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Commemoration of Robert Mapplethorpes Death Memorandum Scenario

Commemoration of Robert Mapplethorpes Death Memorandum Scenario

Commemoration of Robert Mapplethorpes Death Memorandum Scenario



This week’s theme was Culture and Morality. Lectures and reading examined the interplay between the politics of morality and the impact of morality on culture, especially the arts. We also examined three episodes of censorship. This week’s prompts will encourage you to consider these themes in greater depth.


Pick one of the prompts below and write an essay (400-700 words) in response in formal academic English. (So basically, your best grammar, punctuation and spelling; citations for quoted materials; paragraphing; and an internal structure to the essay—e.g., intro, body, conclusion.) For citations, please use footnotes or endnotes.

If you are unfamiliar with footnote citation systems, please consult online resources that explain them. The Turabian system and the University of Chicago system are nearly identical. The websites linked below organize the material in different ways; so, consult the one you find more readable: (Links to an external site.) OR (Links to an external site.)

PROMPTS (pick one)

New Instruction: Please underline the thesis of your paper. And cut and paste the prompt you select at the top of your essay! Thank you.

  1. YOU ARE THE MUSEUM DIRECTOR! As the Director of a city-owned public art gallery, you would like to commemorate the 30th anniversary or Robert Mapplethorpe’s death by staging an exhibition of his work. Your museum is located in a medium-sized city in the Bible Belt (an area of the country where evangelical religion is popular and potent). Your bosses, the Board of Trustees, worry that your plan will cause the City Council (who provide 30% of the museum’s operating budget) to cut funding. They also worry about public protest. They have suggested you either cancel the exhibit or remove some of the more controversial images. Write a two-page memo (let’s say, about 400-700 words) in which you either agree to cancel the exhibit or that you want to continue with your plans. Whichever you choose, your position must be justified with references to issues discussed in this week’s reading or lecture.
  • You may answer this prompt using whatever ideas you wish to highlight. If you’re stuck, please consider the questions below as possible topics you might address in your memo:
    • Does the artist’s work still shock the sensibility? Or have the once-edgy images lost their ability to shock over time?
    • Do you believe work like Mapplethorpe’s should only be shown in big cities, or should smaller cities like yours also exhibit avant garde work?
    • The assigned newspaper article demonstrates that Mapplethorpe’s work in 2018 in Portugal still could draw protests and cost a museum director their job. Could that happen here?
    • Robert Meyer’s essay discusses the Mapplethorpe controversy at length. Can his ideas be used to support continuing (or abandoning) the show?
    • While the Board of Trustees is concerned about backlash if the exhibit proceeds, might there not also be a backlash if the exhibit gets canceled? Who would that upset and why?
    • Would it be censorship if the museum chose to cancel the show or to remove some of the images?

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