ENGLISH 291 (Survey of the Novel) — PAPER 1

Due: Monday, February 21, 2005

Length: Approx. 6-8 pages

This essay should explicate one or more of the works we have read this semester. When you explicate a novel, you "unfold" its meaning in an essay by interpreting or analyzing a portion of it. You can analyze a character, a single incident, symbols, point of view, structure, and so on. No explication can take into account everything that goes on in a novel–the explication would be longer than the work you are analyzing–so your paper should focus on one or two elements that you think contribute to the overall meaning or purpose of the novel or group of poems. A good explication concentrates on details: you should quote from the work to show how the text supports your thesis.

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. For example, a paper that begins, "Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is about a man named Robinson Crusoe," does not promise to develop into an argument about the meaning of the novel, while the sentence, "Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is a utopian fantasy in which the author uses the blank space of Crusoe’s desert island to imagine a perfectly-functioning, hierarchical society in contrast to the contentious England he wrote in," suggests that the writer will focus her attention on one particular aspect of the text, analyzing how this feature (in this case, the political elements of Robinson Crusoe) "works" in the book, both in terms of how it is presented superficially in the text and perhaps in terms of some tensions created between this superficial level and what really happens in the book.


–When you write about literature, write in the present tense when discussing the text:

When he first meets Friday, Crusoe approves of his face, which has "all the Sweetness and Softness of an European" (205).

–Follow your direct quotations with the appropriate page number from the text in parentheses. If you have used a text other than those listed on the syllabus, please include a bibliographical reference to this text at the end of your paper.

--Quotations longer than four lines should be presented in single-spaced blocks indented in the text.