The Sorrows of Young Werther

Essay 1 Instructions

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Length: 1,000-1,200 words

Due: Thursday, November 19, 2020 (electronic copy through OWL)

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A formal, extended discussion of one text – poem (epic or mock), short story, epistolary novel, play – studied throughout the first term and its equivalent or contrary cultural representation (if applicable). The essay should provide an in-depth discussion of the form(s) employed and should consider devices used to explore the content’s themes. You should focus on articulating a position and its relative meaning by way of an argumentative thesis statement. Secondary research is not required for Essay 1, but students may apply theory (as outlined in lecture and supplementary reading) to their reading of the text. MLA citation style is required. Students should send me a short description of their topics for approval. Assignments should be submitted to the correct folder on OWL. Be sure you keep/make/have a copy for yourself. While possible topics will be provided, students are also encouraged to create their own topics, with the professor’s guidance. MLA citation style is required


Essay Instructions

An essay is a logically constructed, connected and developed argument in support of a clear thesis.

· Use the word “I” sparingly, and only in argumentative contexts (“I argue that…”; “I propose …”; “My claim that… goes against X’s argument that…”)

· Do not use verbs like “feel” (“I feel that this is so”)

· Do not describe your emotions in relation with the text discussed. You may, however, discuss the type of emotional reaction that a text is meant to produce for readers/audiences in general.

· Do not use colloquial (everyday) language

The opening paragraph of your essay should contain your thesis statement. This statement should be a clear contention about the text/texts that your essay examines. This contention should neither be a truism nor a generality but should precisely defined, tightly focused, and disputable.

No essay – not even a book-length study – can hope to demonstrate the validity of its thesis in relation to every possible aspect of the literary text in question. Therefore, the opening paragraph should also indicate the following:

· The aspects of the text that you intend to examine in detail in order to prove your thesis (themes, forms, genre, imagery, symbolism, character construction, particular figures of speech, structure, style, vocabulary, syntax, use of conventions, philosophical/ideological aspects, etc.)

· The scope of your study (what falls within your parameters and what lies outside those limits)

The opening paragraph normally offers no evidence in support of the thesis. That evidence appears in the body of the essay. In presenting your evidence in the body of your essay, you should keep in mind the following points:

· Paragraphs generally begin with topic sentences

· Topic sentences contend something; they do not make statements of fact or provide straightforward information

· Careful readings that pay attention to detail and tease out complexity, nuance, subtleties, contradictions and associations, tend to impress careful readers

· A tone that dismisses all other possible points of view out of hand, or that refuses to examine or acknowledge merit in opposing positions, usually impresses upon the reader the writer’s ideological (or other) narrowness

· Literary writing is rarely one dimensional; an analysis of a text that represents the text as one dimensional generally undermines the critic’s credibility as a careful reader

· Well-organized, logical arguments, based clearly on textual evidence, persuade the reader; assertions, no matter how sincere or how often repeated, do not

Ensure that the evidence and arguments in each paragraph are directly relevant to the contention made in that paragraph’s topic sentence.

Good arguments achieve two broad aims:

· They present a persuasive case in support of the thesis

· They present a persuasive case against other readings that might object to the thesis

[Ask yourselves what someone who disagrees with your view might say. You should be able to locate such contentions in secondary sources not mandatory for this assignment. Include these accounts in your essay. Explain what you think is amiss with these opposing arguments. You will be most persuasive if you show not only the strength of your argument but also the weaknesses in other arguments.]

Good conclusions do more than repeat in summary what has already been said. Use the conclusion to clinch your argument. This goal can be achieved by reserving a new and particularly telling point for the conclusion.

Essays are written to be read; therefore, write readably. The reader does not owe you his or her attention. You need to attract it. So, write with the aim of capturing the reader’s interest and then try to keep it. In order to do so, try to achieve the following:

· Choose a style that is lively, varied, infused with a sense of language’s rhythms

· Choose original expressions to clichés

· Aim at clarity and avoid obfuscation and unnecessary jargon

· Do not habitually favour passive constructions

· Choose a succinct, not verbose style

· Chooses concrete nouns and verbs over abstract constructions

Remember that you are writing about a text with the aim of doing it justice as literature and as cultural product. Literature is not primarily sociology, philosophy, nor a political pamphlet, diatribe nor tract, nor social commentary, nor a contribution to this or that fashionable, or unfashionable, debate. A text might include any, or even all of these features, but is so much more than any one of, or even the sum of, these features. While any given text represents matters of this sort, the representation is literary, and not narrowly discursive. Ideological purity ill suits and is rarely found in good literature. Writers frequently declare that their writing explores arguments they have with themselves. Literary writing is seldom, if ever, monolithic.

Secondary sources are not essential in this first essay. Rather, you are encouraged to engage with the text and you may choose to apply the theory, or the basis for a theoretical approach, to your chosen text.

Possible themes/topics:

Identity as project

Features of the epic – mock or otherwise

Forms of hegemonic control

Feminism approach to any first-term text

Love, passion, and desire

Duty vs. free will

Social responsibility

Morality and Ethics

Race and Identity

Comparison of a first-term text to a contemporary cultural representation (this topic will require some work; please be sure to discuss your topic with me first before you begin writing)


Content: 70%


· Thesis Statement / Conclusion: 10%

· Discussion of form(s) employed and devices used to explore the identified theme(s): 20%

· Logically correct and firm construction of the argumentation (clear claims + proof/textual evidence to support): 40%


Vocabulary, Syntax, Style: 20%


MLA Format: 10%

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