Assignments – Engl505 – Literary Theory

Mid-Term Paper (2000 words) – 15%

For this assignment you will need to formulate a rigorous argument about some aspect of one of the theories we have discussed to this point in the term (Saussure, Derrida, Lacan, Cixous, Kristeva, Austin, Butler). I will be looking for you to engage with the work of two theorists. You will need to identify a common idea, issue, point, or problem on which we have at least two different perspectives. I will expect you to

  1. identify the common topic or issue you will approach
  2. outline each of the two (or more) approaches to that topic
  3. indicate clearly how each inflects the other and whether they are ultimately reconcilable — can they work (be worked) together? or is there some fundamental antagonism between them?
  4. suggest what the implications are of your findings — if the theories can be synthesized, what does that mean for how we might approach the common problem you have used them to address? if they cannot be reconciled, then how are we to proceed?

Re-Write of Mid-Term Paper (2500 words) – 15%

I will grade and provide commentary upon your mid-term paper, and return it to you as quickly as possible. You will then take the commentary into account as you revise the paper for a second round of submission. For this part of the work, you may (i.e., should) want to come and discuss how you will go about the revision with me in office hours. You will be graded on how well you have responded to the commentary on the first version of the paper, and how much you have managed to improve or push it beyond its initial version.

Term Paper (5000-6000 words) – 40%

For this assignment, you will have two options:

  1. you will write a paper along the lines of the mid-term paper, but engaging in much greater depth and/or at greater length with the texts. You will be expected to address the work of at least three theorists.
  2. you will apply the work of at least two theorists to some text/object/phenomenon. Your objective here will be to use the theory to illuminate something about the text/object/phenomenon that would not otherwise be visible or clear. If your argument is counter-intuitive, you are on the right track — do NOT use feminist theory to deconstruct the ‘feminism’ in Cosmopolitan magazine, for example.

As always, you will be assessed on the rigour of your argument and the skill and persuasiveness with which you prosecute it. Think creatively, read closely, and make sure you have lots of evidence.

Presentation – 25%

For the presentation, you will teach a piece of theoretical writing to the class. You will lead the class for one hour (give or take), presenting the piece, summarizing its key points, explicating those that are difficult or obscure, and helping your peers to understand it. I will expect you to be able to answer questions on the reading and to be able to link it to other readings on the syllabus. You may either choose to present on one of the week’s readings as I have laid them out or — even better — to choose a piece of writing not on the schedule already. [I should not have to say this, but as the presentations are formal, I will expect you to dress accordingly and to conduct yourself as though you were making a formal teaching presentation.]

Participation – 5% – assessed on the basis of contributions in class week-in and week-out.


Contact: Professor Stephen Ross   |   |   250-721-7237

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