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Since there is no exam in this course, regular attendance and participation is a must (and will figure in the final grade).  To pass the course you must be in class the majority of the time (you are allowed a maximum of two absences, with the count started after the first week of classes).


Assignment Due  4-Page Paper

4-5 page essay.  Must be uploaded by midnight on Jan. 30th to the instructor's DROPitTOme box at www.dropitto.me/ayliu (using upload password to be given you by the instructor).  Preferred file format: PDF file (less preferable: Doc or Docx file).  Counts for of final grade.



This assignment asks you to show your understanding of the "close reading" approach in literary studies by thinking about it from a parallax viewpoint (i.e., by looking at it in comparison to a different approach or in a different context). Choose one of the following two topics:


  1. Write an essay in which you compare the way the New Critics or Russian Formalists read a literary work to the way a scientist studies a phenomenon.  Base your essay on a comparison between a specific writing by such critics as Ransom, Brooks, Wimsatt, Shklovsky, Tomashevsky, etc. (e.g., an essay or part of an essay where they closely read a poem) and compare a specific scientific article. Look for similarities and differences in regard to such issues as:


    1. What is truth from the point of view of a scientist and a literary close reader?
    2. What is observation?
    3. What is analysis?
    4. What is logic?
    5. What is aesthetics?
    6. What is the relationship of the pursuit of knowledge to society or culture?
    7. What is "good"?


Be sure to focus your essay around just one main issue. (See "General guidelines for designing your essay below.)


  1. "Close read" something that is not a work of literature--e.g., a photograph, film, video, graphic novel, video game, advertisement, press release, government document, company annual report, Web site, etc.  Your close reading must be organized so that your observations lead up to or support some focal thesis (it cannot just be miscellaneous observations on sequential parts of the work you are reading; see "General guidelines for designing your essay below.)  Also, you must be able to document by way of footnotes (or endnotes) at least three specific ways that your analysis corresponds to New Critical or Russian Formalist "close reading."  (For this close-reading assignment you may find helpful a "Close Reading" tip sheet used in English courses today.)


Instructions for submitting your essay:

Upload your essay by midnight on Jan. 30th to the instructor's DROPitTOme box at www.dropitto.me/ayliu (using upload password to be given you by the instructor).  Name your file "Your Name - First Paper".  Preferred file format: PDF file (less preferable: Doc or Docx file).  The preferred format is a PDF file. (If you cannot convert your document into a PDF, then email it as a DOC or DOCX).


General guidelines for designing a focused, intellectually interesting essay:

Assume that your reader is intelligent and educated, but does not know everything you do about your topic.  Arrow right Your reader thus needs your help in focusing on a particular path through an issue (rather than being lost in a forest of issues).  Arrow right Your reader needs your help in getting from point A to Z in your argument, which means that you need to lead the argument through points B, C, D, etc. (even if it appears blindingly obvious to you). Arrow right Last, but not least, your reader doesn't want to be bored to death with totally predictable arguments that steamroll over everything in their path to get from their beginning "This is what I will argue" through their middle "This is my argument" to their concluding "This is what I argued."


So be sure to: Arrow right focus your essay around a main issue, including other issues as necessary but in a manner logically subordinate to your argument (i.e., as supports, components, extensions, or challenges to your argument). Arrow right Be sure to demonstrate the steps A to Z of your logic so that the reader can follow your trail of thought.  Arrow right And also be sure that you actually deal with something important or that you care about, which naturally means that there is some problem or open question that puts a kink in any totally predictable argument.  For example, good essays often include a pivotal intellectual turning point, question, challenge, or complicating problem in mid-flow of the sort:

[a] Thesis argument (e.g., "Today we live in an age of information, audio-visual entertainment, and other multimedia materials that require us to 'close read' such materials if we hope to be literate consumers....")

[b] Turning point or challenge (e.g., "But unlike the texts that the New Critics or Russian Formalists studied, some of the new information and multimedia carry hidden structures and codes that cannot be "read," or even seen, in any ordinary way.  How can we be 'close readers' of such materials today?")

[c] Resolution (e.g., "If we look more deeply into the issue, we can see that literacy now requires an understanding of  underlying structures and history of information or entertainment that are analogous to those of the print literature once studied by the formalists.  These new structures and history are different but also similar...")


Arrow right Essays should include notes with citations in MLA style (unless there is a reason to choose a different style). (See the Purdue Online Writing Lab's "MLA Formatting and Style Guide").  Be sure to cite works that  you quote or otherwise use (see course Intellectual Property Guidelines).  


Assignment Due  8-Page Paper

8-9 page essay.  Must be uploaded by midnight on Mar. 14th to the instructor's DROPitTOme box at www.dropitto.me/ayliu (using upload password to be given you by the instructor).   Name your file "Your Name - Second Paper".  Preferred file format: PDF file (less preferable: Doc or Docx file).  Counts for   of final grade.


This paper of 8-9 pages should deal with some aspect of the course materials from Structuralism on (though earlier material may also figure in your argument).  Here are examples of possible topics.  The important thing is that you choose or invent a topic for yourself that you have a real interest in--something you think is significant, problematic, or otherwise characterized by genuine intellectual or sociocultural interest.  In regard to "coverage" of materials in the course: you may want to deal with two or more authors; or you may want to deal just with one author in a way that opens out into broader issues.  In any case, I am looking for penetration of thought coupled with some evidence of range (translation for the latter: a sense that you have done a fair amount of the reading and have developed a "cognitive map" of the field).  The ideal essay, in my mind, is one that focuses tightly on an interesting problem grounded in analysis of one or more particular texts that also opens out into broader implications showing that you have been thinking about the issues of the course as a whole.  (See also "General guidelines for designing your essay above.)














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