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English 1102 paper topics, spring 2024

Paper 3

Read carefully, at least twice, before starting your essay.

Respond to either option topic below in an essay of 800-1200 words (in the body of the essay, excluding headers, name, date, title, works cited entries, etc.). Raise a central question at the end of your introduction that the rest of the paper strives to answer (in persuasive format for the option on A Raisin in the Sun).

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.

blue bullet Eight quotations from the play or the stories are a required minimum.

blue bullet 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.

Option 1, on A Raisin in the Sun: Construct an argument on whether A Raisin in the Sun is more concerned with racial issues or universal issues, issues that apply to people of all races. The idea is to argue that Hansberry's play is more about one set of issues or the other, so draw the lines of argument clearly and precisely, with emphasis on the word "more" in your central question. Quote the play eight or more times in illustrating your assertions—at least two of the quotes should support the opposing viewpoint, and of course you should use quotes to back up your own major points on your side of the argument. Also include two quotations from scholarly sources wherever they fit in the argument.

Option 2, on A Streetcar Named Desire: Write on a topic of your own choosing, focusing narrowly on some significant aspect of A Streetcar Named Desire. While your introduction must culminate in a literal central question that the rest of the paper strives to answer, you are not required to present opposing views for this paper if the question you raise does not set up an argument (i.e. is analytical in the way our previous essays have been). Either way, all topic sentences (and thus body paragraphs) must answer the question squarely, expressing your own views on the topic. Include at least eight quotations from the play, and also the two from scholarly sources.

The greatest challenge with option 2 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:

  • The confrontation of the "Old South" with the modern American world
  • The theme of desire (sexual desire especially)
  • 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 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 play


blue bullet Make every topic sentence answer the central question directly.
blue bullet Introduce all quotes: see nugget 3.
blue bullet Sweat the details: use the Golden Rules, Nuggets, Simple Stuff, and Quotations pages and proofread carefully.
blue bullet Offer concrete evidence (quotes) in support of each of your major assertions.
blue bullet See me in the office or email if you have questions or problems. 

Use the Writing Center! I encourage you to see tutors for help with your papers in the Writing Center (TEB 226). We have well-trained, qualified tutors who can give you plenty of one-on-one attention with any aspect of the writing process. Be sure to take a copy of this assignment with you to any tutoring session, or show your tutor this assignment page on the web. Set up an appointment at https://www.mga.edu/student-success-center/writing-centers.php.