ENG Essay

To develop a focused position about the connection between a theme and an object or secondary character based on close reading.  

EN 202 / Dr. Peebles

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Assignment: Essay 1 (4-5 double-spaced pages)

Bring printed or handwritten outline to class Mar. 5

Essay Due: Mar. 16 (posted to Canvas)

Objective: To develop a focused position about the connection between a) a theme and b) an object or secondary character based on close reading.

Format: Double-spaced, paginated, stapled; 11- or 12-point font, Times or Calibri; standard Word margins. Please give your essay a title indicating the central focus of your argument and use our course anthology for all examples.

Planning: For the texts we’ve read so far, think about the characters and material details that characterize the world. Choose a material object that appears in the story or an interesting secondary character (someone who appears briefly in the text; a foil, not a protagonist or antagonist) and notice how your subject is presented in the text. Apply the steps of close reading: look for related key terms (especially repeated ones), patterns of related words and details, oppositions and contrasts, and anomalies (details that seem strange or out of place). Think about how these details and the patterns they create bring out deeper issues, themes, or conflicts.

Writing: Through the close reading of specific details presented in short quotations, explain how an object or minor character connects to a theme of the text: reflects or represents or symbolizes or problematizes or questions or challenges. Analyze how that subject is represented and imagined (including the vocabulary choices made by the translator), and what effect that has on the larger work.

Consider some (not all!) of these questions in your discussion: what are your subject’s limitations? its capabilities or powers? What could it suggest about the culture of its setting (note: this is not an invitation to make claims about history)? What are the interests of the character or the owner/user of the object? What kind of effect does your subject have on other characters, and why? Who or what is your subject connected to? What meaning or significance might your subject have, to whom, in what context?

Developing a Thesis: A classic formula to start with is “seems to be X, but is really Y.” A version of this formula that allows a more complex relationship between X and Y is “although…nevertheless….” Another basic form is a description of how plus a statement of purpose. Ex.: “The poet uses [technique / method, possibly including a plot element] in order to [say something about a specific theme].” All of these statements can be revised by adding a little context and making the parts of the claim more precise. Make sure that you introduce your thesis in the introduction.

Expectations: Include an introduction and conclusion, a Works Cited entry for our anthology (which should be your only source), a thesis that takes a specific position on the whole question, a thorough discussion of specific details and a sense of the rationale for selecting them (using both brief direct quotations and textual references, correctly cited in MLA format), and a strong focus that connects your thesis and all the details you choose to analyze. Use identifying tags. If the author of your chosen text is unknown, you may refer to him as the poet. Avoid plot summary, historical assertions (especially any sentence that begins “women/men in medieval Japan were…”), and unexplained description. Revise and proofread carefully.

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