All writing assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day and time listed on the schedule of assignments. Late papers will be penalized one letter grade per day late. Please plan ahead.
Your essay should
- have a thesis that a) makes a reasonable, debatable argument (rather than an observation or opinion). An observation merely points to the text or to images, themes or topics in the text. An argument tells your reader how to interpret these images or themes and why it is important to do so in this way. An argumentative thesis, that is, springs from a question or theme you find interesting in the text and answers the questions “So What?” and “Who cares?”
- meet the minimum page/word requirement of 5 pages or 1250 words; please include page numbers and a word count at the end.
- be typed
- be double-spaced and in a 11-12 point font
- be stapled or clipped together (please do not just dog-ear or fold the corners of the pages)
- have an appropriate title. No title page is necessary, but a works cited page is, when appropriate (i.e., when you refer to more than 1 text or texts other than the course readings).
- follow MLA format. If in doubt how or when to cite a source, consult the MLA Handbook, 6th edition, or check one of the following websites:
Basic MLA style
Citing electronic documents
Frequently Asked Questions about MLA style
Like the first essay, Essay #2 should be an original literary analysis paper. For this essay, you can choose to write one of the following types of analytical papers about any of the course readings since essay #1.
- Literary analysis of 1-2 of the course readings. If you choose this option, you are not required to use any texts in addition to the course readings. You can, however, include other primary readings (other works by an author, contemporary reviews, letters, journals, or historical information that may help you make your point or tell you more about, say, 19th-century medicine or fingerprinting, or about a related aspect of 19th-century culture).
- A literary analysis of one of the course readings that includes research on secondary criticism. If you choose to incorporate secondary criticism (interpretations of the text by published scholars), be sure that YOUR argument/interpretation takes primary focus. You may choose
- to respond to a particular critic’s argument that you disagree with,
- to expand one you agree with using additional passages or extending the argument to another primary (course) reading
- to use a philosophical or theoretical text to examine one of the course readings (e.g., a theory from a work of philosophy of technology or a literary theorist)
- to respond to a range (2-3) of articles on the text that offer different interpretations on it, making your argument for which reading is most compelling and why
In either case, I am most interested in hearing your interpretations and arguments about the works. Your essay should have a point and stick to it, make good and consistent use of evidence from the text to support and develop that argument, develop an idea or answer a question that interests you and lead to a conclusion that satisfies you and that is persuasive to your reader. Your reader doesn't have to agree, but should be able to see from your essay and the quotations and examples you've used why you reached that interpretation.
You should make sure that before you begin your final draft, you know exactly what its argument is. That is, you should be able to tell a friend, in twenty-five words or less, not just the general topic of your essay, but the exact point you're going to argue throughout. Once you get to this point, and know the conclusion you'll be trying to make in the last paragraph, then you’ll know how to begin, how to decide what to include and leave out, etc.
Finally, a sophisticated literary analysis will address counter-arguments or secondary arguments. It will include such statements as (though not necessarily written so directly): “Some interpret this as X, I argue we should instead interpret it as Y, because…” or “They say X, I say Y,” or even “Often this passage is taken to mean X. A more interesting reading is Y, because…” See also Writing Guidelines and Reminders for more general information on writing an analytical essay.
Some of you will already have an idea of what you'd like to write about, sparked by your writings in your reading journal or class discussion. If so, just share your thesis with me by email or in person and begin your paper. If not, I offer a few ideas or topics below as a way to prime your thinking about our discussions and the readings. Some ask you to make connections between the readings or between the readings and discussion. Again, these are broad topics or questions, not narrow arguments. If none of them interest you and you still don't know what to write about, let me know. I'm happy to help you formulate ideas.
Suggested topics for Essay #2
- One of the recurring themes in the works we've read has been the interrelationship of body, mind and spirit. Choosing no more than 2 of the texts we've read since the last paper, explain what you think each novel or story says about the relationship between these three components of identity, particularly as these characters are identified as male or female, laboring or at rest, sick or well in these texts. Questions you might answer include: How does the author depict the relationship between various aspects of personal identity or the relative agency of the character thus depicted? How does the author use science, pseudoscience, or medicine to portray this? Does the author ultimately reinforce or challenge cultural beliefs or stereotypes through this depiction?
- Several of the texts we've read focus on doctors, medicine, or alternative medical treatment as a main or subplot. You might consider: How do Hawthorne, Gilman, or Mitchell (or any two in combination) depict nineteenth-century medicine or understandings of disease? For what purpose? What do their depictions reveal about about gender identities or gender roles? About competing claims to cultural authority? How does medical discourse or medical practice shape (or become shaped by) private or public identity in these texts?
- Other texts employ scientific rhetoric as a way of investing their subject with a certain cultural, social, or spiritual authority. Why? What do they or their subjects serve to gain from this association with science? What kinds of authority is science seen to have? You might consider: What power (good or evil) does the study of science offer in each depiction? To what uses or ends is science best (or worst) put to or by each of these authors? Why or how? What are the implications of this view of science? What are the dangers of this view of science?
- Consider applying ideas from group projects to class texts.
- Create your own by choosing a topic that interests you in any of the works we've read so far or by expanding on ideas we discussed in class. Please run your idea past me (via email or in person) before writing the paper.