Topic Sentence Due (Icon Dropbox): Friday, November 16
Rough Draft Due (Bring to class): Thursday, November 29
Final Draft Due (Paper copy in class): Thursday, December 6
In this paper, you will be comparing two different texts as they pertain to a single connecting idea. Your goal in this assignment is not to simply compare and contrast the plot or characters in the texts, but rather to think about an abstract idea using two concrete literary examples. In other words, both texts engage an idea through specific formal techniques and strategies, and it is your task to analyze the similarities and/or differences between those techniques. In doing so, you will be taking an argumentative stand on the texts, persuading the reader with your own guiding analytical voice. The more you outline and have a sense of what you want to argue and demonstrate, the more your paper will be a successful. I have included more specific steps to composing a successful essay after the possible topics.
Franz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony”
William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience (Poems and Illuminated Manuscripts)
Benjamin Franklin, selections from his Autobiography
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour”
Henry James, In the Cage
Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Jacob and Wilhelm, “Little Snow-White”
- Compare the relationship between writing and technology in Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony” and Franklin’s autobiographical experiment in moral perfection. How do the two texts imagine the possibility of enlightenment through writing? What does such a comparison tell you about the meaning of Kafka’s enigmatic story?
- Compare Victor Frankenstein and Hank Morgan’s relationship with the technologies, processes, and sciences of “invention.” How and why do they invent and what does such a comparison tell you about Mary Shelley’s complicated relationship to romantic notions of originality and creation in her novel?
- Compare the function of images and the Imaginary in Frankenstein and “Little Snow-White.” How do the stories use images (mirrors, windows, peepholes, glass coffins) to explore notions of identity and desire? What does such a comparison tell you about the relationship between identity and fantasy in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein?
- Compare the role of the telegraph in Henry James’s In the Cage and Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. What function does the technology play in the novel? What does such a comparison tell you about James or Twain’s attitude toward technological modernity and its influence on language and communication?
- Compare the relationship between gender and technology in Frankenstein and In the Cage. How is technology “gendered” (or inflected by gender) in the two texts? What does such a comparison tell you about James’s engagement with the evolving gender norms in the late 19th century?
- Compare the manipulation of time and space in “The Story of an Hour” and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. How and why do the texts creatively use narrative to play with time and/or space? What does such a comparison tell you about how either Chopin or Twain deploys narrative to reflect on new historical conditions at the end of the 19th century?
- Compare the function of the imagination, specifically as it relates to issues of gender, in Frankenstein and “The Story of an Hour.” How do the stories probe the depths (positive and/or negative) of the mind in ways that comment on the gender dynamics of their own historical moments? What does such a comparison tell you about the meaning of a single hour in Chopin’s short story?
Steps and Procedure:
- Choose a topic – one that intrigues you, but also challenges you.
- Start by brainstorming ideas and connections from memory. Jot down moments, questions, and ideas that relate to the major issues addressed by the question.
- Find at least 2-3 strong examples from each text that touch upon issues related to the topic. You might remember a specific scene (e.g., when the creature watches the family through the hole in the wall), but try to narrow these larger scenes down to a few specific passages (no longer than 3-5 sentences). Specific passages are a great way to stimulate your own analysis. After introducing an idea, you can quote a passage and then analyze the passage with your own close reading where you can demonstrate how and why, for example, this passage complicates a larger theme. Read your passages very closely. The more questions and/or observations you generate about them, the more material you’ll have to write about. Try to approach your topic as a problem, a problem that you have chosen to investigate. Ask questions about how and why something is written the way it is written, or staged the way it is staged, etc. Look up words, imagine the scene differently, challenge yourself to really deconstruct the text with close observation and analysis.
- After you’ve collected textual evidence (think of the passages, examples, and quotes as the source material around which you will build your own argumentative case), you need to decide how you want to structure the essay. There are two basic options here: 1) break the essay into two separate halves, which you will connect via the introduction, transition and topic sentences, and your final conclusion; or 2) organize the essay into paragraph units that alternative back and forth between the two texts, analyzing one idea from the perspective of this text and then the same idea from the perspective of the second text. However you choose to structure the paper, you should be careful not to move back and forth without clear transition sentences. Furthermore, at least one of your concluding paragraphs should return to the final part of the question that asks you what such a comparison tells you about this specific text?
- Before drafting the essay, write down a tentative thesis sentence (or a couple of sentences) that explicitly state your own take/argument on the questions at hand. These comparative sentences will almost surely need connecting terms such as however, although, while, in contrast, on the other hand, etc.
- Unlike the Reality TV assignment, the most important paragraphs of this paper will probably be the introductory paragraphs and the concluding paragraphs where you synthesis the comparisons and draw larger conclusions about what the texts teach us about this idea from different angles. As a result, you might want to have more than one paragraph as an introduction and conclusion. You might decide that you need 2 paragraphs to set up the novels and issues, 4-6 in the body of the essay, and another 1 or 2 to step back from the texts and draw some conclusions.
- Outline and draft the essay. At this point, I also suggest that you meet with me to discuss what you have thus far.
- Reread your rough draft. See if you can rearrange, combine, add, or eliminate sentences. Try to connect sentences with transition phrases, varying the length of each sentence. Determine what sections need more clarity and focus? What sections need a more argumentative or persuasive tone? Does your thesis match your analysis? Can you make the opening thesis sentences more detailed and specific? How does the conclusion stand up? Does it merely restate what you have already said or does it step back and ask about the implications, consequences, and/or lessons that might be extrapolated from your discussion?
- Revise the paper.
- Reread one more time for style, grammar, and precision. Spend the extra hour to make your writing sizzle with brilliance. Sharpen your verbs.
Successful Essays Will:
- Set out clearly an overarching claim and argument in a thesis sentence (or sentences) at the end of the introduction. Be explicit about your argument. This is one of the few places where it is a good idea to use a personal pronoun (e.g., “in this paper, I argue that…”).
- Use carefully selected and persuasive textual evidence to support the argument. Effectively transition into and out of your quotations and evidence with appropriate language.
- Demonstrate insightful and developed ideas about your topic and its relation to the book.
- Have an intriguing introduction, logical organization with clear and creative transitions and topic sentences, and a conclusion that ties together what you’ve discovered about your text.
- Use an academic tone and have been proofread carefully for spelling and grammar mistakes.
- Length and Format. Your essay should be at least 4-5 pages in length, double-spaced, using 1-inch margins, in 12-point Times New Roman font, and without extra spaces between paragraphs.
- Citing Sources. Remember to use proper MLA documentation for all in-text citations and include a Works Cited Page of the editions you are quoting.
The essay will be graded on an A-F scale (with pluses and minuses). It is worth 20% of your grade.