This essay asks you to demonstrate the usual essay-writing skills, but further, it asks also that you demonstrate your mastery of library and Internet research skills and of careful, thorough documentation. It offers you the chance to read widely and deeply on a particular subject; to think insightfully about a topic; and to use the voices of others to help you to support your own argument. With this assignment, you will work within the world of academic research, which will undergird much of the other work you do in college.
For this assignment, you will see what other literary critics are saying about your chosen author’s work, and you will add your voice to that conversation. This reading will suggest alternative views of and, ultimately, will deepen your understanding of the writer’s work and of the characters and issues within it. Then, incorporating other voices into your essay will provide support as you explain your own interpretation.
Make your essay's focus the significance of your chosen subject. Think about the importance of what occurs in the plot--the importance of characters' decisions and actions, the characters' motives, and the outcomes. Consider what you see as the significance of these examples. What do they reveal to us? Might we learn anything from them, or benefit from them in any way? Of course, the story will appeal to our imagination or our sense of curiosity. But, beyond this, what does it, consciously or unconsciously, express? In what ways does it work to shape our attitudes and perceptions about life? To shape or mold our collective values? Analyze the way that a story presents its point of view about a theme or question at its plot's center.
As part of your completion of the larger writing assignment, you will also be writing a prospectus for your essay, as well as giving a presentation on your research.
Compose an argumentative paper that uses research to support its argument.
Use reliable, credible sources.
Examine a significant issue that Macbeth explores, perhaps related to deception, desire, evil, influence, misplaced confidence, temptation, or unintended consequences. Analyze the point of view that the play expresses about a dominant idea and the way(s) by which the play expresses it (its characterization, its contrasts and parallels, its imagery,...).
Read three works (books, plays, short stories,...) written by an author and write an essay analyzing this writer’s style. What stylistic features (such as a particular kind of irony or a certain type of symbolism) and characterization features (such as a particular point of view on human nature or a certain point of view on a particular issue) mark a style unique to the author? Note that this is not a biographical assignment. The facts of Jane Austen’s or of Edgar Allan Poe’s life matter far less than the use of particular types of irony or of the macabre in the author’s work. Concentrate on the characteristics that let you know that you are reading Austen or Poe.
Examine the use of witches, ghosts, superstition, or other other-worldly subject in a particular work (Macbeth, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Doctor Who,...) or in a two-works comparison and contrast essay. In what ways does the other-worldly contribute to the story’s expression of its point of view on one of its significant issues or to its point of view (positive, cynical, pessimistic,...) on human nature? Note that this is not a historical assignment about an overview of witchcraft or of attitudes to witches. Analyze the function or the portrayal of witches in one or two specific texts. (Ex. address the psychological insights Terry Pratchett achieves through his Discworld; Ex. address what Twilight reveals about cultural thoughts about romance or male-female relations)
An analysis of a specific character in a particular work (Ex. addressing the idea of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind or of Nancy Drew in the Nancy Drew series as a feminist character; Ex. addressing the appeal of Harry Potter as a hero for young—or for older—readers)
A comparison and contrast of two similar characters in two authors’ works
Analyze the way that a children's book uses rhetorical devices and language to teach children about morals and values while at the same time appealing to the inquisitive nature of a child and his/her imagination. Think about children's literature as something that shapes attitudes and perceptions about life and what it means to be "normal." Make an analytical argument about how a single piece of children's literature shapes or molds children's collective values, and creates a certain perception of the world, all while appealing to their sense of curiosity and imagination.
An analysis of a specific image functioning in a single or occurring in several works (Example: what symbols, such as windows and doors, represent in Wuthering Heights; Ex. the use of moon imagery in certain plays, poems, novels)
A study of a particular writer’s use of a specific genre’s literary techniques (e.g., rhyme in sonnets, soliloquy in drama, metaphor in …)
An analysis of theme within a particular work or of a repetitive, common theme within a particular writer’s works (Ex. religious themes or symbols in Annie Dillard’s works; Ex. guilt and damnation in Kafka’s stories; Ex. the Irish nationalism of William Butler Yeats)
An analysis of the function of setting in a particular work or in a particular writer’s works, such as an analysis of its impact on the characters and/or plot
An analysis of the use of symbolism, satire, allegory, metaphor, or other technique in a particular work or in a particular writer’s works
Analyze a writer’s use of a specific genre’s literary techniques
Analyze an author’s use of humor or of tragedy throughout his/her works
A "deconstruction" of a particular work or a reading of a work based on an outside philosophical perspective or political perspective (Ex. unfolding an underlying racist worldview in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness; Ex. performing a Freudian read of Hamlet or a Marxist read William Blake's "London") (See the OWL’s excellent pages on “Writing in Fiction”:https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/4/17/.)
Reasons for or against the inclusion or exclusion of a particular work in a literature or a composition class.
Address how a particular series by one author develops, changes, maintains common symbols or metaphors, etc.
A comparison and contrast of a particular writer’s early works with later ones
A comparison and contrast of an adaptation of a work (e.g., movie, video game, comic book, TV program) with the original (Ex. comparing G.B. Shaw's Pygmalion with the original Greek myth of Pygmalion) Note that this is a comparison and contrast essay. Find points of both similarity and difference.