Brainstorming Topics for Paradigm Shift Essay

Since our paradigm shift essays are supposed to discuss changing cultural trends, I was thinking of writing about how what is considered “good manners” in general have changed since early Colonial times, or maybe as far back as medieval history. If you look through a lot of classical literature, especially books by Jane Austen, you can see a lot of different rules of etiquette that are no longer in common practice today. For instance, people today rarely bow to each other unless it is on a formal occasion. In Jane Austen’s time period, people bowed during introductions and everyday greetings. Table manners have also have changed. This was one of the first topic ideas that came to my mind (probably because I really like reading Jane Austen books), but it might be difficult to find information on this trend. I tried doing a Google search but I didn’t come up with a lot of official-looking .edu/.gov sources that linked any of these manners to present day manners or how etiquette has changed over time. I did find a couple of  blogspot sources and interesting magazine articles though that talked about each era separately, so I might be able to base my research off from there, or else reference actual etiquette books like The Book of the Courtier from the Renaissance period!

Another idea I had was to look at how concepts of beauty has changed throughout the ages. I mean, if you look at the portraits of many members of the royalty or upper class in the past, a lot of them seemed rounder, plumper, and well, healthier. Today, it seems almost the complete opposite — incredibly starving-looking supermodels (probably starting with Twiggy) are popularized by the media as being “beautiful”. For instance, for much of European history, pale skin was considered a sign of wealth and status (ie. nobles who did not have to do manual labor), while tanned skin was considered a sign of the working class (peasants, workers in the field, etc). Today, pale skin generally has a different connotation, like being cooped up in an office all day while a tan might now signify having enough time for a vacation and so on. These ideas have changed a lot over time, so it might be interesting to look at this change, or paradigm shift, as well.

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2 Responses to Brainstorming Topics for Paradigm Shift Essay

  1. Those are both great ideas! Personally, I find the idea of body modification and trends in beauty especially interesting. It’s odd to think that our society, who have one of the highest obesity ratings in the world, are inspired and strive to be stick thin. After travelling to Europe a few times, I’ve found that society’s where models assume a shape geared more towards a standard of health, the population as a whole tends to be healthier. Perhaps, as a society, we need to move from an unrealistic idea of body shape, to one of health for our models. I can’t wait to see what you choose!

  2. Wow you wrote a lot of thoughts on the topic already. Nice! I also really like your ideas! They do include some things that are maybe a little problematic, but also really interesting to think about without the positive or negative connotations. Beauty surrounds culture a lot. What we consider is beautiful as well as the number of different synonyms and definitions for beauty/beautiful I think have changed. Aesthetics seem to have always been important in some respect, but in what way is different in each time period/culture.

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