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Autumn 2017
ENG 2304 Essay
Dr. Benyousky
In your essay for this class, you will select a topic and conduct a close reading over one particular text that we
have read in class, developing your topic through this close reading. Your essay will be double-spaced and 5-6
pages in length, written according to the requirements explained in the expectations for grading section. You
might want to refer to a previous reading journal for assistance if you have already written on your chosen topic.
Topic Development
There are many topics that you can write about in your essay. Be sure that your topic is sufficiently focused.
Brainstorm topic ideas or texts that you were fascinated by in our class. Freewriting is a helpful way of
generating paper ideas. Once you have narrowed your list down to one or two ideas or texts, start asking
yourself why this topic is interesting, why it might be a fruitful topic to pursue, or what specifically intrigued
you about this text. For instance, you may want to write about the city or countryside in “A Rose for Emily.”
This is a good place to begin brainstorming your ideas for your paper, but you must be much more specific than
this in your paper. You will want to come up with several (something like 2-4) ways in which place is depicted
in the play. You could talk about the gender roles, the fading southern aristocracy, Faulkner’s use of violence,
etc. Some examples of topics that you might write on: the function of American ideals in a work, the use of
nature imagery in a work, use of poetic form (sonnet, elegy, ekphrasis, etc.), racial tensions in a work,
representations of war, empathy, community, etc. in literature, depictions of violence or suffering, the impact of
jazz or blues on a work, the role mental illness plays in a work, the function of literature in the world, etc.
Expectations for Grading
This paper is worth 25% of your grade, and will be evaluated according to the following basic schema, which
draws upon principles mentioned in these guidelines:
Thesis (25 points):
-Has a clear and precise thesis in the first paragraph?
-Topic sentences give clear structure to paragraphs?
Argument (60 points):
-Supports thesis with careful and persuasive analysis of details in texts?
-Follows prompt closely and clearly?
Requirements and Style (15 points):
-Follows guidelines for organization and style?
-Uses correct grammar?
-Needs proofreading?
Total 100 points
You should have a clear and precise major claim (thesis) and support it with relevant evidence from the texts
you analyze (e.g., quotations, close discussion of details). The paper should be 5-6 pages with one-inch margins
on the top, bottom, left, and right; lines should be double-spaced in 12pt.Times New Roman font.
You should follow the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers when citing texts:
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/08/. If you only use our classroom texts, you do not need to
include a “Works Cited” page at the end; if you do use outside sources, you should include a “Works Cited”
page. You are welcome to use outside sources, but this is not a requirement (if you use outside sources well you
will earn extra credit).
State your major claim (thesis) in the first paragraph and in the conclusion drive home for your reader the thesis
you’ve demonstrated. Make sure no one can look up after reading your paper and think, “Now, what was she/he
really claiming?” In between the introduction and conclusion, each paragraph should lead to the other and they
should all work together to support and develop the major claim (thesis) that you provide in your introduction.
At a bare minimum, your sentences should be grammatically correct and clear. In addition to this basic
requirement, please observe the following stylistic guidelines:
Don’t Do
* use passive verbs (“to be”+past tense verb)—passives are sometimes necessary; but you should avoid them
when possible.
*use impersonal constructions (there is, there are, it is often thought. . ., etc.)
*use vague adverbs (very, quite, rather)
Autumn 2017
ENG 2304 Essay
Dr. Benyousky
*use excessive adjectives (“Wordsworth portrays the tranquil, sedative, and restorative effects of nature on his
*use active verbs
*use only necessary adjectives
*use the first-person singular, “I,” when possible: own your claims—not “we can see” or “it could be said,” but
“I believe” or “I claim.”
*use the present tense when discussing details in a text or what an author does (“Austen portrays Mrs. Jennings
as a fool.” “Blake’s Tyger exemplifies the sublime power of nature.”)
*have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion
*state your claim (thesis) in your first paragraph
*write “topic” sentences for each paragraph
You can include a quote of four lines or less in your own paragraph, setting it off with quotation marks. Use no
more than 1 block quote for the entire essay.
If it is from a poem, use backslashes (/) to mark breaks between lines. Note the line numbers in parentheses after
your quote. Place the parentheses after your quotation marks but before your own final punctuation mark. Retain
the original ending punctuation mark in the text you are quoting within your quotation, unless it is a period, in
which case you only need your own period at the sentence’s end:
In “Tintern Abbey,” Wordsworth imaginatively half-erases signs of human cultivation and habitation to produce
a wild, secluded landscape in which he can meditate: “Once again I see / These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows,
little lines / Of sportive wood run wild” (14-16).
When quoting prose, include the page number in the concluding parentheses. Normally the title of the work
you’re discussing will be obvious, so you won’t need to include it in the parentheses. When you quote a passage
in which a character’s comments are already in quotation marks, you must insert an apostrophe inside your own
quotation marks to show this:
Dickens, in Hard Times, reveals the danger of valuing abstract statistics above the capacity to imagine and
sympathize with the concrete lives of individuals. Yet he acknowledges that some forms of storytelling and
imagining other lives can justify injustice. At one point, Mr. Bounderby justifies his assumption that Stephen
Blackpool is guilty: “‘Show me a dissatisfied Hand, and I’ll show you a man that’s fit for anything bad, I don’t
care what it is’” (179). The narrator likens Bounderby’s prejudice to a popular novel that has been read and
absorbed by everyone in Bounderby’s social class: “[This was a]nother of the popular fictions of Coketown,
which some pains had been taken to disseminate—and which some people really believed” (179).
When quoting more than four sentences/lines of a block of text, whether of prose or poetry or drama, use
separate block quotes indented by two tab-lengths from the edge of your preceding normal text. Print lines of
poetry in their original form. Use ellipses (. . .) to show when you have left out original lines or phrases, and
always include citation information in parentheses at the end of your quote after the final punctuation mark in
that quote. When quoting poetry, cite line numbers; when quoting prose, cite page numbers.
An example from poetry
In “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Coleridge leaves us unsure as to whether the Mariner has seen the
supernatural events he recounts. When dehydrated, the Mariner could have transformed a cloud of mist into a
ghostly ship:
A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!
And still it neared and neared:
As if it dodged a water-sprite,
It plunged and tacked and veered.
. . .I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail! (153-156, 160-1)
Such moments in the poem indicate that readers can never be sure if, within the world the poem portrays, all of
the events described by the Mariner “really” happened.
Autumn 2017
ENG 2304 Essay
Dr. Benyousky
An example from drama
Wilde exemplifies the flippant attitude towards reality and truth that the upper class has, and how this attitude
has percolated down to the servants:
ALGERNON [Picking up empty plate in horror]: Good heavens! Lane! Why are there no cucumber
sandwiches? I ordered them specifically.
Lane [Gravely]: There were no cucumbers in the market this morning, sir. I went down twice.
A: No cucumbers!
L: No, sir. Not even for ready money. (179)
In this scene, Algernon’s complete duplicity stemming from his own self-indulgence has been adopted by Lane,
who supports his lie without any hesitation or shame.

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