Deadline: November 28, 2019; upload to Blackboard by 11:55 p.m.
Length: Length 5-7 typed, double-spaced pages (1250-1750 words, but can be longer if you wish)
Choose Option I, Option II, or Option III. You do not have to write a paper on each one. Your paper must include at least one work (story, poem, play, TV show) discussed in class.
Option I: Traditional Critical Analysis Paper.
Each of these topics is very broad. You will have to narrow these topics to make them suitable for your paper.
1. Using 2-4 stories, poems, or other pieces of writing, develop a thesis and write an essay in which you analyze how perspectives on some feature of American life (humor, race and social justice, sex and courtship, or nature and science) has changed from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first century. For example, you might want to compare two courtship stories from the 1920s with two stories from the 2000s, or to look at the way in which what was once “science fiction” has now become “science fact.”
2. Choosing 2-4 stories or poems on the same general topic, analyze the variety of perspectives from which the authors approach the subject matter. For example, you might want to look at racial injustice, the theme of initiation, the war between the sexes, perspectives on time and mortality, or some other idea.
3. Analyze a symbol, image, or theme used in more than story or poem or discuss the ways in which an author uses a particular technique (dialogue in stories, the sonnet form, humor, repetition, limited omniscient point of view, and so on) to convey his or her message.
4. Develop one of your previous papers (1, 2, or 3) by extending your analysis to other stories or poems and by using critical sources to support your interpretations.
5. Your own topic.
Option II. Texts in Context Paper
This option asks you to look at the magazines or journals in which stories and poems were published, much as you did for one of the Laptop Days. If you choose this, you’ll want to find the actual volume in which one of the authors was published; you don’t have to find the exact story that we read.
Here’s what you’ll be discussing:
- What was the context within which this work was originally read?
- What works surrounded it—travel articles, short stories, author profiles, opinion and commentary, or some other form of writing?
- How do the works of this author compare with those of his or her now-forgotten contemporaries?
- What made the work become a “classic”?
If you choose this option, you do not need to read additional critical articles on your topic. You’ll probably want to choose 3-4 pieces from the volume and analyze them in detail.
Here are some questions to help you get started. Your paper should be a formal essay; it shouldn’t answer each of these questions in turn.
- What kinds of fiction appear in the same volume? Do they address similar themes? Do you notice a preponderance of one kind of story or setting (e.g., dialect stories, stories about the West, stories about courtship, and so on)?
- Does the journal publish travel pieces, jokes, articles on current events, letters to the editor, illustrations, and other kinds of matter in addition to literature? Does any of this relate to the subject of story you’re discussing? How might the existence of these features alter the way in which a reader decades ago would have read the novel?
- Judging by the kinds of articles and other materials in the volume, what were the concerns of the original audience? What was the political climate like? Does the journal address or ignore concerns such as racism, woman suffrage, industrialism, imperialism, poverty, inequality, and the rights of labor?
- What books are reviewed in the periodical? Read through some reviews and figure out what kinds of qualities were valued in books during that period. What were the controversial literary issues of the day?
- Does the serialized version of the novel include illustrations? If so, how do they enhance or detract from the experience of reading the book?
Option III. Annotated Web Version of Text
- A hypertext or wiki version of several stories, or a cluster of chapters, or an examination of a major theme or concept
- A 2-3 page typed, double-spaced typewritten rationale for the interpretation, texts, and method you chose
Option III asks you to prepare an annotated hypertext (web site) or wiki version of works studied this semester. Your web site or wiki will define words, analyze images and themes, create a coherent interpretation of several pages in length (although this may be broken up into linked paragraphs), and provide a brief bibliography of works consulted. Important: It must be available for viewing on the web when you’re done.
Group Option: You may work in a group of up to 4 people if you choose this option; all participants will share in the final grade.
In interpretation level and analytical quality, this should match the kind and length of work you would do for the 5-7 page paper (about 1250-1750 words); the difference is that your analysis will be broken into shorter segments and connected to the text by links.
Your group will also need to write a 2-3 page essay explaining why you made the choices you did in terms of analysis. Your paper should provide metacommentary on the reasons why you chose what you did, sites you chose (or declined) to link to, conversations you had about interpretation, ideas, insights, responses to the text, and so forth.
Free wiki sites (for setting up a wiki) include www.pbwiki.com. I do not recommend wikihost.org because it has several layers of usernames and is difficult to use.
Paper 4 Presentations
Length: About 5 minutes for the presentation. (No additional written work must be turned in for a grade.)
As part of your Paper 4 assignment, you’ll be presenting your original research to the class during the presentation days at the end of the semester.
Your purpose is to inform the class about what you learned in writing your paper or web project. If you’ve done the “texts in context” paper, for example, you may want to discuss what you’ve discovered about the periodical or author you focused on for the paper. If you’ve completed a web project, you may want to show that project on the screen and discuss it with the class. If you’ve worked with someone else on the project, you can present your research together.
Although this presentation will be based on your final project, you shouldn’t simply read your paper to the class, although you can present portions of your paper in your presentation. Instead, you should feel free to bring in film or music clips, use PowerPoint or pictures, ask students questions, and otherwise make your presentation lively and informative for the class.