Engl436a – Assignments (201709)

Mid-Term Project — 24%

At the mid-point of the term you will produce a project designed to show that you understand the characteristic elements of modernist literary experimentation, and that you understand how form and content relate to one another. This will require you to have a firm grasp on the conventions that dominated the nineteenth century, so you can clearly identify how modernist practice breaks with them. It will also require you to be able to think complexly about how formal innovations correspond to — or undermine — changes in culture, society, politics, and so forth. As the name of this assignment indicates, it need not be an essay, though writing an essay is an option. You may choose from one of the following formats, or approach me for permission to do something different (but if you do this, make sure you talk to me and get the green light at least two weeks ahead of the due date).

1. Write an essay of 1000 words, formulating an argument about the novels we have read, modernist formal experimentation, and the key aesthetic or cultural contexts. Be creative.

2. Prepare a poster (digital versions only, please) that illustrates both your knowledge of the above and presents an argument about it.

3. Create a short video or sound piece that does the same as 1 and 2. By “short” I mean no more than 4 minutes in length.

Take-Home Final Exam — 25%

This assignment requires you to survey all the required readings from the term. You will need to

  1. Devise three rubrics into which you can organize all the material from the term. These may be thematic (e.g., sexuality, war, colonialism) or formal (e.g., experiments in perspective, stream of consciousness, chronology and narrative), or conceptual (e.g., being and time, relativity, totality and infinity), or something else altogether (e.g., ???).
  2. Write one brief essay on each rubric, outlining
    1. your logic of inclusion/exclusion — why did you group together the texts as you did?
    2. the continuities and discontinuities among the material — how do they fit together and where are there weaknesses, inconsistencies, or potential objections to the grouping?
    3. the broader insights about modernist narrative prose you believe might be articulated by your groupings. Take chances here — I don’t expect you to be definitive, masterful, or even correct; but I do expect you to indicate the breadth of your understanding, and a willingness/capacity to synthesize based on the material we have covered.

Each essay should be no longer than 1500 words. You must write about each novel or text once and once only. If you discuss a novel in one rubric, DO NOT discuss it again, except maybe to say why you did not include it in another rubric.

Quizzes — 21% (7 @ 3% each)

On the first day of study of each novel, there will be a short, content-based quiz of five questions. If you’ve done the reading, these are the easiest marks you’ll ever get. If you haven’t done the reading, you will rue the time you spent on Reddit instead of reading the novel.

Term Paper — 30% – 2000 words

In this assignment you are expected to formulate a rigorous argument pertaining to at least two of the novels we have read this term. Your argument should move beyond observation to articulate a critical claim that situates the novels in relation to each other, to the course’s overall set of concerns, and to some of the key contexts in question: aesthetic, cultural, political, etc. Your papers need not do all these things, but some combination of them is most welcome. We will be modelling and practicing precisely this mode of reading and thinking about the novels over the course of the term, so by the time you write the paper you should be capable of producing such readings handily.

I will be looking in particular for papers that articulate non-obvious arguments about the novels, advancing them carefully through perspicacious use of textual evidence, logic, and effective rhetoric. The best thesis statements

  1. begin with an observation (e.g., In The Good Soldier, Dowell seems more than conventionally fond of Edward),
  2. formulate an argument based on that observation (e.g., this fondness suggests a deep homoeroticism at the novel’s core),
  3. and then articulate the significance of the argument being made (e.g., this unconventional theme allows us to read Ford’s formal experiments as a powerful mode of social critique).

All three are essential to top-quality work.

It should go without saying that spelling, grammar, and rigorous logic are hallmarks of sophisticated work. I expect papers that are free of elementary errors in spelling and grammar in particular, and live in the perpetual glow of papers that bring such perfection together with elegant argument and surprising insights. Wow me. Please.


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