Ehrenreich’s The Hearts of Men

| March 29, 2015

Use the readings by Graebner, Coontz, and the opening chapters of Ehrenreich’s The Hearts of Men for this assignment. Select a specific theme found in advertising from this period and craft an argument about the ways in which a contemporary ad repeats and reworks that message. Suggested themes: look for contrasts that may revolve around such opposites as war (public, nationalistic, pragmatic, realistic, etc. although also sentimental) or peace (private, familial, idealistic, etc.); public sphere vs. private/domestic sphere; production vs. consumption; sacrifice/denial vs. hedonism/pleasure, or an emphasis on democracy (equality) vs. an emphasis on freedom (individualism). You might also examine broader themes like the construction of gender (femininity or masculinity), race/ethnicity, the American dream, or the American family.

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Two New Zealand schoolgirls - Anna Devathasan and Jenny Suo - undertook a school science experiment testing for traces of Vitamin C. Testing of the Ribena Drink manufactured by Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) showed almost no trace of Vitamin C. The product’s advertising claimed "...the blackcurrants in Ribena have four times the Vitamin C of oranges." The girls wrote to GSK. Following no response they then telephoned the organisation who treated them rudely, ignoring their questions. The girls' claims were then featured in a local TV consumer affairs program which suggested they take their findings to the NZ Government Commerce Commission. Following an inquiry the Commerce Commission took GSK to court on charges relating to misleading advertising. GSK pleaded guilty and in addition to being fined by the Court, GSK was ordered to place advertisements in major metropolitan New Zealand newspapers to correct its mistakes. GSK made efforts to geographically contain the issue to New Zealand, however the story received disproportionate publicity around the world. GSK got caught in a ‘perfect storm
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