English 1102 paper topics, spring 2020
Read every word below carefully, more than once, before starting your essay.
Write an analytical or argumentative essay on a topic of your own choosing, focusing narrowly on some significant aspect of Death of a Salesman or A Streetcar Named Desire. Your introduction must culminate in a literal central question that the rest of the paper strives to answer. Note that you are not required to present opposing views for this paper: that is, all of your topic sentences (and thus body paragraphs) may deliver positive answers to the question expressing your own views on the topic.
For details of the physical formatting of your paper on papermargins, headers, titles, etc.see the simple stuff page. For guidelines on quotation and documentation, see the quotations page. All options require quotations from the readings, so a works cited page is necessary.
Eight quotations from the play are a required minimum.
You must incorporate some research into this paper, offering quotations from at least two secondary sources of legitimate scholarly criticism or commentary on the work(s) you examine: this means you need at least one quote from two different sources. ("Legitimate" means truly scholarly sources, so items from the popular press, reviews of performances, encyclopedias, and study aids such as Cliff's Notes, SparkNotes, Master Plots, etc., are not acceptable.) You should most emphatically not consult any open-access world wide web pages outside of our course materials while preparing your paper. For access to many scholarly articles and other materials in full-text electronic form, see the MGA Library website.
Paper proposals: before you begin writing the essay, construct a topic sentence outline, just as we did for the first two papers: begin the outline with the literal question your paper addresses, then give full topic sentences that answer the question directly for each primary point in your paper (i.e. for each body paragraph), just as they will appear in the essay itself, and conclude the outline with the paper's overall thesis, answering the central question directly and combining your essential points from the various topic sentences. See the sample topic sentence outlines on my writing tips page and on the paper proposal assignment page.
Topics to consider
The greatest challenge with this assignment is arriving at an appropriate topic. Basically, any significant theme, motif, issue, technique, or aspect of either play is fair game. You are by no means restricted to the suggestions below, but here are ideas to consider:
Death of a Salesman:
- The issue of whether or not the play is a tragedyauthoritative definition of tragedy as a literary term would be key. Definitions from standard dictionaries (Webster's, etc.) will probably not suffice. Email me me to verify your definition of tragedy before addressing this topic.
- Miller's commentary on the American Dream or on American capitalism more generally
- Miller's portrayal of womenLinda, and possibly others
- Psychological problemsWilly's, Biff's, and/or Happy's in particular
- The Loman family conflicts: parents vs. children, husband vs. wife, and/or brother vs. brother
- The translation of the play into filmthe significance of differences between film and print versions
- Relevance of the play in the 21st century
- Comparison of Miller's depiction of dreams or ambitions with Lorraine Hansberry's in A Raisin in the SunA Streetcar Named Desire:
- The confrontation of the "Old South" and the modern American world
- The theme of desire (sexual, definitely, possibly other as well)
- Madness and/or mental illness
- Social criticism: Stanley as representative "100% American" (the good and the bad)
- Social criticism: class conflict
- Gender issues (There are many.)
- Illusion and reality: appearances and reality
- Is the play a tragedy?would require authoritative definition of tragedy as a literary term. Definitions from standard dictionaries (Webster's, etc.) will probably not suffice. Email me to verify your definition of tragedy before addressing this topic.
- The impact of the past upon the present
- Streetcar as quintessentially Southern literaturewould require authoritative definition of "Southern literature." Talk to me first.
- The problematic or disturbing ending of the play
- The translation of the play into filmfocusing on significant differences between film and print versions
- Autobiographical? What the play says about Tennessee Williams, how Williams himself is present in the playReminders:
Make every topic sentence answer the central question directly.
Introduce all quotes: see nugget 3.
Sweat the details: use the Golden Rules, Nuggets, Simple Stuff, and Quotations pages and proofread carefully.
Offer concrete evidence (quotes) in support of each of your major assertions.
Email me if you have questions.