This course requires one major essay in which you will demonstrate the skills of close reading, literary analysis, and thesis development that you have practiced in the Discussion Boards. This essay is worth 20 points and must be 1300 – 1500 words in length. Your essay must specifically address the prompt below. Any essay that is off topic, fails to follow the proper submission procedures, or demonstrates evidence of plagiarism or another form of academic dishonesty, will receive a zero. Please read the prompt and submission requirements carefully. You should also look at the resources in the Week 11 module folder, including the Writing Tutorial videos and the Essay Composition Forum discussion board.
status quo, n.: “The existing state of affairs.”
~ Oxford English Dictionary
Many works of literature we’re reading this semester feature figures who struggle against the status quo in one way or another—figures who speak truth to power, who seek to call attention to historically entrenched inequalities, who seek to fight oppression, and who consciously defy societal expectations of them. Essentially, many characters in our texts resist and challenge “the existing state of affairs” during their time, consciously or unconsciously striving for change. These figures vary widely in terms of what—and who—they struggle against and what they seek in their struggle, but in all cases they strive for changes that have implications that extend beyond just their own lives.
In this essay, your task is to construct an argument—supported by textual evidence, close reading, and historical context—about figures from two different course texts (see below list) that struggle against the status quo and strive for change. Your essay should address both the causes and contexts of these two characters’ struggles: how and why they strive for changes, for example, and against what/whom they struggle. In the process, your argument should make claims about the broader significance of their struggles in terms of the societies in which they live. When considering this broader significance, remember that literature itself is often a powerful form in which authors give voice to their critiques of society.
Choose two texts from the list below
Note: You can only choose one text from each bullet point. This means you cannot write about both Arabian Nights and “Barn Burning,” for example; your two texts need to be from two different bullet points.
You should choose two texts that speak to one another in a meaningful way. You could, for example, choose two texts in which figures struggle against similar aspects of the status quo of their respective societies, analyze two figures whose emotional response to their struggle is similar, or choose figures who face similar consequences because of their struggle. You might, on the other hand, choose texts in which there are some similarities between the characters, but also meaningful differences.
Your most important goal should be to choose two texts that will allow you to bring the unique dimensions of each text into sharper focus. Finding meaningful connections between the two texts you choose will allow you to construct an essay that aims at true synthesis and will allow you to make an argument that is more sophisticated than a simple compare and contrast essay.
General questions to think about as you choose your two texts and begin to plan your essay:
REQUIRED ESSAY COMPONENTS
1) Thesis Statement: Make sure that you have a clear thesis statement that makes an argument about the specific significance of how figures in two different texts struggle against the status quo. Your thesis statement can be more than one sentence; indeed, sometimes two sentences are needed to articulate and flesh out your argument. Your thesis statement should be in the first paragraph of the essay and should be easy to identify by readers.
2) Textual Evidence: Make sure to support your argument with evidence from both of your chosen texts. Evidence will include quotes and examples from the text to demonstrate your argument, but also to provide you with passages to close read and analyze. When quoting a passage, be sure that you properly introduce it, cite it, and analyze it. Quotations should not be used for summary or description purposes; they should be used as textual evidence or as an occasion for close reading.
3) Analysis & Close Reading: Make sure to close read and analyze your textual evidence. Think critically about how the passages you cite demonstrate your argument. Pay attention to individual words and details in your quotes, and explain how they illustrate your claims. Cite the passages you quote from.
4) Engagement with Social and Cultural Context: Make sure that your argument and close readings demonstrate an awareness of historical and social context, specifically as it relates to setting or environment. While we don’t expect you to be experts on any historical culture, we do require that you demonstrate a familiarity with the material covered in the lecture videos, and we require that you engage with the specificity of settings, which vary from culture to culture and are always historically specific.
STRUCTURING YOUR ESSAY
Paragraph 1 (introductory paragraph)
Paragraphs 2, 3, etc. (body paragraphs—as many as needed)
Final Paragraph (conclusion)
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER FOR SPECIFIC TEXTS
Note: These are simply meant to kickstart your thinking. Feel free to ask other questions and write about other issues not listed here, so long as they address the prompt.
William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning”
WWI poetry by Wilfred Owen
William Shakespeare’s Othello
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The American Embassy”
Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place
Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi
For example, if your name is John Doe, your file name would be: essaydoejohn
The essay is due on Sunday, November 1, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. By this date and time, your essay needs to be submitted via the submission link in the Week 11 Module folder. The Canvas submission link will be open from October 23 at noon to November 4 at 11:59 p.m.
Late essays will only be accepted for 72 hours immediately following the due date and time. All late assignments, whether submitted 1 minute or 72 hours late, will carry a penalty of 10% of the essay’s total point value.
This essay is worth 20 points. Any essay that does not meet the minimum length requirement (1300 words) will receive the following penalty: 10% (2 points) will be deducted for any essay just under the length requirement (1100 – 1299 words), and 20% (4 points) will be deducted for any essay more than 200 words under the requirement (1099 words or under).
To be graded and receive credit, every essay must follow the guidelines and requirements clearly outlined here and in the syllabus. For instructions on how to properly submit your essay, please consult the Week 11 module in Canvas.
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