M A I N * L I N K S

SUNY Fredonia
College of Arts and Humanities
ENGL 299: Fantasy Fiction
Fall 2010
Section 1: MW 3-4:20, Fenton 179
Office: Fenton 265; MW 1-3, TTh 10-12, and by appointment; 673-3856
E-mail: simon@fredonia.edu, brucesimon18@yahoo.com
Web Page: www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/
ANGEL Space: https://fredonia.sln.suny.edu/default.asp

Critical Essay, Fall 2010

This page takes on two important questions about the critical essay you will write this semester in this course: what and what for; it also includes the assignment sheet for the 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. Ditto for any questions you may have about any of the options listed on the assignments sheets. Thanks.


As you know, you are required to submit a critical essay, which calls on you to analyze the narrative strategies of a particular writer and work from the course. Your critical essay is to be a thesis-driven, analytical, and persuasive four-to-six-page paper. It should not be simply a personal response to what you have read, or simply a statement of your opinions or assertion of your views, but should instead be organized to convince your readers to accept an argument you have developed in response to a specific question. In short, you are being asked to generate an original, creative argument that supports your own perspective on the text or texts you've chosen to write on and is persuasive to your intended audience(s).

What For

Over the course of the semester so far you've already done a good deal of informal writing--ranging from the free writing on specific topics in class to your online participation to your response essay. You'll have begun getting practiced at noticing things about literary texts and asking questions of them; we'll have begun focusing a lot in class on making connections between works and identifying tensions within and between them, interpreting significant passages and image patterns, and considering various answers to questions that you all have posed as well as I. What this assignment gives you the chance to do is develop a sustained argument on a specific topic. The critical essay allows you to focus in on a particular topic or question that most interests you (this involves reviewing your notes and memories of the readings, as well as discussion board contributions), to delve more deeply into specific readings (this involves choosing the readings that best allow you to address the topic or question you have chosen and focusing on those parts that seem most relevant to the topic), and to develop and support an argument about the relation between the readings and the topic or question (this involves both critically analyzing the texts you have chosen to focus on and crafting a valid, persuasive argument). Doing these things will not only improve your skills in active, critical reading and analytical, persuasive writing, but it will also prepare you for the final research project.

The other major purpose of the critical essay is for me to indicate clearly what I see as the major questions or issues raised by fantasy fiction. Each should provide you with something of a framework for understanding and reviewing the course as a whole. Hence, I strongly recommend that you consider carefully each of the options given before settling on one on which to focus your critical essay. It's easy to miss the forest for the trees, especially when there were so many different "trees" we were analyzing all semester, so seeing the range of questions I think are most important to consider when looking back on the course can give you a new, better perspective on what we've read, as well as lay out possible directions for the final research project.

Assignment Sheet

Due: The deadline for submitting a critical essay for this unit to the CE Drop Box on the course ANGEL space is 11:30 pm Friday, 3 December 2010. Late papers will not be accepted or graded, unless you seek an extension by class time on Monday, 29 November.

Format: 4-6 pages (roughly 1000-1800 words), 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 the links page for explanations of this style of citation); the basic template is Author. Book Title. City of Publication: Publisher, Date of Publication.); proper MLA format for quotations within a paragraph: "quotation" (12); and blockquote format for quotations five lines or longer. [Please be aware that you'll get a better grade if you first develop your ideas fully, without feeling that you have to stop at a certain page or word limit, and then go back and condense, cut, and otherwise revise so as to be as concise, clear, and persuasive as possible. Don't let the page limit limit your exploration of ideas.]

Criteria for Evaluation: Your grade for the critical essay will be determined by the coherence and validity of the paper's arguments, the effectiveness of the paper's structure in conveying your ideas and convincing your audience, and the quality of the paper's prose (including diction, grammar, syntax, punctuation, and formatting).

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.

Draft Policy: I would be happy to offer brief comments on your drafts, so long as you get me them in a timely manner. I recommend sending me a draft (at any stage of development) over email and making an appointment for a face-to-face writing conference on it.

Rewrite Policy: I will not grade rewrites of the critical essay, although I will give comments on any rewrite(s) you choose to do (which will improve your preparation/participation grade and better prepare you for the final research project).

Assignment Options: You must choose one (1) of the following options. Extra research is not required for any of these options, although it is permissible, so long as the central argument you are making is your own and the evidence you draw on to support it--including, of course, relevant and important passages from the text(s) you are analyzing--supports the goals of your essay.

M A I N * L I N K S

ENGL 299: Fantasy Fiction, Fall 2010
Created: 11/1/10 6:02 pm
Last modified: 11/1/10 6:02 pm
Webmaster: Bruce Simon, Associate Professor of English, SUNY Fredonia