Second Paper Assignment
Final Draft Due: The day of the final (March 15 at 8:45am)
Essay Length: 4-5 pages (approx. 1500 words); graduate students (see me for details)
Read through all of the paper topics and spend some time planning a response to more than one. In other words, "try the topic on" to see how it fits. What text would you focus on? How does this text fit the topic? What are some of the complications that might arise from the use of this text, bearing in mind that complications can often be a source of the greatest interest for writer and reader?
Once you have selected a topic and the text that will be your focus, spend some time with the text. Reread it with the new perspective of the paper you plan to write. Be careful, though, not to simply reread it to find evidence to support your position. Instead be open to the possibility that you might find both confirming and contradictory evidence. Don’t dismiss the contradictory evidence. Keep track of it.
Look through your notes on the topic and the text and develop a preliminary thesis.
Write a draft (or drafts) of your paper. Find someone in class willing to look at your essay (offer to look at his or her in return). Be careful about relying on friends—you want good feedback that will help you revise your paper and make it better; you don’t want friendly comments like "It looks pretty good to me." You can also visit the Writing Center at any stage of the process—when you are trying to find a topic, when you are developing possible responses to the topic, when you are developing a preliminary thesis, when you are drafting.
Be sure to proofread your essays carefully, and consider giving your paper to a friend or classmate for proofreading. Also read your paper out loud to yourself before completing a final draft—make sure it sounds like spoken English and not like paper-ese. Try for an easy, graceful, but not overly casual writing style; assume a reader who knows the text, but has not memorized every detail.
Suggested Paper Topics
Choose one text studied since the midterm and respond to the following questions. How would you describe this text’s conceptions of purity and corruption? What is its attitude, ultimately, towards sin, pleasure, and sexuality? Are spirituality and sexuality necessarily opposed terms within it?
Community, what it is and whether it is possible, continues to be significant concern in late Victorian literature. Choose one text studied since the midterm and explain how the idea or problem of community is central to understanding it.
Concealment and disclosure figure prominently in the late Victorian texts we have examined. What might explain this fascination with concealment and disclosure, with secrets and revelation? Choose one text studied since the midterm and explain how concealment and disclosure function in the text and what might be suggested by the prominence of these ideas.
Writing of "condition of England" novels such as Gaskell’s Mary Barton, Suzanne Keen claims that these novels "expose the shocking world" of the poor, powerless, degraded, and dehumanized to "call attention to (if not to redress) the evils that afflict the whole nation." However, to carry out this reform project, novelists "choose representative evils" and these "choices notoriously fail to represent working people either as convincing individuals or as diverse groups with their own elaborate social strata" (149). Does Keen’s assessment apply to Mary Barton?
The story of the fall of man (and the use of the gendered universal is intentional), as told both in Genesis and by Milton in Paradise Lost, had a significant influence on the way the Victorians regarded the potent interconnection of knowledge, sex, and power. How might "Goblin Market" be seen as a re-telling of or commentary on this story? (Based on this poem how does Rossetti regard the traditional tale of female disobedience and temptation leading to a male fall and eviction from Paradise?)
Discuss how the city (the urban landscape) is depicted in either Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Doyle’s "A Scandal in Bohemia," and explain the role these descriptions play in the narrative. What does this depiction suggest about the modern city?
Read up on the terms aestheticism and decadence. These terms are often used in discussions of Wilde’s Salome. How are they helpful (or unhelpful) in helping readers (and audiences) understand Wilde’s Salome?
You are free to ignore these suggestions and generate your own topic. I do recommend, however, that you discuss any independent topics with me.
Whatever you choose to write about, please be sure that you are not simply repeating points made in class or in the editors’ notes on the text. This assignment asks you to develop your own argument, not repeat one you have already heard or read. You do not need to do any research for this assignment.
Use MLA in-text (parenthetical) citation form. If you use editions besides the Longman Anthology of British Literature, Volume 2b, please include a "Works Cited" page in MLA format.
For formatting information, see the course syllabus.