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Critical Essay #2

This page includes the assignment sheet for the second critical essay. My goal is to make this page as useful to you as possible, so let me know if it can be improved. If anything is badly worded, unclear, or missing, please contact me with constructive criticisms and suggestions. Thanks.

Assignment Sheet

Due: no later than 5 pm on Monday, April 2, 2001, either in my mailbox in the English department main office (Fenton 277), or in the envelope on the bulletin board outside my office door (Fenton 240).

Format: 4-6 pages, double spaced, with reasonable fonts, font sizes, and margins (be warned that barely getting on to the fourth sheet of paper does not a four-page paper make!); title that indicates main argument of paper; heading that includes your name, the course name or number, and the date; bibliography and citations in MLA style (see links page for explanations of this style of citation); proper quotation format ("..." [12]. for quotations within a paragraph; blockquote format for quotations five lines or longer).

Options: Here are suggested options for the second critical essay. In each of these options, your job is to come up with an argument that you are trying to support by using textual evidence to persuade your readers of your interpretation's validity.


Suggestions for Revision

Your "re-vision" of the first or second critical essay is due by 5 pm on Monday, May 7 (even if you didn't rewrite the first critical essay before spring break, you will have the option of rewriting that one instead of the second if you so desire; see the critical essay #1 page for "re-vision" suggestions). You must turn in your original paper along with your "re-vision" of it. The grade on your "re-vision" will completely replace your original grade; doing a "re-vision" will also count toward your preparation/participation grade.

Here's the grade breakdown on the second critical essay: A=0, A-=2, B+=5, B=6, B-=9, C+=4, C=4, C- or below=0. As with the previous paper, to get a B+ or higher, you had to have understood what the assignment was asking you to do, come up with a main argument that is argue-able, debate-able, and non-obvious, and done a good job persuading your readers to agree with it (the more ambitious your argument was and the better your support for it, the higher your grade rose). To get a between a B and a C+, you had to have raised doubts about your understanding of the assignment, had a main argument that was more descriptive than analytical, or had problems in the way you attempted to support it (the shakier your understanding of the assignment, the less analytical your thesis was, the more problems you had with supporting arguments, evidence, organization, and grammar, and the more clear misreadings of the text[s] in question, the lower your grade fell in this range). And to get a C or lower, you had to have had serious problems with your understanding of the assignment, had an incoherent, contradictory, or reductive main argument (or lacked one altogether), and had serious problems with your mode of supporting it (the more problems with the main argument, structure, and use of evidence, with your understanding of the text[s] or issue[s] in the question, and with the conciseness and preciseness of your prose at the sentence level, the lower your grade fell).

Those who choose to do a "re-vision" must read my comments carefully and be clear about what aspect of their paper most needs improving: understanding of the assignment and following through on its requirements; developing your arguments and reorganizing the paper; better supporting your main claims and making your arguments more persuasive. Start your "re-vision" process by focusing on the most far-reaching and challenging aspects in need of rethinking--if your paper lacks a main argument, develop one; if it doesn't support your main claim well, either rethink the main claim or come up with a better way of supporting it. Don't just correct a few typos and change a sentence here or there. That isn't a "re-vision" at all; that's just editing. The best way to significantly improve your grade on a "re-vision" will be to reenvision your goals for the paper and ways of achieving them, to look carefully at what was working and what wasn't working in the first draft, and to be willing to make major changes if they are necessary to improve your argument.

Here are some suggestions for "re-vision" of papers on the various options:

Overall, I saw some improvement from the first critical essays to the second--more people understood what it meant to make an argument, more people did a better job supporting their claims and persuading their readers, and most people improved their writing at the sentence level. But there's room for a whole lot more. If people want to meet to discuss their first drafts and "re-vision" plans, they should make an appointment to see me on Friday or Monday.


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ENGL 240: Intro to African American Lit and Culture, Spring 2001
Created: 3/8/01 9:09 pm
Last modified: 5/3/01 1:22 pm