Assignment Guide

Each entry has to be 250 words!

Each entry MUST be about one of the works covered in this class!

Topics of the entries:

Mary Rowlandson- “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration “.

Nathaniel Hawthorne: “The Minister’s Black Veil.”

Herman Melville- “Bartleby, the Scrivener”

Emily Dickinson-

Walt Whitman- “One’s Self I Sing.”

Entries should be in response to any of the assigned readings in our literature book for this class.

Your entries must include:

  1. A debatable thesis statement
    Like any argument paper you have ever written for a first-year composition course, you must have a specific, detailed thesis statement that reveals your perspective, and, like any good argument, your perspective must be one which is debatable.
  2. An argument
    When you write a literary essay, you are essentially making an argument. You are arguing that your perspective-an interpretation, an evaluative judgment, or a critical evaluation-is a valid one.
  3. Evidence from the text
    Your argument must include evidence from the text to help support your perspective. With that said, make sure that your voice and perspective are prominent in the writing. The source material should just be there to support your argument, not make it for you.

Example Arguments:
*Please note: These examples include authors/texts not included in this course (such as Shakespeare). This is intentional as it allows me to demonstrate solid arguments without giving away free thesis statements (since you can’t write about the texts used in the examples).

You would not want to make an argument of this sort:
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a play about a young man who seeks revenge.

That doesn’t say anything-it’s basically just a summary and is hardly debatable.

A better thesis would be this:
Hamlet experiences internal conflict because he is in love with his mother.

That is debatable, controversial even. The rest of a paper with this argument as its thesis will be an attempt to show, using specific examples from the text and evidence from scholars, (1) how Hamlet is in love with his mother, (2) why he’s in love with her, and (3) what implications there are for reading the play in this manner.

You also want to avoid a thesis statement like this:
Spirituality means different things to different people. King Lear, The
Book of Romans, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance each view the spirit differently.

Again, that says nothing that’s not already self-evident. Why bother writing a paper about that? You’re not writing an essay to list works that have nothing in common other than a general topic like “spirituality.” You want to find certain works or authors that, while they may have several differences, do have some specific, unifying point. That point is your thesis.
A better thesis would be this:
Lear, Romans, and Zen each view the soul as the center of human personality.

Then you prove it, using examples from the texts that show that the soul is the center of personality.

What kinds of topics are good ones?
The best topics are ones that originate out of your own reading of a work of literature, but here are some common approaches to consider:

A discussion of a work’s characters: are they realistic, symbolic, or historically-based?

A comparison/contrast of the choices different authors or characters make in a work

A reading of a work based on an outside philosophical perspective (Ex. how would a Freudian read Hamlet?)

A study of the sources or historical events that occasioned a particular work (Ex. comparing G.B. Shaw’s Pygmalion with the original Greek myth of Pygmalion)

An analysis of a specific image occurring in several works (Ex. the use of moon imagery in certain plays, poems, novels)

A “deconstruction” of a particular work (Ex. unfolding an underlying racist worldview in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness)

A reading from a political perspective (Ex. how would a Marxist read William Blake’s “London”?)

A study of the social, political, or economic context in which a work was written — how does the context influence the work?