English 291: Final Paper Assignment
Length: Approximately ten double-spaced typed pages
Paper due on Friday, April 22, 2005
You may choose to write this paper on any novel or combination of novels on the syllabus for this class. This paper should present your own in-depth interpretation of a particular thematic or technical aspect of the work(s) you choose. You may focus on one particular feature of one work or you may present your own indepth study of a theme or technique as it is used in two or more of the works we've read. For example, you might analyze the role a particular image or symbol plays in the work(s) you've picked. You might choose to examine the intersection of history, politics, and literature in one or more of the works we've read. Or you might analyze the function of one or more secondary characters.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that this essay is argumentative. That is to say, you'll need to convince the reader that the topic you're presenting is significant and that it works the way you say it does. How convincing you are depends on how well you use the material at your disposal. That material should be drawn primarily from the work you've chosen, but you should also consult a small number of secondary research sources. You must be careful, however, to use your research to support your own point; avoid simply reporting what other researchers have said.
This paper should be mainly an interpretive paper; it is not a review or summary of criticism on a work. Use material from the secondary resources you select to support your interpretation or to raise additional critical issues. I urge you to write an outline of your argument before you begin to read any criticism.
Prewriting: Before you write a first draft, you should reread the work carefully, with an eye towards investigating, supporting, and thinking through your topic. You may well find points that relate to your topic that you haven't discovered before. Take notes as you reread, carefully noting page numbers for references you wish to come back to. If you extract a quotation to use in your essay, write it down carefully, word-for-word and punctuation mark-by-punctuation mark. If you find you are collecting too many examples as support for your thesis, select the strongest examples only for use in your essay.
Evaluation: I will judge your performance by how well you do what your thesis states as your goal for your paper. I'll also consider the relative difficulty of your topic. Writing style and organization count as well as content, so be sure to begin with a thorough outline and to leave yourself time to revise your draft(s) and to proofread your final draft carefully. I have found that many students have trouble incorporating source material into their own writing and that this often results in the confusion of the student's own good ideas in a jumble of unattributed, unexplained quotations. We will go over the proper use of source materials in class; PLEASE come and check with me if you are unsure of how to handle your reference sources as you work them into your paper.
Format: Please write your name, the course number, my name and the date on your title page and/or in the upper right hand corner of the first page. Subsequent pages should have your last name and the page number in the upper right hand corner. Please double-space. As in your previous paper, write in the present tense when discussing the text.
Also, as in the previous assignment, you should follow your direct quotations with the appropriate page number from the text in parentheses. When using secondary sources, the final page of your paper should be a "Works Cited" page in proper MLA format (we will go over this in class). Remember, quotations longer than four lines should be presented in single-spaced blocks indented in the text.
Research Sources: Do not use more than a few research sources in preparing this paper. RESEARCH SHOULD NOT BE THE PRIMARY FOCUS OF THIS PAPER! Some suggestions:
* Be careful using the internet! While some internet sources are reputable 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. No more than half of your research sources should be web pages, and those you select should be reputable and credible. You must list web page URLs in your "Works Cited" section so that the addresses work.
* For good overviews of the author you're investigating and her/his works, begin with The Dictionary of Literary Biography in the Library's Reference Department.
* For good articles on a particular author or work, find essays in periodicals using tools like "Article Finder" from the ISR web pages, and look on the library shelves for collections of critical essays, often called "casebooks."