English 660: Paper #1

DUE:

in class, Monday, October 1, 2001.

LENGTH:

5 pages.

 

Assignment | Guidelines | Useful handouts

Assignment:

        Develop a thesis about one of the texts we've read so far (or up to, say, Oct. 1st, if you'd like to read ahead). Since the paper should be about 5 pages in length, I suggest you choose one novel (White Noise, Americana, End Zone, Great Jones Street, Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 [but read all of it]), one play (The Day Room), or one story (Proulx, O'Brien). If you want to write about two stories, please see me first. Please note that, if you wish to write on The Crying of Lot 49, you'll need to read all of it.

        Your paper should offer a persuasive argument about a theme or issue or question you see in the text(s). Since the relationship(s) between the form and themes of each work has been a recurring issue, it might make some sense to address this question in your paper. In the preceding sentence, "theme" can include anything from recurring motifs, to subject matter, to what you perceive as the work's political goals. A persuasive argument requires a thesis, supporting evidence from the text(s), and explanation of how that evidence supports your claims. Please use MLA documentation style for your citations and Works Cited page. Further guidelines are below.

        For this first paper, I am not requiring that you include critical texts or secondary sources. However, if you wish to use a critical commentary or a secondary source to initiate your argument, you may do so. So, for example, if the "canonization" of DeLillo intrigues you, it may be fruitful to look at the Quality Paperback Book Club ad or at Myers' essay; if DeLillo's transformation of the rock-n-roll celebrity piques your curiosity, you might consider whether or not Bob Dylan and the Band's Basement Tapes shed any light on Great Jones Street; if your interests veer towards disaster or millennial movements, then perhaps DeLillo's "Silhouette City" or the Newsweek coverage of Bhopal might ignite your thinking. Include the critical or secondary viewpoint in the introduction and at the appropriate moment in your argument, but remember: your primary evidence must come from the primary material itself (i.e., the novel, play, or short stories).

Guidelines:

Getting Started…

1. Read and Reread. Read and reread the work or works you've decided to write about, with a mind to the topic you have chosen. Take careful notes, making note of all relevant words, phrases, images, and (if applicable) illustrations.

Writing the Paper…

1. Formulate a thesis. Make sure your thesis is specific enough to be covered adequately in the space of your discussion. Remember: merely noting a difference, similarity, or theme does not constitute a thesis. So, it would not be sufficient to say that the dialogue of Don DeLillo's The Day Room resembles the experience of channel-surfing. Perhaps, but so what? Instead, you might argue that Don DeLillo's The Day Room creates the narrative equivalent of channel-surfing in order to reflect upon the degree to which modern (or postmodern?) identity has been shaped by media. Refer to the handout titled "Thesis vs. Topic."

2. Each paragraph should begin with a claim. Just as a thesis claim guides the paper as a whole, a paragraph's claim (often referred to as a "topic sentence") guides a paragraph. So, at or near the beginning of each paragraph, include a topic sentence that states your paragraph's central argument. The topic sentence serves as a bridge between thesis and paragraph by making an interpretive claim that indicates how the paragraph will support your thesis.

3. Provide support. To persuade your readers to your position, you will need to provide some evidence in support of your claims. Quotations from the primary text should be used as evidence to prove your assertions.

4. Analysis and explanation of evidence. Be sure to analyze the quotation and discuss its significance. Explain for your reader how your evidence supports your claims.

5. Conclusion. Your last paragraph should synthesize, not summarize. You should resolve -- and not merely repeat -- your argument. Think of a conclusion this way: it both reminds your reader of where you've been and suggests new areas to explore.

And, after you finish your draft…

1. Revise and edit. Read your paper out loud to yourself. Often you will hear what your eyes will miss.

2. Grammar and structure are important. To help yourself proofread and revise with both of these ideas in mind, please see the handout titled "Keys to Structure and Style."

3. When in doubt, get help. My office hours are on the syllabus, and by appointment. My email address is philnel@ksu.edu. Also, please make use of a grammar handbook and of the handouts linked to this paper assignment: "Imagery and Figurative Language," "Thesis vs. Topic," and "Keys to Structure and Style."


Useful Handouts: Imagery and Figurative Language | Thesis vs. Topic | Keys to Structure and Style

Return to Syllabus for English 660
 


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