M A I N * N E W S * L I N K S * R E S E R V E S
Critical Essay #3, Spring 2005
This page includes the assignment sheet for the third 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 Friday, April 29, 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. Ed., Editor of Book [if any]. Place of Publication: Publisher, Date of Publication. Page Numbers.); proper quotation format in body of paper: "..." (Baraka 1287). 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, formatting, 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 third 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.
- Invent your own option [open only to those who have already done two critical essays]: formulate a paper topic of your own and email me a brief proposal for why you should be allowed to do it, along with an explanation of why you want to write on that topic. You must run your idea by me at least 5 days before the paper is due (no later than Wednesday, April 20), to allow time for feedback, revision, and brainstorming, drafting, and revising of the actual essay. Do not assume that I will approve your suggested topic--run it by me as early as possible!
- Consider the relation between Du Bois's conception of America and of American nationalism and those of other African American writers from earlier or later periods. Choose one writer to compare to Du Bois in terms of either (a) how and to what ends Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folk or Dusk of Dawn responds to that earlier writer's ideas about America or (b) how and to what ends that later writer responds to Du Bois's ideas about America in The Souls of Black Folk or Dusk of Dawn.
- Stage a debate between proponents of American nationalism and black nationalism that we read in the "nation" unit in such a way that your own views on the subject are put forward persuasively (either by writing a critical essay comparing and contrasting one figure from each "camp," or by writing a Wallace Thurman-esque scene [in fiction or in drama] in which the key ideas of the unit are debated by figures of your own invention who are based on, or composites of, actual writers and intellectuals from the period).
- Craft an argument about what is at stake in the relation between the arguments or art of two writers from different time periods on a similar topic, issue, or question relating to the "nation" and nationalism (for instance, how and to what ends does a Black Arts Movement essayist respond to a Harlem Renaissance-era essayist?).
- Consider the relation between a specific manifesto or set of ideas about "the black aesthetic" and a particular work of art written during the period in which the manifesto was written. How is the writer responding to the critic/theorist, and to what ends? What is at stake in or significant about the writer's response? Or consider the same questions in relation to a documentary film like Black Is ... Black Ain't (Marlon Riggs, 1995, 87 min.) or a blaxploitation film like Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (Melvin Van Peebles, 1971, 97 min.)--how does your filmmaker respond to or take part in the Black Arts Movement, and to what ends?
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: 4/7/05 2:35 pm
Last modified: 4/20/05 8:27 am