Engagement 110

 

 

 

Kinks Concert Canceled over “My Shari’a”

November 4, 2010

Norman, OK–In a special emergency session, the Oklahoma state legislature voted to block The Kinks from performing at Owen Field as part of the band’s reunion tour. The event had become controversial because of Kinks singer Ray Davies’ conversion to Islam and subsequent decision to rerelease the band’s hit song “My Sharona,” as “My Shari’a.”

Ponette (1996)

June 10, 2010
Victoire Thivisol was four years old when she played Ponette, a girl struggling to understand her mother’s death in a car accident. The range and depth of emotion she displays makes me a little worried about what director Jacques Doillon did to coax the performance out of her. Thivisol became the youngest actress to win Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, an honor for which Doillon gave her a puppy, as well.
At her mother’s funeral, Ponette’s young cousin Mathias tells her that her mother cannot come up from her grave because “they put a heavy cross on you to keep you in.” He adds, “Only zombies can come out.” As we watch Ponette try to adjust to her shattered world, it becomes clear that she has a heavy cross to bear herself.
Intending to comfort her, Ponette’s aunt Claire tells her the story of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. What the girl hears, though, is that she needs to sit and wait and not play until her mother comes back to life. Later, a Jewish girl at Ponette’s school leads her through a series of trials, such as traversing the ground they are pretending is made of lava, so that she can become a “child of God” and persuade God to listen to her prayers.
Doillon films many of Ponette’s scenes from a child’s eye perspective reminiscent of the “tatami level” point of view Yasujiro Ozu used in his films.  This camera placement, as well as the extraordinarily articulate performances of Thivisol and the other child actors in the film, gives their scenes a disconcertingly adult feel, an effect Doillon uses to emphasize the similarity between Ponette’s questions and those adults continue to grapple with their entire lives.

Rashomon (1950)

June 2, 2010
Taking shelter from a torrential rainstorm in a demon-haunted temple, two men struggle to comprehend the story of a murder. They have witnessed crimes before, but something about this one has left them shellshocked. One of them laments, “This time, I may finally lose my faith in the human soul.”
What follows in Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon is perhaps the most famous example of point-of-view storytelling in cinema, as four witnesses to the murder recount their wildly different, contradictory versions of the crime. The conflicting point-of-view narrative device has also been used in movies such as Harakiri, Hero, and Vantage Point.
Most point-of-view films use the device to gradually reveal the true events obscured and distorted by each teller’s version of the story, but Kurosawa uses it differently here, because with each version of the crime, the truth only becomes murkier. As one character says, “The more I hear, the more confused I get.”
All of the versions agree on a few points: Some articles of clothing and a rope were left in the forest; a wife and husband were attacked by Tajomaru (Toshiro Mifune), an infamous bandit; Tajomaru forces himself on the wife; the husband is killed. Beyond these basic facts, though, the stories become so convoluted and sordid it seems the real truth may never be known.
In Rashomon, Kurosawa is not seeking to simply solve a mystery. Indeed, it is difficult to say whether the mystery is ever solved at all. Instead, he paints a picture of hell: “If men don’t trust each other, this world might as well be hell.” When we cannot definitively know the truth, what is there to fall back on? Is there any way to trust people who might be lying to us?
In the end, Rashomon provides a sort of resolution, but as with the rest of the film, it all depends on interpretation. It might be an act of God, or it might just be a change in the weather.

Son of Man (2006)

May 24, 2010
If Jesus were alive on Earth today, and if he had been born in an African slum, what kinds of things would he care about? How would the era and culture shape his ministry? Son of Man seeks to explore these questions.
Working with the South African theater group Dimpho di Kopane, director Mark Dornford-May crafts a retelling of the life of Jesus that manages to incorporate many of the most familiar elements of the story, while at the same injecting life into it because of care he takes in grounding the film in a vividly modern setting.
Son of Man begins with the timeless story of the temptation in the desert, then abruptly cuts to a BBC-like report about the fighting between Herode’s militia and the insurgents in the “Afrikan Kingdom of Judea.” This juxtaposition of spiritual and real-world drama becomes a key motif throughout the film, as Jesus is shown giving equal concern to spiritual healing and political action. If anything, Son of Man spends more time on Jesus’ social mission.
We get to know the Jesus in Son of Man first as a child, playing with angels and warning his mother of the Magi’s impending visit. As he grows up, he participates in his native coming-of-age ritual, tells Mary he is leaving, and begins recruiting his disciples, four of whom are women (Simone, Philippa, Thaddea, and Andie).
After the death of Herode, many of Jesus’ followers want to take up arms against the new interim government, but Jesus tells them they will not need weapons to fight this battle. “Unrest is due to poverty, overcrowding and lack of education. We must prove we’re committed to nonviolent change; then negotiations can begin.”
The first of several Biblical miracles in Son of Man occurs at the end of a discourse Jesus gives on social injustice, touching on everything from child slavery in Asia to drug companies’ patenting and selling medicine at prices the poor will never be able to afford. Just as he finishes speaking, a sick boy is lowered through the roof, and Jesus heals him on the spot.
As word of Jesus’ miracles spreads, people in the towns he visits paint street murals commemorating the miraculous events. His increasing popularity, though, also attracts the attention of the interim government leaders, who are eager for an excuse to silence the revolutionary man.
In addition to the strongly visual elements of the film, Son of Man is also a highly musical story, with Mary singing the Magnificat in an operatic voice, the angels breaking into song at the birth of Jesus, and Jesus’ followers letting loose a visceral dirge when they learn of his death.

Evangelical Man Cracks Predestination Code

May 18, 2010
OVERLAND PARK, KS–Ever since he became a Christian at a junior high summer camp, Fred Robertson has wanted to spread the gospel. His evangelism was largely ineffective, though, until after he graduated from college and started a job as an efficiency consultant. For his job, he travels to various factories and advises the managers on the best ways to get the most out of their employees.
“The man-hours wasted every day in the American workplace is staggering,” explains Aaron Dowell, Robertson’s boss.
Since he started working for Dowell, Fred Robertson has learned that while boosting morale and increasing accountability are pathways to increased efficiency, they are not a miracle cure-all. “The approach doesn’t work on everyone,” says Robertson. “Some people just aren’t good workers.”
Robertson is a single man who lives alone, so when he is not away on a project, he has a lot of time to sit at home and think. One afternoon, he had a revelation.
“I could count on one hand the number of people I’ve led to Christ. And I realized my problem was that I was witnessing to anyone and everyone. I was working under the mindset that everyone I met could potentially become a Christian, and I was wasting my time.”
The previous Sunday, Robertson’s pastor, Mike Lemmer, preached a sermon on the doctrine of predestination, the belief that God has “already chosen everyone who will ever be saved.” Lemmer exhorted his congregation to take comfort and humility from their position as God’s chosen people, but Robertson came away with a different epiphany.
“If God has chosen who’s going to get saved, then that mean he also knows who he hasn’t chosen. In other words, he knows who the good workers and the bad workers are,” explains Robertson.
In order to increase his evangelism efficiency, Robertson decided to take a break from “just witnessing” in order to figure out who the predestined people of God are, and then to target his message to them. The problem, Robertson recalls, was to find out who God loves.
“At first, it was hard to narrow down my target audience. I mean, of course the liberals in Hollywood and New England were out, but I live in Kansas, so I wasn’t exactly running into them every day anyway. But I kept at it. I had to crack the code.”
Robertson spent a day parked across the street from a Planned Parenthood clinic writing down the license plates of cars in the parking lot, but the work of matching up plates with people was slow going. Eventually, he decided to simply stay away from the clinic altogether.
Later, Robertson researched on the internet. “I kept hearing all these Christians saying how much God hates gays and Democrats, so I crossed them off my list. I also–accidentally, let me assure you–found out there’s a strip club down a few miles down the highway. That place is dead, too. Spiritually dead, I mean.”
In his reading, Robertson came across a number of sermons from the 1970s and 1980s condemning rock and roll musicians, as well as anyone who listened to that kind of music. He did not stop there, however.
“One of the most important things in preaching the gospel is contextualization. That means you think about what the message was back then and figure out what it means today. And today, rock music isn’t all that controversial. There are even Christian rock singers now. But around here, no one likes all that hip-hop rap stuff. Once I realized that, I knew all that Mexican hip-swinging dancing music had to go, too.”
Given the prevalence of “ethnic music” in the cultures in which it originates, Robertson decided to leave out every minority he could think of. “African Americans, Mexicans, Arabs, Chinese, Europeans, none of them are worth my time,” says Robertson.
The further along he got in his predestination study, Robertson made a startling discovery. “Everyone who could be saved, they already were saved. That was such a relief,” he recalls. “It made my job so much easier.”
When asked about his current evangelism activities, Robertson replies, “I don’t witness that much anymore. Now, I mostly just spend my time thanking God that I made the cut.”

2010 Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing, Post 2

April 20, 2010

1st post is here.

More highlights:

Eugene Peterson spoke about the vocational fusion of pastors and writers, the “badlands,” and Labrador puppies. He prefaced his talk by saying that he has been thinking over his life a lot recently because he is in the process of writing a memoir about his life as a pastor and a writer, two pursuits he sees as linked by their shared focus on the lived qualities of theology and the sacred qualities of language, which have drawn him into new ways of living. While he was a young pastor, Peterson entered a time of his life that he called “The Badlands,” after the arid region in South Dakota. During this time of dryness, he begin writing more seriously, and to see himself as a contemplative, rather than competitive pastor; disillusioned with the “business model” philosophy of church growth, he learned to listen and see the world around him. This led him to a new understanding of his calling as a pastor, which was now to lead his followers in “making a home in the gospel.” Earlier in life, Peterson had been an “intently haphazard” Labrador puppy, running after whatever caught his attention. But after his time of dryness and searching, he concluded, “In the Badlands, I learned to sit. Amen.”

Some of my favorite sessions at the festival were focused not so much on writing, but on films. Barbara Nicolosi, director of the Act One program (training Christians to work in Hollywood with excellence and professionalism), spoke about the importance of good imagery, both in writing and in filmmaking, using the wooden leg in Flannery O’Connor’s story “Good Country People” as an example of an image that has a concrete meaning within the story, as well as larger metaphorical implications. Much of the power of this image, Nicolosi said, comes from the fact that the story never spells out exactly what the wooden leg “means”; instead, O’Connor leaves it to the reader to ruminate on what this “puzzle for the soul” might imply.

Joe Kickasola began his session with the provocative (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek) proclamation that “words don’t matter. They’re just hood-ornaments for images.” His point was that we often become bogged down by words and explanations, when we should instead allow ourselves to be dazzled by images we cannot necessarily explain. Kickasola illustrated his points with clips from several films–including The Son and The Decalogue–that showed how the wordless language of film can leave a lasting and mysterious impression.

I also attended a panel discussion by Nicolosi, Kickasola, and Calvin professor Roy Anker titled “Faith, Film, and Fidelity,” which billed itself as a discussion of why many of the most spiritually profound and significant recent films were not made by Christians. Nicolosi explained that Christian filmmakers often make the “bad imagery” mistakes she cautioned against in her earlier session, but went on to talk about the generational shift she is seeing in Hollywood right now. The new generation of filmmakers she (and Kickasola as well) are seeing are reacting against the mantras of their Baby Boomer parents (including those of the sexual revolution) and are instead seeking commitment and lasting relationships, as illustrated in the film Up in the Air. What we are perhaps seeing, the panel agreed, is the end of cynicism, giving way to a more hopeful era.

In Praise of Love (2001)

April 20, 2010
Edgar wants to make a movie about love, showing it from the perspectives of three different couples–one young, one adult, and one old. No matter how he approaches the project, though, he runs into the same problem: He cannot figure out how to convincingly depict adult love, or even come to a clear understanding of what it is.
Edgar’s struggle with this project is shown in the meandering, strikingly-composed, black-and-white first half of In Praise of Love. He runs lines with a prospective leading couple, but the words sound wrong; he wanders past homeless men on the street; he debates the nature of memory; and he is haunted by a woman.
Throughout In Praise of Love, the camera goes dark in the middle of a scene, as if it is blinking, and words occasionally appear in the darkness. The most frequent phrase is “De Quelque Chose De L’Amour” (roughly, the “trifles and trinkets of love”).
The second half of In Praise of Love shifts abruptly, moving from 35-mm black-and-white film to color digital video. It shifts in time, as well, to two years in the past–Godard uses the change in cinematography to suggest that the past can be brighter and more vibrant than the present.
The “two years ago” story centers on American film developers from “Spielberg Associates and Incorporated” who have come to buy the rights to the story of two French resistance fighters, now an aged couple struggling to pay their bills. ”The Americans have no real past,” one character says, criticizing the Americans’ interference. ”They have no memory of their own. They buy the pasts of other people, and sell images.”
Godard’s motivation for showing this flashback is not just to denigrate ugly Americans (a charge leveled by A.O. Scott in his New York Times review of the film), however; the resistance fighters’ granddaughter meets Edgar during these scenes, as well, and their meeting seems to leave a lasting impression on him.

2010 Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing, Post 1

April 18, 2010

First, a partial list of the writers and speakers I heard this weekend:

Sara Zarr

Scott Cairns

Barbara Nicolosi

Wally Lamb

Joe Kickasola

Eugene Peterson

Kate DiCamillo

Lawrence Dorr

Richard Rodriguez

James Schaap, Luci Shaw, and Robert Siegel

Gene Yuen Lang

Mary Karr

Next, a few highlights:

I went to two of Sara Zarr’s sessions–a reading on Thursday morning and a more structured presentation on Friday afternoon. The title for her Friday session was “Young Adult Fiction and the Stewardship of Pain,” a phrase she borrowed from a Frederick Buechner sermon. Zarr is often some asked questions such as, “Why are your books so depressing? Shouldn’t we protect children? Why do you let your characters make bad choices?” These, she argued, are the wrong questions, because pain is an inescapable part of life; a better approach is to ask what to do with the pain. And by dismissing or ignoring pain, adults miss a crucial opportunity to model for young people what a complete human being can be, which is possibly the most important influence adults can have on children. I appreciated the passion and severity with which Sara approaches YA fiction, and also the way she synthesized her writing with her real-world philosophy of what it means, and how important it is, to be an adolescent.

Scott Cairns delivered one of the festival’s best lines when he related the response of a well-meaning evangelical who questioned a Eastern Orthodox priest with whom Cairns was studying: The evangelical asked, “Is Jesus Christ your personal savior?” The priest replied, “No, I like to share him.” As humorous as this line is, it also served to illustrate Cairns’s topic, namely that “Embodied Faith” (that is, salvation as a living incarnational life) is as much a communal pursuit as an individual one, a deliverance from the death-in-life routine that results in the awareness of the Kingdom of God in the here and now.

*More highlights to come*

PS I took notes at most of the sessions I attended, so let me know if you specifically want to hear about any of the speakers I listed.

Pickpocket (1959)

April 5, 2010
At first glance, Robert Bresson seems like an incompetent director. In Pickpocket, his actors move stiffly, reciting their lines with hardly any emotion; he skips over what seem like important dramatic moments and lingers on seemingly trivial ones; background music is rarely used, and it shows up in unexpected places when it does; and his star speaks more lines in voiceover than through dialogue.
It was decisions like this that led filmmaker Paul Schrader, in an introduction to the Criterion Collection edition of Pickpocket, to call Bresson a “perverse” director. Schrader was not pointing some kind of moral aberration in the director, however. Instead, he meant that Bresson’s style works in ways that run counter to traditional filmmaking. That is, where most directors would add elements and flourishes to underscore their storytelling, Bresson takes things away, keeping the audience off-balance and stripping the story down to its most elemental components.
Pickpocket follows Michel, a rootless Parisian man whose life seemingly consists of two things: thieving and brooding in his room. He has a ill mother whom he rarely visits, even though he says he loves her more than he loves himself. His only other human connections are with his pickpocketing accomplices and with Jeanne, a woman who lives next to his mother.
In one scene, Michel espouses his philosophy: “Can we not admit that certain skilled men, gifted with intelligence, talent or even genius, and thus indispensible to society, rather than stagnate, should be free to disobey laws in certain cases?” When asked how these supermen should be selected, he replies that they will select themselves. He considers laws absurd and tells Jeanne, “I believed in God for three minutes.”
Bresson allows Michel to continue on his destructive path, presenting his crimes as matter-of-factly as possible. In the preface to the film, Bresson emphasizes that Pickpocket is not a thriller; instead, it expresses the nightmare of a man whose weakness leads him to theft, but that also leads two people to meet who might not have otherwise done so.
It is in this meeting, which comes only after Michel’s prodigality has finally run its course, that Pickpocket at last allows a glimpse of emotional release and spiritual connection. The moment is made all the more effective because of the restraint Bresson has imposed on the rest of the movie. He knew what he was doing all along.