ENGL 441 The Novel in America Since 1914

Term Project Assignment

Format: MLA
Length: 10-15 pages (at least 10 pages of essay; and an additional Works Cited page)
Research: a minimum of three SUBSTANTIAL well chosen secondary sources/a maximum of ten. I will pay close attention to your secondary sources, evaluating your research skills as an important aspect of your grade.
Due: May 08 Th or May 13  Tu  (no papers accepted after May 13 / failure to hand in paper on this date means failing the course)

The term project should match your own educational goals with those of the course. Most of them will take the form of the traditional 10-15 page literary analysis and research paper but you are also encouraged to think about their potential to be shaped as a digital, and/or multimedia, and/or interdisciplinary, and/or collaborative projects.  All projects will require a substantial writing component--a 10 page literary analysis essay--demonstrating skillful writing and critical thinking and advanced undergraduate research skills.  If you include images in your essay, make sure that your own text equals the 10-page requirement.  Produce the best work you are capable of, work that strengthens the skills you came into this course with and demonstrates new skills. If you do an outstanding job and later want to polish it further to use as a writing sample, I will be available to help you do so any time in the future.
Help on the Web
You’ll be able to keep your reader’s attention more easily if you pick a topic that relates to daily experience. Avoid writing a paper that only identifies a pattern in a story, but doesn’t quite explain why that pattern leads to an interesting interpretation. Identifying the biblical references in Frankenstein might provide a good start to a paper--Mary Shelley does use a lot of biblical allusions--but a good paper will also tell the reader why those references are meaningful. Identifying a pattern alone simply won’t reward your reader, or yourself for that matter. So what makes an interesting paper topic? Simply put, it has to address issues that we can use in our own lives. Your thesis should be able to answer the brutal question "So what?" Does your paper tell your reader something relevant about the context of the story you’re interpreting or about the human condition?

Some categories, like race, gender, and social class, are dependable sources of interest. This is not to say that all good papers necessarily deal with one of these issues. My thesis on education in Frankenstein does not. But a lot of readers would probably be less interested in reading a paper that traces the instances of water imagery than in reading a paper that compares male or female stereotypes used in a story or that takes a close look at the way an African-American or an Indian character is perceived by the other characters. Again, don’t feel compelled to write on race, gender, or class. These are just examples of topics that concern a lot of readers. The main idea is that you ask yourself whether the topic you’ve selected connects with a major human concern, and there are a lot of options here (for example, issues that relate to economics, family dynamics, education, religion, law, politics, sexuality, history, and psychology among others).

Also, don’t assume that as long as you address one of these issues, your paper will be interesting. As mentioned in step 2, you need to address these big topics in a complex way. Doing this requires that you don’t go into a topic with a preconceived notion of what you’ll find. Be prepared to challenge your own ideas about what gender, race, or class mean in a particular text.  --from http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/literature.html