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Critical Essay #2, Spring 2005
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.
Due: no later than 5 pm on Monday, April 4, 2005, 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; format, bibliography, and citations in MLA style (see the links page for explanations and examples of MLA style; the basic template is Author. "Title of Poem, or Essay, or Story." Title of Book from which It Comes. Editor of Book (if any), ed. Place of Publication: Publisher, Date of Publication. Page Numbers.); proper quotation format in body of paper: "..." (Du Bois 12). for quotations within a paragraph; blockquote format for quotations five lines or longer.
Criteria for Evaluation: Your grade for the critical essay will be determined by the coherence, validity, and persuasiveness of the paper's arguments, the effectiveness of the paper's structure in conveying your reasoning and convincing your audience, and the quality of the paper's prose (including grammar, syntax, and punctuation).
Audience: In general, think of your immediate audience as those who have taken and are taking this class; hence, you can assume that your readers have read the texts you're writing on and you don't have to include the kind of background that someone not taking this course would need.
Options: Here are your 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.
- Consider all the works we've read in the "city" unit that deal with migration, not from the perspective of the point of departure, but instead from the perspective of the place of arrival. Then choose one or two works that focus on one of the following subjects and analyze how they engage that subject: (a) how recent migrants from the rural South react or respond to urban Northern life, (b) how those who have lived in a Northern city for longer react or respond to recent migrants from the rural South, or (c) how migration has changed the city itself. Then develop and support an argument that addresses the stakes or significance of your writer's (or writers') mode of engaging that subject.
- Consider the various debates that interested black intellectuals so much in the first half of the twentieth century: over how to survive segregation and bring it to an end; over how best to counter white supremacist ideologies and/or images of, narratives about, or expectations for black people and culture; over the existence and value of the "New Negro Renaissance"; over the freedom and responsibility of black artists; over the content and function of black art; over the role and value of white patronage of and/or interest in black art and artists; over the meaning of the 1935 and 1943 Harlem riots; over the significance of established and emerging class, gender, and generational differences among African Americans--to name just a few. Choose one such debate and two or three writers whose positions relate in interesting ways, and craft and support an argument that either (a) defends one of the positions against the others, (b) articulates your own perspective on the issue the writers are debating that is different from any of the positions taken at the time, or (c) identifies an assumption shared by those with opposing viewpoints and shows the value of questioning that assumption.
- Consider the various visions of urban life for African Americans by male and female writers that we've encountered in this unit. Choose one male and one female writer whose visions of the city intersect or parallel each other in interesting ways and write an essay in which you make an argument about the stakes and significance of the relation between their visions of the city.
- Consider the various takes on the new possibilities and dangers opened up by urban life for African Americans that we've encountered in this unit. Which do you find most compelling and why? Make a case for the work that you believe offers the most compelling analysis of these possibilities and dangers by contrasting it with other assessments that you find less compelling.
- Consider how the vision of and perspective on urban life offered by one of the following movies relates to at least one of the works we've read in the "city" unit: Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989, 120 min.); Boyz in the Hood (John Singleton, 1991, 112 min.); New Jack City (Mario Van Peebles, 1991, 101 min.); Deep Cover (Bill Duke, 1992, 107 min.); Menace II Society (Allen and Albert Hughes, 1993, 104 min.); Slam (Marc Levin, 1998, 100 min.). Then craft and support an argument that addresses the stakes or significance of the most telling differences and similarities between Harlem Renaissance-era literary and contemporary filmic representations of the city and urban life.
M A I N * N E W S * L I N K S * R E S E R V E S
ENGL/INDS 240: Introduction to African American Literature and Culture, Spring 2005
Created: 3/8/05 1:27 pm
Last modified: 3/8/05 1:27 pm