Engl 291/AmStud 261, “American Novel Since 1945”
Essay #2 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.
Most of these topics can be described as thematic—they ask questions about a feature of what
the novels says. That does not mean that you should write only about
the novel says;
indeed, it is crucial to discuss
the novel says whatever it says, no matter what topic you
choose. This would include analysis of diction, the use of metaphor or simile or other figurative
language, the juxtaposition of scenes, the form of the narrative, what the author chooses as
beginning and ending, and where the narrative is divided, or has a pause, the point of view
chosen—just to name a few of the literary techniques that writers use to shape their narratives.
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
noon on Friday,
. (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).