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

Final Critical/Theoretical Essay

As you know, you are required to write a ten-to-fifteen critical/theoretical essay for your final assignment in this course. This page gives a rationale for this assignment, some suggestions for developing a topic, and an assignment sheet with possible topics.

What For

This assignment is aimed at helping you further develop and demonstrate an awareness of your own acts of interpretation in reading (goal 1 from Part IV of the syllabus--cf. main page). Your discussion questions, reflective essays, and group pedagogical projects should have prepared you to choose a topic for, research, and write an extended argument in which you perform a critical reading, thereby showing what you've learned in the course.

How To

The topic for your critical/theoretical essay is open. You are encouraged to develop a topic based on any of the aspects of the course from the course description:

Focus on helping students develop an awareness of their own acts of interpretation in reading and an understanding of the strengths of different approaches to interpretation and criticism. This section is an introduction to major modes of and issues in literary criticism and literary theory. We will be relating literature, criticism, and theory, but our emphasis will be on understanding, analyzing, evaluating, and working with different modes of reading the world and its texts. We will consider the strengths and weaknesses of several interpretive strategies, their stakes and historical contexts, and their relations to social struggles for dignity, justice, and creativity. The first ("criticism") half of the course will be devoted to debates that have shaped the way we think about the author, the text, the reader, literature, history, and culture and the way they relate to our own readings of William Shakespeare's play The Tempest. The second ("theory") half of the course will be devoted to testing the proposition that theorizing can happen in a variety of genres and modes of writing; in it, we will read Mahasweta Devi's short story collection Imaginary Maps as a theoretical text in dialogue with feminist, new historicist, marxist, and postcolonial studies.

Whether the topic you choose is instructor- or student-initiated, you must turn in a 2-3-page research-based proposal before spring break that lays out a compelling justification/rationale for pursuing the project. This will be returned to students after spring break during a conference with the instructor. The proposal is an opportunity to consider what you've found most interesting in the course and then to design a research project that allows you to explore that topic in more depth. For guidelines on proposals, click here.

Critical/Theoretical Essay Assignment Sheet

Due: Friday, May 17, 2002, no later than 5 pm, in my mailbox in the English department main office (277 Fenton) or in the envelope outside my office door (240 Fenton). Please turn in a copy of your original proposal for the paper along with the paper itself.

Format: 10-15 pages, double spaced, with reasonable fonts, font sizes, and margins; 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 for quotations within a paragraph: "..." (12); blockquote format for quotes five lines or longer.

Criteria for Evaluation: Your grade for this segment of the course will be based on the strength and persuasiveness of the rationale/justification for the project offered in the proposal; the degree of intellectual and analytical development from proposal to paper; and, on the paper itself, the effectiveness with which you incorporate appropriate/relevant critical/theoretical concepts and arguments into your paper, the coherence and validity of the paper's arguments, the effectiveness of the paper's structure in conveying your ideas and persuading your audience, and the quality of the paper's prose (including grammar, syntax, and punctuation).

Options: Here are some suggested rubrics for the final essay; you are, of course, encouraged to invent or develop your own topic, even one that doesn't fit within these rubrics. That's why you're required to write a proposal for the project--it's your job to convince your readers of the value of your proposed topic and approach.

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

ENGL 345: Critical Reading, Spring 2002
Created: 2/4/02 5:17 pm
Last modified: 5/15/02 11:51 am