12 Years a Slave as a Bridge to Primary Source Research

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Gordon Mantler

Abstract

This historical analysis essay on the film 12 Years a Slave and several primary sources bridges earlier skills-based writing prompts with the final research project. It asks students to practice several essential writing moves that reflect the disciplinary approach of historians, without forgetting the concerns of film studies and literature scholars, and even filmmakers. Such moves include conducting careful primary source analysis and interrogation as a historian would; beginning to find sources on one's own (rather than being provided already curated materials); and formally analyzing a film in-depth, including commenting on filmmakers' techniques and how such choices impact the content that viewers witness.

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References

Harris, J. (2006). Rewriting: How to do things with texts. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press.

McQueen, S. (2013). 12 years a slave. Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Rosenstone, R. (2012). History on film/Film on history (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Toplin, R. (2014). 12 years a slave examines the old South’s heart of darkness. Perspectives on History, 52(1), 39–40.