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Essay #2—Fiction Analysis

Contents of this Handout Page #
Checklist of Requirements 1
Stories you may analyze 2
Choose your prompt 3
Informal citation rules—easy peasy 4
Works Cited—the easiest one in the world 5
Requirement Checklist
1. Write at least 1,250 words (roughly 4 pages—count your words), but do not exceed 1,700 words (5-6 pages).
2. Use informal citation for this paper and a Works Cited page. Please refer to “Informal Citation” at the end of this handout for details.I tell you how to cite the Review on the last page!
3. Penance: Identify in the top right corner, beneath the date,the penance you were assigned after Essay #1.
a. For example, type Penance A (B or C, etc.)
b. If I gave you a custom penance, please copyyour personalized penance assignment immediately beneath the title of your paper.
c. Your essay’s grade will partially reflect how well I think you have progressed with your Penance skill. Be sure to revise / proofread your paper to address your penance issue!
4. Intro: Your intro should gracefully name the story or stories and their authors, introduce us to the topic of your analysis, and end with the thesis. See my handout “Intro Paragraphs and the Thesis” for specifics.
5. Thesis: Your introductory paragraph should end with your essay’s thesis statement—the main idea for the whole paper.
6. Important: You should start each body paragraph with a clear topic sentence: an analytical claim about the story. The rest of the paragraph then supports that claim. Don’t fall into the trap of just summarizing the story and making little comments as you go. See my handout “The Problem.”
7. I strongly recommend that you review my essay writing guidelines in Module 1 / EssayQuiz1 and 2 subfolders.
8. Remember to use present tense (and resist present progressive tense) when summarizing events in the plot: not “she went to the store on page five” but “she goes to the store on page five.”
9. Your essay must make a statement of theme for the story or stories you are discussing. This statement of themeneed not be your paper’s thesis. By this requirement, I’m asking you to address somewhere what the story MEANS to readers, how it makes us think.
10. Handle quotations correctly, using all the principles in “Weaving Quotations into Your Writing” (Module 2 folder).
11. Save your file in .docx format (or .rtf).
12. Name your file “LastNameEssay#2”
13. You must write about ONLY one or two stories from the approved list.
Consider ONE of the following five prompts
1. Write a paper that applies literary theory to one story.
Use one or two literary criticism approaches from Using Critical Theory to inform your paper. Your thesis might sound like this, “A psychoanalytic analysis of Sammy reveals that ….” (followed by a smart idea about the story).

While this prompt may seem more difficult than others, students typically do surprisingly well with it.

Feel free to use literary theory in combination with ANY of the prompts below, too.

2. Compare and/or contrast two stories for style, theme, or anything else worth observing.

To do this well, choose your stories carefully. Your goal is to reveal to your readers something interesting.

Do NOT write a paper that simply says two stories are just really different. You could say that about any two stories!

Don’t let your thesis say, “The two stories are similar but different.” Ya-a-a-wn.

Rather, try to get at a specific insight by choosing two stories. By putting the two stories side by side, you might reveal something about our world or about the art of fiction. Or maybe we can just really understand something interesting going on in both stories that isn’t obvious at first.

For example, your thesis might reveal how the stories use radically similar or different styles, how they comment very differently or similarly on the same subject matter (thematic comparison), or how they challenge our traditional models of plot.

Be sure to choose two stories that are worth comparing and contrasting. Generally, you want to choose two stories that comment on the same subject matter (for example, love, sex, men and women, etc.). However, you don’t have to focus on theme.

If you have nothing of interest to compare and contrast, then the paper will wind up seeming like two separate mini-papers about each story—a serious flaw.

A commonly successful option to this prompt is to compare/contrast stories by the same author.
3. Keeping in mind the elements of plot that we’ve discussed, comment on an interesting issue of plot in one or two stories.

You must include in your analysis the external and internal conflicts, climax, and resolution. Use these terms accurately. Be especially specific about the MOMENT (it should be a moment) of the climax.

You might compare/contrast two stories’ plots—but only if you find something interesting to say! This paper should not just present two unrelated analyses of two stories’ plots!

This prompt can work well—almost better—with stories that don’t clearly fit the “conflict, climax, resolution” model. You might argue the story or stories buck this traditional format or that they adhere to it—though not obviously.

This paper might overlap with prompt #4 below. Perhaps there’s a debate about that you can weigh in on.

Make sure you can confidently identify the climactic moment of your story before embarking on this essay.

Spring 2016: You might discuss a proposal for conflict, climax, and resolution in “Maybe” and “The Last Piano on the Island.” Both stories challenge ordinary plot structure—and so you might have an opinion on whether they actually follow our formula for plot.

4. Write a paper that evaluates competing interpretations of a story.Your thesis should take a stand and defend it.
Typically, such papers present in the intro competing interpretations of a story and then argue, in the thesis, that one interpretation of the story, based on all the evidence, is the best. For example, perhaps good people read the story as having a happy ending, but others feel it’s a sad ending; you’re going to settle the matter once and for all.
However, you might take a middle ground stance, arguing that we can’t really tell which interpretation is more valid than the other. If you take this stand, you probably should argue whether the story’s ambiguity is a strength or flaw—or if the ambiguity perhaps illuminates something about us and our culture.
For example, some see Great Aunt Amy in “Freedom Has a Price” as a hero, whereas most do not. What does this split reveal about our culture?
You might focus on any sort of debate that arose in our class discussions—without focusing too much on clearly flawed interpretations that may have arisen.

5. Make up Your Own Topic.Do you have your own bright idea about a story that doesn’t fit a prompt above? Write your instructor early with a proposal for an essay and get your topic approved.

Informal Citation for Essay #1

Informal Citation
For Essay #1, I require informal citation—which means I’m asking you to include page numbers whenever you refer to any specific detail—including quotations—from a story.

You must use classic MLA citation when referring to any other source, including Tyson.

Additionally, you must include a Works Cited page for any source to which you refer, including the stories.

For example, if you decide to use some psychological information to help analyze a character, you must include in-text references and a Works Cited page for such references. I will grade such stuff kindly this time around, but I’ll consider it plagiarism if you don’t include references in the essay and a Works Cited Page. I assume students have learned Works Cited protocol in EngWR 300. I can help during office hours students who need help with it.

Never use an idea from a source—even in your own words—without making it very clear that you are doing so. Failing to document sources amounts to plagiarism.

That said, I will assume page numbers from stories come from the Review.

When to use References
Use a page # reference whenever you refer to a specific detail of a story or when you quote a line from the story.

Use a full, MLA style in-text reference—for example, (Tyson 34)—if you refer to any idea or quotation from a non-textbook source.

For reminders about how to use MLA style, go to D2L Content, scroll below the Module 3 folder to find this folder: “Resource Module: MLA and Formatting Resources.”

What to Include
For this essay only, I require only that you provide a page number when referring to the story. If you refer to any other source, you must include in the reference the last name of its author (unless you have already named the author in your sentence).

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