Literature technology & society F15(2) (1).docx

Your paper must consist of a single sustained

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Your paper must consist of a single, sustained, coherent argument about a literary text from the course. Every single sentence in your paper needs to do something relative to your main argument. This main argument must be given, in some way, at the start of the paper . This is traditionally called your “thesis.” Note: the thesis need not be a single sentence. Your paper should be an exercise in “close reading.” This means that your thesis should concern the meaning of a very small piece of language, a meaning you explain in explicit detail (the
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traditional term is “explicate”). A rule of thumb: if you find yourself citing more than one sentence at a time, you’re probably not close reading. Think of it this way: your argument will always have the form of: “this” [a piece of text, a collection of “signifiers”] means “this” [a possibly coherent, possibly nonsensical set of ideas, affects, effects, etc.; a “signified” in the parlance of linguistics]. The real task (or trial; literally: “essay”) is showing, exhaustively as you can, what “means” means in the specific situation you are writing about. Your paper must have an introduction and a conclusion. The introduction should lay the ground for your argument: what is the domain you’ll be covering? A good introduction lets the reader know what kinds of questions you’ll be putting to a text, as well as what discourses you’ll be referring to in your argument. After reading a good introduction I should never find myself surprised by the appearance of a topic in the paper (even if I might be surprised by your interpretation of the topic). Thus, the best introductions are written after the rest of the paper , because: Writing is exploration. Most of us, maybe all of us, don’t know what we think exactly until we’ve written it. You should learn what you think through the act of writing. Thus, I don’t expect you to know the ins-and-outs of your argument until you’ve made it. When you’re done, you need to go back over the whole thing, tightening the argument, cutting extraneous sections, adding detail or emphasis where necessary. Everything depends on how well you construct your argument; therefore, I cannot provide grading rubrics for these papers. Each argument makes demands, and my job is to assess the extent to which your text meets those demands. There are no such things as absolutely “right” or “wrong,” for the most part, in literary analysis. There are no “methods” that guarantee validity, as there are for most sciences. The humanities have a very different set of assumptions about ontology, epistemology, and methodology. Suffice it to say that what we rely on, above everything else, is strong argumentation. I will accept no claim you make that is not supported and argued for (put differently, it’s not enough to make claims I agree with : this class has nothing to do with which readings I prefer). I need to see exactly how you get from ink on a page to a full “reading” (in the strong sense, see “Useful Quotation” by J. Hillis Miller below). You may
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  • Fall '08
  • MCGOLDRICK

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