M A I N * L I N K S


SUNY Fredonia
Division of Arts and Humanities
ENGL 341: Harlem Renaissance
Spring 2009
Section 1: TTh 9:30-10:50 am, Grissom A122
Office: Fenton 265; M 10-4, TTh 4-5, W 1-3, and by appointment; 673-3856
E-mail: simon@fredonia.edu (during working hours); brucesimon18@yahoo.com (evenings and weekends)
Web Site: www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/
Course ANGEL Site: https://fredonia.sln.suny.edu/frames.aspx




Critical Essay

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 an assignment sheet. 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 below. Thanks.

What

Your critical essay is to be thesis-driven, analytical, and persuasive four-to-six-page paper. That is, 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. Your goal is 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).

You will have two opportunities to turn in a critical essay, once after the "To Harlem" unit ends and once after the completion of the "In Harlem" unit. I recommend you take the earliest opportunity to do the critical essay, for then you can rewrite it for a higher grade or do another one to replace the first one's grade.

What For

So far this semester you've already done a good deal of writing--ranging from the informal free writing on specific topics in class to your participation on the ANGEL discussion board. You've gotten some practice at noticing things about literary texts and asking questions of them; we've focused a lot in class on making connections between texts and identifying tensions within and between them, interpreting significant passages and patterns, and considering various answers to questions that you all have posed as well as I. What you haven't had a chance to do yet is develop a sustained argument on a specific topic. The critical essay is your chance to do just that: 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 listserv 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 a sustained 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 the "To Harlem" and "In Harlem" units in the course. This should provide you with something of a framework for understanding and reviewing the unit as a whole. Hence, it is highly recommended 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 each day, so seeing the range of questions I think are most important to consider when looking back on the unit 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: "To Harlem" Unit

Due: by 11:30 pm in the ANGEL dropbox on Monday, March 2, 2009.

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 the 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.

Criteria for Evaluation: No matter which topic you invent or option you choose for the response essay, I will be grading your paper in terms of how well you make your case for your argument, how well you base your argument on textual analysis and interpretation, and how well-organized and well-written your paper is. Hence I will be evaluating the coherence, validity, and persuasiveness of your paper's argument, the effectiveness of your paper's structure, and the quality of your paper's prose (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.

Draft Policy: I'd be happy to read and comment on rough drafts; please give me a draft no later than the beginning of class on Th 2/26 if you want comments on it via e-mail.

Rewrite Policy: I will accept rewrites of the critical essay, so long as you get them to me within two weeks of receiving comments on your previous draft from me. Those who get their rewrites in on time can have their original grade replaced by the new grade.

Options: Here are your options for the 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.


Assignment Sheet: "In Harlem" Unit

Due: by 11:30 pm in the ANGEL dropbox on Monday, March 30, 2009.

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 the 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.

Criteria for Evaluation: No matter which topic you invent or option you choose for the response essay, I will be grading your paper in terms of how well you make your case for your argument, how well you base your argument on textual analysis and interpretation, and how well-organized and well-written your paper is. Hence I will be evaluating the coherence, validity, and persuasiveness of your paper's argument, the effectiveness of your paper's structure, and the quality of your paper's prose (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.

Draft Policy: I'd be happy to read and comment on rough drafts; please give me a draft no later than the beginning of class on Th 3/26 if you want comments on it via e-mail.

Rewrite Policy: I will accept rewrites of the critical essay, so long as you get them to me within two weeks of receiving comments on your previous draft from me. Those who get their rewrites in on time can have their original grade replaced by the new grade.

Options: Here are your options for the 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.