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Jonathan Swifts, A Modest Proposal

ne of the two that you write, ideally, will be developed into the full length (5 pages, double-spaced) Final Essay due at the end of the class, so that by the time you have to write that essay, you’ll already have done half the work and had a couple of relatively low-impact attempts to write literary criticism, which will help you do a much better job on the final essay. So first, don’t get too worked up about these–don’t let them worry you; even if you turn in half a page of confused mumblings, you’ll still get at least a D, or a 60 out of 100 – and you could still theoretically make an A in the class. And by making two attempts at a mini-essay, you’ll improve each time, until by the end of the class, the 5 page essay isn’t going to seem so intimidating.
You can develop the mini-essays from your discussion posts, if you want. Each discussion board prompt should be regarded as a possible essay prompt for writing a close reading. You should definitely write about something that interests you, and you should feel free to use an old discussion post to get started.
As for helping you with ideas, here is what you do:
Pick your favorite primary text we’ve read so far. If you’re still unclear about what a primary text is, Google it!
Ask yourself, “Why is this my favorite text?” and jot down your answers – be specific. For example, “I liked the part in Equiano’s narrative when he described the slave ship because ….” The “because” part is the important part of the answer. Make a list of notes.
Look over the list and compare your notes about the text you’ve chosen with the question areas from the “General Questions” handout (i.e. did you seem most to focus on the plot, the characters, the setting, or what?).
Looking at the “General Questions” handout, ask yourself the questions under whichever heading you’ve chosen in regard to the particular work (preferably the particular character, episode, or feature of the particular work) you’ve chosen. Start writing down your answers to these questions, ideally in complete sentences, using brief, targeted quotes from the text to support your answers.
Turn your answer(s) to one or more of these “General Questions” into an essay in which you TEACH a FELLOW READER (that is, someone who has also read the work in question, someone who DOES NOT NEED YOU TO SUMMARIZE) about the meaning of the text.
Be sure you have a clear thesis statement, if possible (and Googling “literary thesis statement” will help you get a grip on this, but partly, the assignment is a way to help you figure out what a thesis is), and be sure you support that thesis.
Be sure you have some organization for your essay, which, at a minimum, means paragraphs! Ideally, you will be building an argument that has at least a couple of propositions that need some support, and each of these propositions is likely to require writing at least one paragraph.
Be sure you use at least a few concise quotes from the text that support your argument. (Again, Googling “quoting litarery sources” will help you with this if you’re unsure about how that ought to work).
Rewrite/revise, edit, and proofread the essay a couple of times, making it as seamless, coherent and concise as you possibly can. Make it look (in terms of format) like the sample I gave you. Make it one page ONLY!
A VERY good idea (basically, a requirement) would be to CLEARLY IDENTIFY the text in the title and in the first sentence of your essay. In other words, a title like “Monstrosity in Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love,” and a first sentence like this: “The character of Arturo the Aqua Boy in Katherine Dunn’s 1989 novel Geek Love is….” My point is that in only one page, there’s simply no time to beat around the bush. Start on topic from the beginning.
You may find that the Rhetorical PrecìsPreview the documentPreview the document format helps inspire you to identify what you think is most importaiqunt and valuable about a text.

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