Review your paragraph proposals. Does your topic idea meet the minimum requirements for a literary analysis? Does your proposal fulfill all the elements on the checklist?

  • All of your papers must be works of literary analysis or interpretation.
  • All of your papers must work with at least one text from the syllabus. [In this class your papers should work closely with at least 3 Dickinson poems.]
  • All of your paper must go beyond the topic and claims of the scholars we have read in class.
  • All of your papers must pass the reasonable reader test. Would the reasonable reader of the literary text(s) need your paper? Translation: The paper’s claim is not obvious or self-explanatory.
  • All of your papers must have an original thesis. [A thesis is not a statement of topic. It is an original, debatable, and interesting CLAIM about the texts being analyzed. Please don’t make a claim about the author. We are analyzing the literature, not the author.]
  • All of your papers should have an original title.
  • All of your papers should have well-developed introductions and conclusions. [Don’t waste the opportunity to control the approach and reception of your argument.]
  • All of your papers should answer a guiding research question in the thesis.
  • All of your papers should have a research question NARROW enough to be fully argued in 8-12 pages.
  • All of your papers should have a reason to exist beyond the grade requirement. Why does your Research question need to be asked and answered? How will your paper help future readers of the text?
  • All of your papers should have a “so what?” How will the acceptance of your thesis and argument CHANGE how future readers understand or interpret the literary text?
  • All of your papers should enter into the current critical discussion of the text(s). Your “literature review” section demonstrates a knowledge of the current arguments. You challenge those ideas in the body of your paper. What have these critics overlooked or misinterpreted?

NOT ACCEPTED for ENGL 4000-5000-Level Papers:

            Summaries – Write for an audience who has read the literary text(s) under discussion. Plot summaries of texts are not necessary.

            Research Summaries – Yes, you should use current (1990-2020) academic sources in your paper, but the other critics cannot control your paper. Your arguments and your words should take up 90% of the paper. Do not overquote.

            Reviews or Lectures – You are presenting your own argumentative analysis of the text. You are not merely presenting the work to readers unfamiliar with the author, text, or time period.

            Appreciations – Your essay must be structured around an interpretative thesis. We all love this literature. Your paper cannot simply aspire to explain why more people should read these works.

            Biographies – The authors’ biographies may be USED to support a specific element of your argument about a literary text. Biography should never be added to a paper to fill space or to marvel at the author’s life story.

Historical Analysis – You may USE historical, political, cultural, or social context to support a specific element of your argument. But the historical, political, cultural, or social context should not dominate your paper. Your LITERARY analysis of the text(s) should be at the center of your thesis and your entire essay. It should control 80-85% of your body paragraphs.

            Social Commentary – It is interesting to speculate about how an author’s works might apply to some aspect of 21st-century life, but such musings are appropriate for blog or Facebook posts. Your papers are rigorous and academic arguments about a literary research question.

Checklist:

  1. An original title
  2. A debatable, LITERARY topic [Don’t verge toward a summary, research summary, review, appreciation, biography, history, or social commentary.]
  3. Text(s) – which written / visual texts will your paper analyze?
  4. Reasonable Reader Test
  5. A NARROW and SPECIFIC research question
  6. A literary analysis / interpretation thesis

A so-what? What is the relevancy of your topic? Why should all future readers of this literary text ALSO read your essay? How will you change the discussion about this text?

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