English 1106 Close Reading Fiction Essay

English 1106 Close Reading Fiction Essay


  • Not fewer than three (3) and not more than five (5) examples taken directly from the text under discussion to support your claim.
  • Proper MLA in-text citation format and work cited page.
  • You can write on texts from the second-half of the course only. So, the two selections from Borderlands: La Frontera / The New Mestiza, Einstein’s Dreams, “The Swimmer,” “Indissoluble Matrimony,” “Texts for Nothing,” and “Evidence.”
  • You must include a statement of not less than 250 words reflecting on what you 1) thought was the most interesting thing that you learned from any single text (your choice) and 2) learned in the course might impact your thinking going forward. The statement should be on a separate page and be included at the end of your essay.
  • Note that all requirements outlined on the Course Outline for this course apply.
  • Students who received a grade of less than C+ for Essay #1 should consult Chapters 4, 5, and 6 in the Abrams readings from the coursepack and look through examples from those chapters as well. In fact, everyone in the class is strongly encouraged to look at the examples in Abrams to understand precisely what a Literature essay looks like.

Notes: This writing assignment emphasizes close reading, without need to read beyond the text. You should focus your attention on how your essay shows you interpreting the text of your choice through some of the broad topics we have covered in the second half of the course (representation, cultural capital, otherness, futility, speculation, etc.). The word count is not a standard, but a guideline for the amount of information you should address. Avoid trying to address the entire text, or multiple characters, and do not spend a great deal of time recounting plot events. You should show your audience how an interpretation of specific things in the text works and what’s significant about those things when we try to interpret meaning in the text. As noted above, look to the sample essays in the Abrams reading for examples of a good Literary essay. English 1106 Close Reading Fiction Essay

Your essay should not be a review or plot synopsis that serves only to demonstrate you have read the text. Focus on how one of the contexts below is represented in a single character, symbol, metaphor, or event in the text, and which can be evidenced through specific references to the text. Then, speak to how that representation–as illustrated by your interpretation of the text–diverges from–or affirms–our expectations, assumptions, or biases as they apply to the topic outlined in the question. Avoid value judgements or comments about the author’s intent. Remember to nest your answer in specific references or examples from the text and include a claim / thesis / interpretation that responds to the prompts below.

Final Note: Please refer to the online lecture where I perform a walkthrough of the essay question and offer further explanation for the above. If you are still having difficulty understanding the directions here, please leave a comment on the class discussion boards on Blackboard–chances are your question is everyone’s question. If all else fails, please do not hesitate to Email me.

1) Time: How does the text’s representation of time impact how we interpret a specific element in the text?

As you think through this question, make sure you speak through specific textual examples. Don’t just say that time is a wild and wacky thing. Instead, give me a clear example where the text represents, or plays with, our expectations for time–what is your interpretation of this moment? You might also address the implications of the text pushing on our cultural assumptions and expectations about time. Try to address how the text problematizes our expectations and challenges our prevailing representations of time.

2) Futility: How does the text represent futility and what is your interpretation of such representations?

As you think through this question, make sure you speak through specific textual examples. Don’t just say that futility exists in the text. Instead, speak to the implications for how the text represents futility–interpret the purpose behind the text’s representation of futility. Is the text (or its character / setting / symbols, etc,) teaching us a lesson? What is that lesson and why is it an important lesson? How exactly is futility represented? As well, you might address how the text frames futility–is futility represented positively? If so, what might that be telling us about how we understand common representations of futility?

3) Dichotomies: How does the text represent a dichotomy and what is your interpretation of that representation?

As you think through this question, make sure you speak through specific textual examples–clearly name the dichotomy you are examining and interpreting. Don’t just say that dichotomies are present and point to a few examples. Instead, speak to the implications and nuances of what a specific dichotomy represents (symbolically or as allusion or as cultural capital). Try to think through the textual evidence and interpret the value of the dichotomy being represented–what might the fiction be telling us about ourselves? English 1106 Close Reading Fiction Essay

4) Structure: How does the structure of the text challenge our expectations for fictional representation and why does it do so?

As you think through this question, make sure you speak through specific textual examples. Avoid speaking to structure as unique or interesting. Instead, explain why the structure of the text enhances, detracts, or problematizes our expectations. In other words, what is the connection between the structure of the narrative and your interpretation of the text’s symbolic meaning? Make sure your assertions about structure have some relevance to your interpretation of the text’s symbolic meaning or value.

5) Symbol: How does the text comment on a cultural situation through symbol?

As you think through this question, make sure you speak to how the symbol appears in a consistent pattern. Avoid discussing multiple symbols in favour of addressing a single symbolic pattern in the text and interpreting its meaning. Your essay should show how an object or conceit in the text is symbolic of a larger cultural moment, conversation, or movement. Make sure the text clearly connects to a specific cultural situation and name that cultural situation clearly. English 1106 Close Reading Fiction Essay

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