Here is another variation of the major essay assignment that also includes clear guidelines for the topic proposal. The above version differs in that it gives the assignment expectations in separate, bulleted points rather than as a block of text.
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 will challenge traditional definitions of "fiction", the "novel" and "narrative" in our discussions; please feel free to 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.
Finally - and this may be obvious - your argument must clearly demonstrate that you've read, digested, and thought about the text you choose to advocate.
In building your argument, your essay should refer to at least 3 of the books/stories on the current list, and you should cite specifics from your chosen book as evidence, to illustrate your points. Your essay may also include outside evidence and/or examples that support your argument. Outside evidence must be accountably cited, using MLA documentation, and may include but is not limited to critical perspectives on the texts, material from current course texts, discussions, etc., and personal experience.
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. As the due date gets closer, I will spend some time discussing how to structure this paper. 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.
Topic Proposal Guidelines
Prior to turning in your major essay, you will turn in a topic proposal that sketches out an overview of what you're planning to write about. A good topic proposal will articulate your thinking about this project clearly enough that I can get a sense of what the finished project will look like and suggest sources, things to think about, and so on. A topic proposal is just that - a tentative description of what your paper will look like, and since you're just "proposing" a topic at this point, it's entirely possible that the finished project will differ a bit from what you lay out in your proposal.
Proposals should be typed, double-spaced, and emailed to me as an attachment. A topic proposal should take about a page to complete.
List a working title of your paper at the beginning of your proposal.
Introduce your topic in a short paragraph that describes your topic in general terms.
Include a tentative thesis statement that will serve as a map or backbone of your paper. See the "Literature Paper Thesis" guide listed under the Guides, etc. button on our Writing Studio page for more information about how to write a thesis statement.
Include a brief sketch or overview (1-2 paragraphs) of the body of your paper. The finished paper will probably deviate a bit from this sketch, but you should try to articulate the points you hope to make in support of your thesis and have a sense of how those points will be ordered. The "Organization" guide under the Guides, etc. button might be helpful here, but your main goal in this section of the topic proposal is to think through your paper and identify areas you need to continue to research and develop.
Please include an MLA-format working bibliography of all the primary and secondary sources you've consulted so far. A bibliography includes everything you've read in relation to this project, not just works you plan on citing in your paper.