CL381 = E390M

Information on Written Assignments

1) Analysis outlines:

A precis addressing the content and purpose (cultural, structural, aesthetic, personal), the reasons why a piece was written -- what norms or desires does it fulfill? This assignment will force you to formulate general content and thesis about works, and tie them to specific textual features.

You write:

Focus: General "what this piece is about."

EG: a novel showing the impact of the American Civil War on individual lives


Purpose/Strategy: "why you'd want to write this" (i.e., theorize, criticize, exemplify, show consequences of, demonstrate, outline stages in . . . )

EG: By showing the specific lifestyles of various social strata, Mitchell evokes the internal changes necessary for the South to survive the Civil War (and tacitly criticizes the Old South)

Examples: two or three specific features of text (plot elements, characters, word/syntax choice, specific developments in style or content, etc.), correlated with what each shows in light of the overall strategy of the text (e.g.: the women Meister meets, with what he's supposed to learn; change of time or place in drama, intensifying overall conflicts in X way).



Scarlett, plantation belle

recovers life purpose in work, out from behind ostentation


dies, because of gentility

Conclusion: what the piece is good for (shows what about the period, the culture, the aesthetic norms of the period, etc.). Can include criticism on failures or successes in execution, comments about why literary history likes or hates the text, why one should or shouldn't read it at all.


*These assignments are the basis for longer interpretations, and should thus be coherent, taken as first drafts. They are 1-1.5 pp. long, and should be text-based. Grading on basis of consistency and clarity; maximum grade 90 if all sections are properly executed in craftsman-like fashion -- additional points for evidence of thought.

2) Papers

Each is a 5-10 pp. paper, a comparative text-interpretation based on works in particular genres. They are, in essence, essays based on thinking like the precis. As such, they should stay very close to the texts. However, you will need to establish a historical norm for the genre, themes and problems, and style of the work -- which means that you will have to use some secondary literature (at least, standard reference works) to "norm" what you're talking about. That is, your strategy statement setting up the interpretation will have to contain explicit reference to some text-internal or text-external factors which will provide the system for your interpretation. This can be purely aesthetic (a formal genre interpretation), or refer to any problems in philosophy, culture, or history/biography of the writers and their time, depending on what is appropriate to the text (i.e., don't try an analysis of vowel length in a gothic novel-- it may be interesting to an esoteric few, but it ducks most of the main issues of the text). Sample interpretations and further references on request.

Each paper is to be submitted in MLA Style, including quotations and references in proper form. Like the precis, about 1 letter grade for each section, with deductions for improper form (up to one whole grade). Again, solid craftsmanship gets you up to 90%; solid argumentation reflecting thought and synthesis will get you additional percentage points.Due dates indicated on syllabus.


Paper 1: Prose Topic (due Week 11)

Topic A: Concepts of education, history, or the "spirit of the people" (Volksgeist) in two novels of the Romantic era from different countries. Suggested texts: Waverley, Werther, Confessions, Éducation sentimentale, Lucinde.


Topic B: Compare the "night side" of Romanticism in two prose works from different national literatures.


Paper 2: Poetry Topic (due Week 15)

Compare two poets' notions of poetic creativity and the role of nature in the poetic imagination, using essays to support close readings of two poems (again, use two different national literatures for source material).