M A I N * N E W S * L I N K S * R E S E R V E S

The Final Essay


1. For your final essay, you must present an argument about or offer an interpretation of at least one of the texts we've read in class. You should have a central question that you are trying to answer in your essay, and you should be working to persuade your audience that your answer is plausible by offering whatever evidence seems most relevant to your argument and audience.

2. I have been suggesting possible topics in class throughout the semester. Look here for an ever-expanding list of potential topics, although I of course prefer that you choose a topic in which you have the most interest. See the critical response papers page for a more open-ended set of questions to get you thinking about possible approaches. Part Three of the mid-term examination also gives possibilities.

OK, here are some general suggestions:

As an alternative to the comparative suggestions above, I suggest topics on single works for those who want to pursue an issue in depth below. The suggestions focus on the four longer works we've read this semester--by James, Kingston, Morrison, and Erdrich--because to write a significant paper on one of the shorter works would require more extensive research than is likely to be appropriate or feasible for a first-year level course. Keeping in mind that the amount of research in the following suggestions is meant to be light, you may:

3. The slightly longer length of this paper than the critical response papers gives you a good opportunity to write a comparison/contrast paper or do some outside research. Like the midterm exam, the main purpose of the final essay is to give you a chance to make connections between texts we've read this semester.


Note: I've numbered the paragraphs in this section to correspond to the numbering in the previous section.

1. For ideas on how to come up with an analytical or interpretive argument, see the reading responses page. Doing this should be familiar to you after a semester of reading responses, student responses, and your two critical response papers. It's natural, though, for you to have questions, and the process is never easy for anyone. So when we discuss your ideas for the final paper, raise any questions you might have about what makes an effective analytical or persuasive essay. I'm here to help! Also, this is a perfect opportunity to use the listserv to ask people how they are planning and preparing for their own papers. If you post a question to the listserv, I'll answer back to it when appropriate, so that everyone gets the benefit of the questions people ask me and each other.

2. Don't forget to check out the page of quotations on ghost stories and ghosts--they are chock full of ideas and can be highly suggestive for approaches you might take to make sense of specific texts. You can use them to think about the course as a whole and connections between texts.

3. The paper length might seem a little daunting at first, but 5-7 pages is really very little space to develop your ideas in depth. Don't give in to the temptation to choose a HUGE topic for fear that you'll run out of ideas before you run out of space. Better to start with a focused topic and let it grow to fill the space. For this paper, you must give yourself enough time to do serious revisions on your first draft before you turn it in. I know how busy the end of the semester is (believe me, I do!), but unless you do at least one major revision of your original ideas, your grade will suffer. Anything you turn in should be your absolute best work, but that goes double for final papers. I don't want to see any careless typos or grammatical errors in your last assignment for this course. This is why I recommend sharing drafts with classmates and peer editing each others' papers. If you go this route, be sure to add an acknowledgements section at the end thanking the kind people who read and commented on your earlier draft.

All right, good luck with the final paper. This is your last piece of work for this course, so make it count and have fun doing it!

M A I N * N E W S * L I N K S * R E S E R V E S

EN 209: Novels and Tales, Fall 1998
Last modified: 12/15/98, 11:51 am