I assign this as the first major writing assignment in my literature courses. I preface this essay with the powerful paragraph assignment and the close reading paragraph.
For your first major essay, you will practice your interpretation and close reading skills, using them to present your particular reading of a text. Choose one literary text from our first few weeks of class. Support your precise analysis (and your specific, arguable thesis statement) with your own thoroughly elaborated discussion of a few well-chosen direct quotes from the text. Some potential prompts:
Analyze a specific type of imagery or another motif you notice in one of the texts we’ve read.
Track a word, phrase, or description you notice occurring more than twice in a text. Analyze who uses this word, its definition(s), and its context within each occurrence.
Focus on the ways a particular punctuation mark can be read based on the speaker and context; find other ambiguous punctuation to put into conversation with this occurrence.
Track the varying narrative voices. How can we tell who is speaking at a given moment, and why is it important given the content of the language, the context of the passage, and the themes in the text?
Use your claim from the powerful paragraph as a starting point, and expand your thinking and analysis to essay-length form.
Come up with your own question to write about, and propose it to me by Tuesday, Feb. 14
This assignment is intended to be all about your interpretations as a reader, rather than your use of outside sources. Please don’t look up Internet sources for your ideas, including things like GradeSaver, Shmoop, SparkNotes, etc. Use your annotations as a starting point—through these marks on the page, you have already collected ideas about things you notice occurring, things that interest you, things that incite a visceral response (negative or positive), and things that confuse you. Although this is an academic paper for a literature course, this kind of writing exercises skills that you will need for future courses, future writing projects, and other important tasks after you get your degree. Going from an initial reading of a text to the construction of an original thesis about it forces you to examine details, to fit seemingly disparate pieces of information into a larger framework, and to be creative and original in your thinking. Organizing your paper and picking quotations to use as evidence helps you to learn what makes an argument convincing to a reader, as well as simply what makes your writing both easily comprehensible AND interesting. If you’re having trouble writing, or even just coming up with a topic or thesis, talk it over with me during office hours.
Choosing a text: At this point in the semester, we have read Northanger Abbey and “The Cask of Amontillado.” Next week we begin A Study in Scarlet, and we will read “Black Dog,” “The Canasta Club,” Trifles, "A Woman is Talking to Death," and excerpts from Bitch Planet before the essay is due. Any of these would make a great text to interpret for your essay--feel free to read ahead! Important Dates:
Draft Due: Thursday, February 16
Please upload to ICON two or more pages containing at least a “skeleton” of your essay—in other words, a basic outline of your points, passages you plan to read closely, etc. I will provide feedback at this stage, so the more you have, the better!) An example of this outline is available on ICON.
Bring two printed copies of the draft of your essay to class for a peer workshop that day
Final Draft Due: Friday March 3 by 11:59 p.m.
Upload the final draft to ICON on Friday
The essay should be at least 4 full pages in length with the assigned font, spacing, and margins
It should be double spaced, with 12 point Times New Roman font, and MLA formatting
Although you will only one source, please include a Works Cited page. For help with formatting, please refer to the example sheet on Canvas or the Purdue OWL website.
The paper should be clearly written, free from errors, and written in a professional tone. It should have a strong thesis statement, fully developed and explained ideas supported by evidence in the form of well-placed and well-chosen quotes from the text, and logical organization with clear transitions.
Capture the reader’s attention with an intriguing introduction and leave the reader with something to think about in your
Don’t forget to give your work an interesting title! (Hint: NOT “Essay 1”).
Rubric: See the uploaded rubric on ICON for details. Missing any stage of the writing process (the rough draft and in-class workshop) will result in 1/3 letter grade drop for each missed step. So, if your final draft is a B-, but you did not turn in a draft to workshop, that grade drops to a C+. Completing all stages of the writing process promptly and competently is important and will result in a more thoughtful, polished interpretation than one written under the influence of panic and caffeine the night before. As the syllabus states, late papers will be docked 1 letter grade for every day late up to three days. Late papers submitted after three days will not be accepted. If you are having trouble with an assignment, please talk to me well before the due date.