can you add at east a few pages to this?
This essay should argue for the literary, cultural, or political significance of one or more of the
course’s assigned texts; the topic is subject to my pre-approval but otherwise up to you. Please
frame your argument as part of a larger intellectual conversation by citing at least three relevant
outside sources – e.g., book or film reviews, “middlebrow” essays (e.g., The Nation, New
Republic, or National Review), or academic books or articles (such as those found in the journal
Science Fiction Studies).
Effective scholarly writing often uses the “They Say, I Say” model, in which you summarize and
critique what other critics have said about your topic, then indicate how your understanding
differs from theirs, and finally defend that understanding with a well-reasoned argument of your
In The Philosophy of Literary Form, the literary theorist Kenneth Burke explains this dialogical
conception of literary study like this:
Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long
preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated
for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had
already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified
to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you
decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar.
Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns
himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent,
depending upon the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is
interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the
discussion still vigorously in progress.
For practical guidance on joining in on Burke’s “unending conversation,” I recommend the book
They Say, I Say, by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein.
In your formal essay you should assume your audience is intelligent and reasonably well
informed, but not familiar with literary-critical jargon or the specific texts you will be discussing.