Interpretive essay about one of the stories discussed in class 

Write an original 500-700 word interpretive essay about one of the stories discussed in class or about a song of your choosing. Your analysis must focus on themes relevant to this course

Interpretive essay about one of the stories discussed in class

Write an original 500-700 word interpretive essay about one of the stories discussed in class or about a song of your choosing. Your analysis must focus on themes relevant to this course (e.g., socioeconomic class, consumerism, attitudes about money and/or work, etc.). If you wish, you may write about multiple texts, as long as your thesis provides a focused argument about the significance of the comparison/contrast of the two. If you have any questions about the appropriateness of your topic, please discuss it with me before submitting your paper.

Assume that your audience is this class—people who have also read the work (and who thus don’t need plot summary) but who may not understand or agree with your interpretation.

If you need help formulating a topic/argument, talk to me.  Feel free to text or email me at any time—my goal is to help you find a topic about which you are both interested in writing and capable of writing a successful paper, and the easiest way to help you find such a topic is often to talk during an individual conference.

Format your paper according to MLA style guidelines.

For an example of what an MLA paper looks like, see page 575 in Rules for Writers.  In particular, note the placement of the title, page numbers, and writer’s name, date, etc.  If you choose to use sources in your paper and need help following the MLA rules for documentation described in chapter 56-57 of Rules for Writers, ask me.

Your essay will graded according to the guidelines on the posted rubric, plus points deducted for violations indicated on the “Kiss of Death” list.

Guidelines for paper:  The main thing I will be looking for is whether your paper has an interesting, well-supported argument with a strong, clear thesis  (by clear thesis, I mean both that your paper needs a thesis statement and that the entirety of your paper should support that thesis—I don’t want to see unconnected ideas).  A good thesis/argument in a paper about a literary text is one that focuses on a very specific aspect of a text (in a paper as short as this one will be, probably the more specific, the better) and doesn’t lead to plot summary or character sketches.

A good thesis statement generally specifies that a certain aspect of a text means a particular thing  (For example,  theses such as  “By describing both his small town’s natural setting and its popular media, Joe Nichols establishes the Wal-Mart parking lot as a symbol of . . .”  or “Updike’s description of the different reactions of Stokesie, Lengel, and Sammy to Queenie and her friends illustrates the ways in which a consumerist society often encourages the objectification of women as either. . .” might lead to interesting arguments)  I also will be looking to see that you support your argument with textual evidence.

This class is your audience.  We’ve all read the text(s) you’ll be discussing, so don’t spend too much time summarizing.

Just because we’ve read these works, however, does not mean we understand or agree with your interpretation.  Convince us. One way to be convincing is to be sensitive to alternative interpretations and counterarguments your readers might make  (For example, you can acknowledge possible counterarguments by saying things like, “At first it might seem that x means y; however, if we keep in mind z, it becomes clear that x actually represents . . .” or  “Some might argue that . . . , but . . .”).

Here is a basic outline you might use to organize literary analysis papers:

I.  Intro:  Should include at least a catchy or interesting opening sentence, the author and title of the literary work, a very short (one sentence or less) plot summary, and a thesis statement.  Your intro might also be an appropriate place to respond to a secondary source you have read.

II.  First Body Paragraph
A.  Topic sentence:  Must support the thesis and introduce the main idea of the paragraph.

B.  Claim.  This is a statement that elaborates on the topic sentence.

C. Evidence:  This is a quotation, paraphrase, or example from the literary work that proves your claim.  You may include more than one piece of evidence to support your assertion if your wish.

D.  Summary:  This is a sentence that explains the significance of the claim and/or evidence.

E.  Repeat if necessary:  Letters B,C, and D (claim, evidence, summary) may be repeated in the same paragraph if you have another claim that works with the topic sentence of that paragraph.

III.  Additional Body Paragraphs:  Should be the same structure as the first.

IV.  Conclusion:  In two or three sentences, bring closure to your essay.

Guidelines for writing a literary analysis:
 1)  Your introduction must include a thesis statement, which should be a one sentence summary of your interpretation Your thesis should express an opinion or argument and should ideally provide a map for your entire essay.

2)  Support each part of your interpretation with references to specific passages from the text.  Aim for more than one piece of evidence.

3)  To avoid plot summary, try resisting the temptation to discuss a work in chronological order.

4)  Analyze—don’t retell.  Explain how each piece of evidence supports your interpretation.  Do not just cite several quotes and then go on to your next point.  Explain for your readers how the evidence supports your interpretation.

5)  Define key terms.  If you are writing about the hero of a story, define what you mean by “hero” or “heroine.”

6)  Signal the major parts of your interpretation.  Use transitions to let your readers know when you shift to a new point.

7)  Use the present tense as you describe the events in the story.

8)  Quote accurately and cite page numbers for each reference.

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