You are the critic writing an essay of literary argument, developing an informed discussion of the text itself and its context. But first, you must select a text about which to write. Although there is no required text or anthology of literature for this course, throughout the term we will be looking at, reading, and “discussing,” and you will be tested on, a wide range of works of literature. The expectation is that you will select your literary text from among those works included in the syllabus. All the works of literature included in the syllabus are either available at a variety of common online sources, in literature anthologies in HCC libraries, or most readily at this site. If you want to request clearance to deviate from these choices, you should ask before investing too much effort into a work.
Reading and thinking about works of literature is time-consuming, but it is worth the effort if the end-product—the essay—is a quality piece of writing. You should select a text that you feel a sense of intrigue or curiosity about, a work that interests or appeals to you; after all, it is difficult to write about something that is of no interest. So, if you are interested in the text, there is probably something about it—the times, the culture, the personalities, the politics, the story-line—that makes it interesting and worthy of attention.
Preparation for the Essay
Once you have selected the work, or works (because you may find two or more works that share a point of interest in common for you), for the essay, you should read the text(s) as many times as needed and begin to formulate a plan for developing your essay: a preliminary thesis statement, a preliminary outline of key ideas and arguments, a list of unfamiliar words or references, an overview of the context in which you see the literature, for example. These steps will help anticipate whatever outside research will be needed to develop the argument.
Your outside research should be done using the HCC Library resources, either print or online. More specifically, the secondary sources from online research are strongly recommended to be the result of an internet database search, most easily using LINCCWeb, accessed through the HCC library system. The quality of secondary source material from online database research will be more credible, accurate, objective, and relevant than that found using the easy and simple Google or Bing or Yahoo or whatever search engines. Additionally, library and database research will yield far more relevant discussion on peripheral topics which could inform a more complete and comprehensive discussion.
Based on the multiple readings, research, and critical and analytical thinking about the topic, you then develop a clearly phrased thesis statement and prepare a well-structured outline of ideas. You identify the main point and the sub-points, or issues, to be developed in the essay and which will convince the audience that the thesis is sound. An outline should be developed to bring order and organization to the ideas and issues in the essay. (There is no requirement to submit an outline for the assignment, but I strongly encourage you to prepare one, and I will review it if asked.)
The primary source for the essays will be the literary work itself, and appropriate secondary sources will be necessary as to help the writer verify and document assertions made. (There is a page at this site in Module 2 titled “Using Sources,” which discusses common knowledge, primary sources, and secondary sources). As a research essay, appropriate in-text citations are required for all content—quotations, paraphrases, and summaries—from secondary source materials, documenting all information and interpretations which have been influenced by secondary source research. The in-text citations should follow the MLA Documentation and Format. The primary source “quotations” from the work or works of literature are also documented following the MLA guidelines. (NOTE: “quotations” is a noun and identifies the thing quoted; “quote” is a verb and should never be used when identifying the content being quoted, or the quotation.)
Development of the Essay
The critic accepts that criticism of culture and communication can lead to a wider recognition of good reasons for right actions. The critic sees truth as contained in his or her world view and in opposition the world view of those interests that control important social, political, or economic institutions. The critic can also become informed, and inform his or her readers, by applying one or more of the several approaches to literary criticism. For example, the ideological critic goes directly to a political ideology and a historical context for its model. A feminist critic focuses on issues of gender, or more recently on issues of sexuality, race, ethnicity, and similar concerns. A Marxist critic focuses on issues of economic domination. A psychological critic focuses on the character himself or herself, on the relationship(s) between the characters themselves, on the character(s) and their environment, on the character(s) and the world, and other similar dynamic relationships. You are the critic in this assignment!
Your essay should develop an argumentative, or rhetorical, criticism of the text by applying an ideological perspective, or a feminist perspective, or a socio-economic or Marxist perspective, or a social movement perspective, or a psychological perspective, or a sociological perspective, or some other relevant model. You have the latitude to utilize all resources for the analysis, including all aspects of looking at literature, and keep in mind that the best secondary research need not be done at “literature” sites but at sites and with sources that speak to the critical perspectives you are applying.
Format for the Essay
The expectation is that you will provide a clear and grammatically correct and competent discussion of your thesis. Although there is no minimum nor maximum word or page limit required, a complete discussion will require more than a single 250-word page; you will likely be writing an average of 750 words (2.5 to 3 pages), excluding a Works Cited Page. (Note that by the time you work through a draft and a proof-read and an edit and another final draft, you will probably have written close to 5,000 words, perhaps more.)
You are expected to use at least three (3) or more secondary sources which will be cited in the body of the essay and identified in the Works Cited. The primary source(s) for the literature used in the essay must also be included in your Works Cited.
You should follow the MLA Style guidelines, which are explained in most composition and grammar handbooks and at several sources online; the College’s Student Success Centers can also be of help. Margins, paragraph format, and double-spacing are prescribed by the MLA Style guidelines. I require that all pages are numbered in a header in the upper right corner. I also require that in the identification section you include your section number.
I will not accept a submission that is not double-spaced. I will not accept a submission that is not set-up margin left—do not use “justify.”
Once the work is done, and the essay is complete, proofread the essay one last time and submit the essay.