The following essay assignment is original in that it allows students to choose their own text to read outside of class and practice the analytical and interpretive skills with it. The criterion for potential texts is clearly explained including the restriction of focusing only on postmodern works (texts written in the past fifty years) and those that are closely related to specific historical events. This assignment also gives clear expectations on what the essay should include for satisfactory completion. It also requires an informal topic proposal so that the instructor can validate the student’s choice of text and argument.
E238 20th Century Fiction Major Essay Assignment
Requirements: The major essay is an opportunity to continue to explore and develop the discourse of this class. Your task is to add something new to the ongoing conversation between members of the class, the texts we've read, and the writers we've encountered by advocating that a text of your choice be added to the course reading list.
Your essay should provide an overview of the text you've chosen, explain how it would add to/enhance/challenge/spur on the conversation happening in this course, and make an argument for why you believe the text you've chosen would be a necessary addition to the reading list. In this sense, feel free to discuss what you think the current book list might be lacking in terms of variety, voice, culture, etc. You might also like to discuss what book from the current list you would replace with you text, giving reasons to support these choices (though this should only be a small portion of the argument, if included – focus on what book you would add and why).
You may argue for the inclusion of any text you think would be a valuable addition to this course. That said, given the design of the course, here are a few parameters to work with:
Our focus is on 20th+ century fiction, with an emphasis on postmodern work. While you can choose to argue for the inclusion of an older text, keep in mind that the current reading list focuses on works that are no more than fifty years old, and that other courses are taught that focus on canonical works.
This course is meant to include a diverse array of both domestic and international writers. You are welcome to advocate the inclusion of another text by an American writer, but make sure to explain how its inclusion reflects the global scope of contemporary fiction, or a particular style or voice that you feel is necessary.
We challenge traditional definitions of "fiction", the "novel" and "narrative" in our discussions; please choose a text that further questions these ideas.
In many ways, we are examining writing that responds to (or is written out of) particular situations or crises. Think of works that are tied to specific cultural or historical movements of the last century, either directly or indirectly.
Your argument needs to:
Clearly demonstrate that you've read, digested, and thought about the text you choose to advocate.
Include a thesis statement followed by specific reasons in the beginning of the essay so your reader can easily understand what argument you’re making and can follow this thesis statement and reasons like a map.
Support your claim(s) with specific detail: evidence. Unsupported assertion isn't an acceptable approach in these papers. Details stick in the readers' mind and make your point more effectively than do general statements. Check each point in your paper and make sure you back it up with adequate support. Evidence takes three forms, 1) personal experience, 2) direct text from the primary book, 3) outside secondary texts significant to the primary text: literary criticism/commentary. You will need at least one more outside source, beyond the primary text.
Refer to at least three of the books/stories on the current list, making comparisons and drawing parallels.
Refer to topics brought up in class discussion, including but not limited to: theme, modernism/postmodernism/literary movement, narrative style, character development, symbol, and connection/reflection of real world or humanity.
Prior to completing your essay, you will post an informal topic proposal. Also, guidelines with further details on structure, MLA formatting, etc., will be presented later in the semester.
Format: Standard academic format is appropriate for this assignment, including a works cited page, 1 inch margins, and a 12 point readable font as well as correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Points will be deducted for poor proofreading. It should take 5-7 pages to thoroughly complete this assignment.
Evaluation: The major essay is worth 15% of your overall course grade. I will take into account critical, well-supported thinking, quality writing, evidence of your understanding of the material, creativity, and general thoughtful completion of the assignment.