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Your first paper for this course will consist of a traditional literary analysis in which you will formulate a thesis about an aesthetic, historical, or cultural issue related to the readings and support your argument by presenting textual evidence. This textual evidence should be analyzed to show how it supports your interpretive claim about the text or texts under discussion in your paper. Your primary sources will be drawn from any combination of the class readings located on the syllabus. If you would like to use another text from the period covered by the course, clear it with me first so I can make sure I know the text in question. You may choose to focus on one text closely for the paper or a series of readings that trace a theme or issue that you think is worth discussing. Your theme may be aesthetic, historical, political, or theoretical, but in the end it must argue a specific point rather than simply summarize. I'm not looking for an old-fashioned book report: I want you to try to convince me that your specific way of interpreting a text adds to our understanding of America in some way. I recognize that this topic is deliberately vague: for some of you, selecting a topic is going to be difficult because you prefer to take a very specific assigned theme and write. Part of my goal in giving this vague assignment is to force each of you to read the texts as if you are looking for a potential topic. With that goal in mind, I will simply list some potential issues for your consideration: conquest, religion, first contact, visions of the "other," resistance, gender, wonder, freedom, etc. You may wish to review some of the brief theory samples we've read in the anthology to help generate potential topics.

I expect the following in your papers:

  • 4 to 5 pages long.
  • No additional research required.
  • Must include at least one primary source from the syllabus.
  • If additional research is used, make sure it is cited with an MLA style works cited page.
  • A lively argument
  • A final draft that is both revised and edited
  • A strong introduction that includes a clear thesis and references the writer or writers about whom you are writing
  • A conclusion that ties together your major points and then expands the conversation through analysis
  • Key quotes from the texts under discussion to provide the basis for your analysis
  • The use of internal citations for quotes, MLA style
  • The use of signal phrases for said quotes
  • An MLA works cited page (which should be numbered but is not part of the minimum page count)
  • Citations for any additional sources
  • A complete absence of plagiarism
  • A strict compliance with the MLA paper format guidelines, particularly with margins, spacing, and font. I consider mechanical tricks to manipulate the length of your paper disrespectful of the hard work of your classmates and take off for it.
  • The paper should be printed in 12 point Times New Roman Font and have 1" margins with a zero gutter.
Those of you who want to look up additional sources can do so, but it is not required. I recommend the following sources available through our library (you may need to log into the Library page to access them): Friendly Warnings:
  • Wikipedia is not a legitimate source in this college-level class, although it can point to other sources that would be considered legitimate. Make sure that you can defend the decision to use specific online sources if challenged.
  • If you choose to make comparisons between events from the course and contemporary issues or events, I urge you to make sure the focus of the paper is at least 60% on the class material.
Extra Credit Opportunity: As part of my full-time teaching load during the regular school year, I tutor 6.5 hours a week in the Writing Center, located in the Learning Assistance Laboratory on the second floor of the library in College Hall. If you have your paper draft reviewed by a writing tutor at least three days before the final draft is due, you will receive an additional 5 points on your final paper grade. You can be tutored in person or online (click here for online tutoring instructions; submit the paper to an English 211 tutor). To get the credit, have the tutor sign the draft and indicate the time and date of the conference. If the tutoring occurs online, simply print out the response.

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