Nicki Buscemi, English 273G

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Nicki Buscemi, English 273G

Essay One

We have read a variety of short stories so far this semester, ranging from late-nineteenth-century explorations of women and medicine to twentieth-century reflections on life on the reservation. Along the way, we’ve also been developing a vocabulary about the components of fiction, about their plots, their points of view, their characters, and (soon) their themes.

For this essay, I’d like you to imagine that you’re the editor of a fiction anthology. Your publisher is planning on making a smaller version of their current anthology. All the stories we’ve read so far (and the ones we’re reading for Friday) are subject to being cut. Your challenge is to choose two that you absolutely, positively want to argue for as keepers. You must then create a persuasive essay (of approx. 4 pages) that clearly lays out why those two stories should be retained and demonstrates your claims with a careful use of evidence from the texts. In order to make this argument, your essay must address the following two questions:

  • What can you point to in each of the stories you have chosen that you think makes it a particularly meaningful, important or unique work of fiction?

  • And what do you think can be gained by reading the two stories you have chosen in relation to each other?

In the introductory paragraph of your paper you should state which two stories you have chosen and why. The rest of the paper should build on your thesis through specific work with passages and details from each story and with the two stories in relation to one another. Always remember to introduce these passages and to clearly explain how they demonstrate the points you are trying to make with them.

Use the methods of close reading that you’ve been developing through your daily homeworks and the elements of fiction we have been studying to help you analyze these stories and to explain why you find them meaningful in themselves and in relation to each other.
Here are the stories you can choose from:

Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour”

Margaret Atwood, “Happy Endings”

Edith Wharton, “Roman Fever”

William Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Jamaica Kincaid, “Girl”

Sherman Alexie, “This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”

Toni Morrison, “Recitatif”

Willa Cather, “Paul’s Case”

James Joyce, “Araby”

John Updike, “A & P”

Cautionary Notes:

  • Do not base your selections on the reputations of the authors.

  • Though we do sometimes see universal truths (e.g., “the loss of innocence” or “the search for identity”) reflected in the fiction that we read, do not depend on this aspect of the short stories to make your argument about their significance. Instead, concentrate on how your chosen short stories see and say something new—how they complicate, question, or add to conventional thinking rather than just reinforce ideas we’re already familiar with. In other words, you will want to focus on what new, subtle and unexpected insights these stories have offered you (on the level of story or narrative discourse)—not what you already knew about life before you even read them.

Formatting Written Assignments

The three major essays must be formatted according to the following requirements:
  • typed in black ink, in Times New Roman font, size 12 (or a font of equal size, spacing, and legibility)

  • double-spaced

  • one-inch margins top and bottom; margins no wider than 1¼ inches left and right

  • your name, course number and section, assignment (e.g., Essay 1), and the date on the first page (begin your essay on this page too; don’t waste paper on a cover page)

  • each page after the first one should be numbered

  • stapled in the upper left corner

Do not use extra spaces between paragraphs when typing your papers!

Due Dates and Grading

Please note the changes in due dates from the syllabus.
First Draft Due: Friday, February 25th (at least 3 pages)

Please bring 3 copies with you to class—2 for workshopping and 1 to turn in for my feedback.

Final, Revised Draft Due: Monday, March 4th (approx. 4 pages)

This essay is worth 15% of your grade.

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