ENGL 441 The Novel in America Since 1914
Term Project Assignment
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
- Quality writing is a process and a relationship, requiring sustained
attention and commitment: it is not a one-night stand.
- First, it is a discovery process: then a invention and shaping process.
- As a writer, you are a craftsperson: you will make mistakes but take
pains to correct them.
- When your writing is as strong and well-crafted as possible at this
stage of your apprenticeship, set it aside, come back the next day, and perform
the most satisfying of a writer's tasks: polish, polish, polish, just as
if your essay were a lovely table made by your own hands with your favorite
MAKE YOUR THESIS RELEVANT TO YOUR READER
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.