Final Paper: Literary Criticism
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complete a Macro assignment, described below, possibly incorporating portions of your First (written by me)and Second Essays (second essay was written by writer 97835). Final Essays can involve any one, or any two (but no more than two) of the four primary works listed on our syllabus which are The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, The House of Mirth and My Antonia by Willa Cather. Aim for an essay of fifteen pages.
Micro assignments: This is not a short or a small, “micro” assignment, but an effort that looks “microscopically” at an issue of interpretation or rhetoric, as it gives a close reading of a narrow, minute textual issue or contingency within one literary text, without any assistance from secondary literary criticism. I will gesture toward examples of close readings and appropriate “micro” topics in class, and the literary critical essays we read should also provide examples when they engage with the literary text directly. Operating within quotations and rhetorical analyses of apparently minor details of your chosen text, argue a matter of interpretation, its development at a subtle level throughout passages or chapters of a text, and/or its implications as the text ages, or as critical schools of thought on the novel fall out of fashion.
–Meta assignments: Review one work of criticism we have read in class, and find a second critical piece on the same work, with which to compare your chosen work of criticism. Write an essay assessing the critical articles’ relative strengths and weaknesses as works of criticism; assess how fully and effectively the works “open up” interpretation of the literary work according to their own agendas; and note the work the criticism seems to leave undone, or the details in the literature the criticism leaves unaccounted for in its interpretation. Prefer one piece over the other and explain your preferences in terms of the articles’ success in discussing the literary work, marshalling its evidence, and persuading its readers. This is “meta” criticism in the sense that it offers criticism of criticism, as assessment of how well someone else’s analytical assessment succeeds. It can also, in gesturing toward the details the critics leave unexplained, open up its own doors and anticipate where your Macro paper can be headed, when you can accomplish critically what the works you’re assessing in your Meta assignment have not (yet) been able to do.
–Macro assignments: Locate and read several critical articles and monographs that respond to one or two of our four authors, write a sophisticated essay that enters into an ongoing critical conversation, and, if possible, build off of the material you previously submitted in your Micro and Meta efforts. The best of these essays will ground observations in close readings of the primary work, extend and apply critics’ insights, and try to redirect the critical conversation toward a goal that you will have identified and emphasized for your readers. These essays are not “close readings for close readings’ sake,” but attempts to sway critics to revisit these works with your critical agenda in mind. Include the criticism we have discussed in class, seek out and use criticism other than those familiar articles, and surpass what we have established in class discussion, as you extend our ideas in your own independent analysis.


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