In-Class Essays: Writing Prompts
(20 minutes @ beginning of class)

9/2 Using the following poem, explain the Formalist concept of “defamiliarization.” Refer to the Eichenbaum article to support your argument.

In a Station of the Metro (1914 / 1916)

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

9/9 Why, for Brooks, is it “heretical” to believe that one can capture the essence of a work of literature by paraphrasing it?
9/16 Compare/contrast Barthes' concept of "author" with Foucault's concept of the "author-function."
9/23 Explain Fish's notion of interpretive communities. How are these communities, for Fish, constituitive of meaning in the literary text?
10/7 At the end of class, students used Marxist criticism (a theoretical model that focuses on the creation of discourses and the power struggles inherent to economic inequality) to interpret art.  Choose one:  1) After hearing the history of George La Tour's "Penitent Magdalene" painting (circa 1638), i.e., its Biblical and Christian references/morals and use in Dan Brown's DaVinci Code, why does this image appear in The Little Mermaid, a children's film?  2) How is the aura of John Singer Sargent's "Madame X" painting (1884) altered after you are made aware of the real original (with the strapless shoulder) and the painting's use in a 20th century alcohol print advertisement?
10/28 After a lengthy discussion surrounding feminism, its history and its influence on feminist literary theory, students were asked to write a feminist reading of Sargent's painting, "Madame X." 
11/4 Pick one of the following prompts to discuss Jonathan Swift's "The Lady's Dressing Room": 
  • Where do you see sexual desire?
  • Where do you see homosexual desire? (representation or repression of it?)
  • Where are there elision of gender binaries?
  • Where are there elision of sexual binaries?
  • Where is there a performance of sexual binaries?
  • Where is there a performance of gender or sexuality?
11/11 We didn't have time for an in-class essay today (with 4 presentations) so the assignment is due on Wednesday (11/16) by 5pm via email. 
Theoretical models:
  • post-structuralism/deconstruction (Derrida/Raphael)
  • feminist theory/diseased body (Gilbert & Gubar/Chris)
  • cultural studies (Hughes/Monecia)
  • post-colonialism (Achebe/Victor)
Part I.  Use one of these theoretical models to write an analysis of the course descriptions published in the English Department newsletter (handed out last week).  This analysis should be a minimum of 1 paragraph (5-6 sentences).  Do not address any other articles in the newsletter; look only at the course descriptions.  You may write about either 1 individual course description or the course descriptions as a representative body.
Part II. Using one of these theoretical models, write a 2-paragraph analysis of the Heart of Darkness excerpts (available online on the Schedule; see 11/11).  Since you only have 2 paragraphs to provide an analysis, I suggest you select a very brief passage from this excerpt about which to write.  Remember, the most effective analysis uses details from the text.  (It's all in the details!) 
11/18 How is Andy Warhol's art (see handout) postmodern?
12/2 Due 12/14, 2pm with Final Exam Essay (drop off in English Department)
Since we ran out of time today, we didn't have a chance to write out last in-class essay.  To make-up for this, you will write on the following topic, to be turned in with your Final Exam Essay on December 14, 2pm
  • Write a cover letter to accompany your final essay; the reflective letter is your moment to discuss what you have learned thoughout the entire semester.
  • Include information about your experience in the classroom, reading the material and engaving with literary criticism throughout the semester. 
  • You might consider answering questions such as: Do you have a preferred type of theory? What was the most enjoyable aspect of the course? What will you take with you to the next literature class? 
  • The letter needs to be 1 full page, single-spaced, 12pt. font and written in a formal tone.  (No "heeeyyyy yo, prof," please.) 
This letter is really meant as a moment to reflect on your literary criticism experience and will be graded only as an A or no credit (for not doing it or not following directions).