Essay 3: Culture and Identity

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Learning Objectives:

The purpose of the assignment is to show that you know how to identify and discuss

basic structural and/or technical elements and rhetorical strategies of various literary

works and how those elements contribute to the overall effect of the work.

Assignment:

For Essay 3, you will conduct a formal literary analysis of one of the assigned readings

in Unit 3: Conformity and Rebellion (listed below). You should focus on literary

elements, such as setting, imagery, tone, and symbolism. Before beginning to write,

you will want to review “Reading Literature” (pp. 2–35) and “Writing About Literature

(pp. 36-75) in your textbook. Pay particular attention to the section titled, “The

Research Paper.” I also have posted a variety of helpful resources regarding literary

analysis under Content in D2L. Please come to me with any questions or concerns. I am

happy to help!

Be sure to include quoted passages from the reading(s) to illustrate your points. For

this essay, you will be required to cite two secondary sources. All quotes must be

properly documented within the text and on a Works Cited page using correct MLA

documentation style. Scholarly articles from online journals through the library

databases are preferable, but I will accept other sources as long as they are reputable.

However, you are not permitted to use Wikipedia, blogs, personal webpages, or other

informal and/or unreliable sources. If you are in doubt, please ask me.

Readings:

• Charlotte Perkins Gilman – “The Yellow Wallpaper”

• James Baldwin – “Sonny's Blues”

• Alice Walker – “Everyday Use”

• Ha Jin – “The Bridegroom”

• Paul Laurence Dunbar – “We Wear the Mask”

• T.S. Eliot – “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

• Kevin Young – “Negative”

• Terrance Hayes – “Root”

• Patricia Smith – “What It's Like to Be a Black Girl (For Those of You Who Aren’t)”

• Danez Smith – “The Bullet Was a Girl”

• Naomi Shihab Nye – “To Jamyla Bolden of Ferguson, Missouri”

• Tishani Doshi – “Lament —I”

• Blas Manuel De Luna – “Bent to the Earth”

• Jamaica Kincaid – “Girl”

• E.E. Cummings – “The Cambridge Ladies Who Live in Furnished Souls”

• Tess Gallagher – “I Stop Writing the Poem”

• Julia Alvarez – “Woman's Work”

• Deborah Garrison – “Sestina for the Working Mother”

• Naomi Shihab Nye – “This Is Not Who We Are: Arab-Americans in a Post 9/11

World”

• Bharati Mukherjee – “Two Ways to Belong in America”

• August Wilson – Fences

Sample Topics

I encourage you to choose any one of the assigned readings. I would suggest choosing

the one that you best understand and about which you have the most to say.

You are not limited to the topics below. Be creative! I welcome your ideas. The topics

literally are endless. However, I do want to provide a few example topics to help you

get started:

• Choose any reading from this unit in which objects or actions seem to function

as symbols. Write an essay exploring the possible meanings of these symbols.

For example, in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” both the wallpaper and the window

function as symbols. Similarly, the fence in Fences is symbolic of a variety of

racial, class, and economic barriers.

• Write an essay in which you explore how a literary element – such as tone,

setting, irony, or imagery – contributes to the overall effect and meaning of a

particular reading.

• Write an essay in which you discuss the effect of the literary effect of figurative

language – such as simile, metaphor, personification, or allusion – contributes to

the overall effect and meaning of a particular poem.

• Write an essay in which you explore how a recurring word or phrase contributes

to the effect and meaning of a particular reading.

• Write an essay in which you analyze the thesis, structure, style, tone, or

rhetorical strategies used in one of the nonfiction readings from this unit.

• Narration plays a key role in virtually all literary works. Write an essay in which

you examine the narrative voice in the selected reading. Pay close attention to

passages in which the narrator relates the voice, vision, thoughts, or perspective

of a focal character. How does the narrative voice contribute to tone, irony, or

other effects of the story? Does the narrator speak in the first, second or third

person? Is the story narrated in the past or present tense? Does the narrator use

a distinctive vocabulary, style, and tone, or is the language more standard and

neutral? Is the narrator identified as a character, and if so, how much does he or

she participate in the action? Does the narrator ever seem to speak directly to

the reader (addressing “you”) or explicitly state opinions or values? Do you know

what the character is thinking? Does the narrative voice or focus shift during the

story or remain consistent? Do the narrator, the characters, and the reader all

perceive matters in the same way, or are there differences in levels of

understanding?

Requirements:

1. Length: 1,000-1,200 words

2. Include direct quotes from the readings to support your assertions.

3. Properly introduce, present, and cite all direct quotes.

4. Include a Works Cited page in which you cite the readings that you chose for this

assignment.

5. You must adhere to the formatting guidelines set forth in The MLA Handbook, 8th

edition. Be sure that all margins measure 1 inch and that you use Times New

Roman 12-point font. You also should follow MLA formatting guidelines regarding

the page heading, running header, page numbering, etc.

General Guidelines:

• Include an original and thought-provoking title.

• Include a clear, focused thesis statement.

• Present and support your points with observations, details, and examples.

• Properly organize the paper.

• Provide clear transitions.

• Use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Avoid slang, clichés, and second

person pronouns.

• Use a variety of sentence structures and sentence beginnings.

• Do not simply restate your thesis and main points in the conclusion. Your conclusion

should be a fresh take on that thesis, and you should work to leave your readers

with something thought-provoking.

Evaluation Criteria:

• Is the writer’s purpose/position clear?

• Is the essay effectively organized?

• Are the paragraphs adequately developed?

• Is the tone appropriate to the essay’s purpose?

• Is there evidence of attention to language, of a conscious attempt to employ

rhetorical strategies to achieve a certain effect?

• Does the essay contain errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and/or mechanics?

• Does the writer smoothly incorporate source material, using signal phrases and

transitions?

• Does the writer accurately cite all sources both in the text of the essay and on the

Works Cited page?

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