Submit to Brainstorm, Expo’s Student Writing Journal!


I encourage you all to submit your work to our magazine, Brainstorm! 

Brainstorm is the Expository Writing Program’s journal of student writing.  Sample issues are available on the Brainstorm web page.

All Expo students are invited to submit an essay from their Expostory Writing class for possible inclusion in Brainstorm. At the end of each term, a selection committee will choose 3-5 of these submissions and invite the authors to revise their essays for publicaton.

The deadline to submit essays from Sping 2017 classes is  Wednesday, May 17th, by 12 PM (noon).

To submit an essay (the process takes 5 minutes at most):

  1.  Go to the Expo site:
  2. Click the “Submit an essay” button at left under the Brainstorm cover image
  3. Fill out the online form and upload an essay


Tupac: Introduction & “Resurrection”

The image featured on this page comes from a product released roughly a decade after Tupac’s death:  questions about artistic “afterlife”, which for Byron and Wilde perhaps seemed a relatively vague part of cultural history, are more prominent with respect to 2Pac’s career.  

Consider the above a way of leading into my initial questions: are we in the “present” now? Or does Tupac feel like another historical figure? Tupac Shakur died September 13, 1996; if that was your birthday, you’d be 20 years old today.  Once upon a time, professors taught 2Pac so that young people could “relate.” Does that still apply? Or has 2Pac come to feel “historical” or “classic”? (Defining those terms, of course, should seem like a good idea….)  These questions help us think about motive, which we’ll all be thinking more about as we think about research paper topics:  what makes a contemporary artist matter?


Now, to the documentary, one of our two introductory texts.

The documentary Tupac: Resurrection was authorized by 2Pac’s mother; the Wikipedia biographical entry, “Tupac Shakur” is authored by some 3,000 individual writers. Two very different texts, then, with very different purposes. By juxtaposing these texts, I mean to suggest that the “real” Tupac is not going to be an easy figure to find–and maybe that shouldn’t even be our goal. Tupac will let us begin to think about revisions of the “classic” poet-rockstar concept (exemplified by Byron and Wilde); he exists in a world where the mass media are inseparable from the process of star production and where the starring role is no longer necessarily occupied by a white man of European descent.

Let’s start with a comparative question: questions of “reliability” seem both crucial and complicated with respect to these two texts. Wikipedia has its own particular standards for “objectivity”; a biography authorized by Tupac Shakur’s estate will potentially have very different standards.

Where does the biopic’s lack of “objectivity” hurt it; where does it work in the film’s favor?  Be as specific as possible in your references.

If you want to comment on more general “poet-rockstar” moments, where the film’s depiction of Tupac resonates with our image of the poet-rockstar, you can do that as well!



Tupac Shakur Biopic…..too late!

Here’s a link to a LA Times article from two months ago, summarizing the complicated story behind the “long-awaited” 2Pac biopic:

Tupac Shakur biopic ‘All Eyez on Me’ will arrive on late rapper’s birthday

(To the best of my knowledge, no subsequent delays have been announced…)

The film will not arrive in theaters in time for class viewing…if you do end up seeing it, you’ll have Byron and Wilde as examples for comparison!


Oscar Wilde and the Mass Media

In January 1882, Oscar Wilde arrived in New York to begin his American lecture tour. To the custom officer’s usual question, he is said to have answered: “I have nothing to declare except my genius.” This often repeated comment may be more legend than truth,  but it fit the narrative of the time of Wilde as a brilliant literary celebrity from across the Atlantic come to grandly edify the American public—and it continues to fit our own era’s narrative of Wilde as a self-fashioned creature and master of publicity. Accordingly, soon after disembarking, he arranged to have his portrait taken by Napoleon Sarony, then the city’s preeminent portrait photographer. Sarony claimed to have photographed “200,000 people, 30,000 of whom were famous.” (from Laurence DuMortier’s “Oscar Wilde’s Multitudes: Against Limiting His Photographic Iconography”)

“Nothing to declare but my genius”: this witty statement defines “genius” in a traditional, Romantic fashion.  [Our linked resource on “Oscar Wilde in America” offers a detailed discussion of this mythical quotation’s provenance.]  Only months later, Wilde was involved in a lawsuit that set the stage for our contemporary understanding of intellectual property. From the world of fame to the world of celebrity: Oscar Wilde’s life spanned the transition….

Below is a commercial image, the source of the first (but not the last!) famous legal case involving the image of Oscar Wilde.

This photograph is the central exhibit in the case of “Burrow-Giles v Sarony.” The former were a lithographic company who produced the advertising image attached here; the latter was the portrait photographer Napoleon Sarony, who had taken that photograph of Wilde, originally known as “Oscar Wilde No. 18,” along with about 50 others.

Michael North has written about a related use of Sarony’s images, one by a cigar company.  (The image below, of a collectable cigar card from 1882 featuring Wilde, is drawn from his article.) North comments on the Burrow-Giles decision as follows (North, “”The Picture of Dorian Gray,”” 186):

In making its decision, the Court had to contend …with the challenge that photography poses to traditional definitions of artistic creativity. Burrow-Giles argued that a photograph cannot be protected by copyright because it is the result of a mechanical operation, an automatic process, and thus is not a truly authored work. By this argument, a photograph is merely a copy struck from reality … The Court held, however, that the taking of a photograph can, though it need not always, involve “novelty, invention, originality” …

Our short reading from the New York Times, an article which was published before the case was decided, asked in its headline the provocative question “Did Sarony Invent Wilde?”

I want us to think about Wilde as a figure who was aware of his own image from the very beginning; and to (re) introduce questions of originality and property: who owns (literally, metaphorically) the image of an author?  Does it seem right that Wilde (who was not, himself, interested in this American legal case…) had no ownership rights in these images?  Did Sarony invent Wilde?