HUMN / ENGL 150 -- SPRING 2007 -- PAPER 2

Length:  7-10 double-spaced, typed pages

Due: Monday, April 30, 2007

As specified in the syllabus/policies statement for the course, you must write a 7-10 page essay analyzing the works we have examined in order to argue a thesis about those works that addresses one or more of the historical and/or philosophical topics we have discussed thus far. This assignment will require you to use at least two outside sources to assist in developing your argument about the text; sources must be clearly cited in the text, must be clearly documented in a "Works Cited" list, and must follow MLA citation formatting style.

You will have an individual meeting with me during the week of April 16-20 in order to go over your first draft of the paper.  You should begin your prewriting immediately--thinking about the works we've examined, brainstorming and making lists, beginning a tentative outline, etc.

You should avoid simply summarizing the work you decide to write about. While your essay may begin with a short summary in order to set context, you should be certain to analyze rather than to summarize. One way to avoid summary is crafting an argumentative thesis that takes an arguable point of view on the novel, a point of view that will require support from the text itself.

Suggested topics include:

1. Compare Hobbes and Rousseau in terms of their views on human nature in the excerpts we read from Leviathan and Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men; more specifically, consider their views on property, violence, and the "state of nature."

2. Consider the relation between Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Rousseau's Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men. In what ways does Shelley's monster seem to illustrate or respond to Rousseau's ideas about humanity?

3. Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, famously argued for women's rights in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. How does her daughter incorporate her mother's ideas into Frankenstein?

4. The subtitle of Frankenstein is "The Modern Prometheus," and one of the books that the monster uses to educate himself is John Milton's Paradise Lost. Consider Frankenstein and the monster in light of the two paradigmatic rebels of these stories: Prometheus and Satan.

5. Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness imagines the breakdown of rationality in European conquerors as they venture deeper into the African continent. What does Africa represent for Conrad? Consider Chinua Achebe's argument that Conrad's depiction of Africa depend upon racial stereotypes that undercut the ostensible political and philosophical themes of the book?

6. Compare Marx and Engels' Communist Manifesto and Emma Goldman's "What I Believe" in terms of how they depend upon and develop assumptions about human nature put forward in our previous readings.

You are also free to suggest a topic or focus of your own, but in this case, you should discuss your idea with me soon.


Suggested Approach:

1.  Look back over the work(s) you are dealing with, until you think you have an idea of the overall theme or thesis or meaning.  Jot down notes as you read.

2.  Choose an element of the work -- philosophical theme, issue, style, symbol, structure -- that enables you to enhance or define the meaning of the work as you understand it.

3.  Construct a THESIS that indicates (a) your focus, and (b) the relation of that focus to the works.  A thesis represents your conclusion or opinion about the works.  Thus your thesis is argumentative; it should not be an obvious point or statement of fact, but should be a thoughtful statement that indicates some of the complexity and depth of the works in question, a statement that needs support and proof.  Don't settle for the first generalization that comes to your mind and think about the "So what?" factor in paper topics.  Ask yourself:  "Could my thesis or opinion cause a reader to respond, 'Yes, that's true, but so what?'  Or will my thesis illuminate for the reader some point that he/she might not have noticed at first reading?"

4.  EVIDENCE:  Find quotations and examples in the story that support your thesis, and organize the rest of your paper around this evidence. RESEARCH at least two reputable and authoritative sources that will help you strengthen your analysis and argument.

Bertrand Library has a strong collection of books and periodicals that deal with Irish literature.  You may also wish to make use of "Article Finder" and other useful electronic databases available from the ISR homepage ( Remember, you do not need to do extensive research for this essay; two supplementary sources will be sufficient as a minimum.

Note: Be careful using online sources! While some internet sources are authoritative and reliable, others are not. Internet sources must be listed in your "Works Cited" with a working URL or I will not consider them valid sources. You may not use or cite,, or other non-academic resources in your research. You must list web page URLs in your "Works Cited" section so that the addresses work. If I check a web reference in your "Works Cited" section and it does not work, your grade will be affected.

5.  CONCLUSION:  Your paper should conclude by summing up your argument so that

(a) the reader sees that the evidence you've given does in fact support your thesis, and

(b) you offer some indication of how your focus/thesis fits into the whole of the story.


Other Important Advice:

1.  Follow your direct quotations with the appropriate page number from your textbook in parentheses.

2.  Somewhere on the first page of your paper, mention the works you are analyzing by title and author.

3.  When you write about literature, always write in the present tense.  For example:

"Joseph Conrad's character Charlie Marlow becomes very ill on his trip back down the Congo River."

4.  MAKE SURE YOUR PAPER IS NOT MERELY A SUMMARY OF THE WORK IN QUESTION.  You may offer a very brief plot summary early in your paper in order to provide context, but the majority of your paper must be analytical.

5.  Include a title for your paper.  "Analysis of Frankenstein" is not enough.  Give some indication of your topic (for example, "The Creator as Satan: The Role of Genesis in Frankenstein").