Engl 291/AmStud 261, “American Novel Since 1945”
Essay #1 Topics
Essays should be 5 to 8 pages, double-spaced, one-inch margins, Times Roman font;
please number your pages.
Cite the novels parenthetically with page numbers from our class’s edition; in this case,
no footnotes or bibliography is necessary. If you have a different edition, please speak to
your TF about how they would like you to cite.
In crafting an argument to answer the question, please choose between two and four
specific passages to mine for evidence. You may refer to other parts of the novel, of
course, but be sure to have two to four main passages whose form and content (how they
are written, and what they are about) serve to support your claims.
If you see a topic that you talked about extensively in section, please do not choose that
as the topic for your essay. If a brief section discussion of one of these topics sparked an
interest you’d like to explore further in the paper, check with your TF before starting to
make sure that she or he thinks you are going enough beyond what was covered in class.
Likewise, your argument should not reproduce points made in lecture. This is your
chance to advance your own interpretation of a novel.
***Long papers will not necessarily earn higher grades than short ones. A five-page
argument presented in eight pages will lose points for verbosity.
That said, you can
mount a nifty and complicated argument using eight pages; if you have such an argument
to make, go ahead and make it. Otherwise a snappy five will do it.***
Papers are due to the English dept. drop box, marked with your TF’s name, by
Friday, Febrary 29
. (If your TF wishes you to deliver them differently—for example, by
email—she or he will let you know.) In the absence of a Dean’s excuse, late papers will
be docked one grade increment per day (A to A-, A- to B+, and so on).
1. Humbert discusses how enraged Lo is over the way Humbert deprives her "not of a
specific satisfaction but of a general right .
.. the conventional program, the stock
pastimes, the 'things that are done' (186). Sal is disgusted with those who act with nothing
"but with the idea of what one should do" (244): "This is the story of America.
Everybody's doing what they think they're supposed to do" (68). Using one of these
novels, or another, discuss the impact of convention, of the entanglements that arise when
characters try to act as they "think they're supposed to." Ambitious essays should attempt
to relate the idea of social convention to literary convention.