Monday, April 6, 2009

The Home Stretch: Crafting Criticism


The aim of any literature class is to enhance one’s own ability to analyze a text through a critical lens—essentially, to heighten one’s critical thinking ability. Literary criticism, then, is concerned with searching a text like detective to a mystery for deeper meaning, to “read between the lines” and thereby discover a world of themes that pertain to the human experience. To root out such themes from the text involves a search for and understanding of literary techniques such as irony, conflict, figurative language, symbol, imagery and dialogue—each indicates a certain something more that is going on beyond what is presented by face value of mere words on a page. Every story communicates something unique and everything unique is important. To do a work of literary criticism is serious work, but, as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke says to Mr. Kappus, the subject of his Letters to a Young Poet, “But they are difficult things with which we have been charged; almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious” (35).

To begin our own search, I want to invite you first to consider topics for discussion that will inform and dictate your 5-7 page piece of literary criticism with a works cited page that includes the primary source and three other secondary, scholarly sources (non web-based). These topics should revolve around one of the major works read in class this year, which are as follows:

· Beowulf
· The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
· Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
· The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
· The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
· Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
· 1984 by George Orwell
· Brave New World by Alduous Huxley

Once you have invented a topic for the purposes of completing your work of literary criticism, I would like you to craft a thesis paragraph that will set out to examine at least three aspects of the topic to be discussed. You may treat this paragraph as a more informal topic proposal or prospectus. I will discuss specific format for such an assignment in class. Due, typed and according to MLA format, Wednesday, April 22, 2009.

After you have generated a thesis paragraph, you are responsible for re-typing it and crafting an outline to give a skeletal frame to the piece. Please list the works you will be using for research along with the title of the work itself on a separate works cited page, due with the ouline. Due, typed and according to MLA format, Monday, May 4, 2009.

Lastly, once the outline is finished, you will be responsible for fleshing out an actual draft of your essay, which I will accept for review before you turn in your final work.

The due date for this thesis project is Wednesday, May 20, 2009.

We will begin discussing ideas, expectations, and format guidelines for the paper and the constituent assignments leading up to its final submission as the quarter carries on.

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