English 102 Essay Assignment

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Question description

Essay 1: Formalist Criticism

Write a 4-5-page paper that demonstrates a formalist criticism on either the literary technique of catharsis, or irony. A formalist analysis looks at how different literary elements combine to form a whole and render an effect on the reader. Choose from the two plays, Antigone or Oedipus the King, and answer either:

  1. How do the literary elements building up to catharsis inform your interpretation of the play?
  2. To what extent does one or two ironic elements of the play inform your interpretation?

Aristotle’s “On the Elements and General Principles of Tragedy,” our online guide to literary terms, as well as additional research on literary techniques should greatly help you at reaching your own interpretation. Here are some elements to consider.

Tragic plot elements: beginning, middle, end (whole), magnitude, mimesis (action), inciting incident, climax, recognition, peripety (ironic twist), catharsis.

Tragic hero characteristics: inherently good, tragic flaw, downfall.

  There is no “correct” answer.  Support your ideas with quotes and examples from the plays.  Use the objective voice (i.e. don’t say, “I think X is more important than Y,” but rather, “X is more important than Y.”)

In the introduction to your essay, give an overview of what you plan to say.  (You don‘t need quotes in this part of the paper.)  Include the titles and authors of each piece.  Define any terms you will be using in an unusual manner.

In the body of your paper, use quotations and paraphrases for each example you use.  Use the three-part method of organizing quotations:

  1. Set up the quote, putting it in a context, and using a signal phrase.
  2. Cite the quote, choosing the most important sentence or phrase and making use of ellipses, if needed.  Use MLA style.
  3. Comment on the quote analytically, explaining it and its connection to your idea(s).

In the conclusion of your paper, summarize what you have said, and go further with your idea(s).  You may add extra information, make a prediction about society in the future, cite a personal anecdote (if you do this, you may use the subjective voice:  “I think”), etc..  What you should not do is reiterate exactly what you have already said.  Keep it interesting for the reader.  Include a Works Cited page, in correct MLA style.

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School: Carnegie Mellon University
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