English 2122 paper assignment

Write an analytical or argumentative essay on a topic of your own choosing, avoiding plot summary (see nugget 1) and focusing narrowly on one of these works:

  • Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" (pp. 131-35)
  • Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
  • Percy's Shelley's "Mont Blanc"
  • Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" or "Ode on a Nightingale"
  • Tennyson's "Lady of Shalott" or "Ulysses"
  • Browning's "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister"
  • Dickens's Great Expectations
  • Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Conrad's Heart of Darkness
  • Woolf's A Room of One's Own
  • Joyce's "Lestrygonians," from Ulysses
  • Eliot's "The Hollow Men"

Read these requirements carefully.

  • 5-7 pages in length, 1500 words minimum, 2150 words maximum (in the body of the essay, excluding headers, name, date, title, works cited entries, etc.).

  • Formatted to MLA guidelines (see the "simple stuff" page).

  • Including a minimum of eight quotations from the primary work you examine—you may offer more to illustrate your claims.

  • Document quotations and other source material following MLA guidelines outlined on my "quotations" page, including the MLA conventions for citing verse (Q4). Include the primary work you address in the works cited list.

  • Incorporate some scholarly research into this paper, offering direct quotations from at least two secondary secondary sources of legitimate scholarly criticism or commentary on the work you examine (beyond the eight quotations from the primary text).

    "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 world wide web pages outside of our course materials while preparing your paper, nor use Artificial Intelligence at any point. For access to scholarly articles and other materials in full-text electronic form, see the MGA Library website.

  • To reiterate: The use of artificial intelligence, including Grammarly and other "writing aid" websites, is strictly forbidden. If you have questions about AI and/or Grammarly, do let's talk.

Paper proposals: as a graded assignment, compose a paper proposal in the form of a topic sentence outline

    • beginning with the literal question your essay will strive to answer (e.g., How does Dickens portray childhood convincingly in Great Expectations? or What important psychological depths does Conrad explore in Heart of Darkness? etc.)
    • followed by each body paragraph's complete topic sentence in direct answer of that question, as it might appear in the essay itself,
    • and ending with a thesis statement that a) answers the question you are addressing, and b) ties together the primary points in your topic sentences.

      The question you raise to begin this outline should be a literal question—an interrogative sentence ending in a question mark, not merely a statement of what the topic or subject is. For full explanation of topic sentence outlines, including examples that would be good models to follow, see the paper proposal assignment page.

One challenge here will be arriving at a viable topic, one worthy of exploration in a 2000-level course. See especially the first item below excerpted from "grades and grading criteria" handout for this class. I have been of two minds on whether I should assign specific options for you to write on in this paper, but I think it's an important element of any literature class beyond the freshman level that you learn to explore and establish angles of critical analysis in formal papers on your own. I know that assigning an open topic is also problematic because it permits far more opportunities for wholesale plagiarism—I would strenuously advise you to recall the definition of plagiarism we covered earlier in the semester!

Feel free to take any matters from our discussions or critical response writings as a starting point for greater development in this paper, and if you want my input on the general topic before you submit the proposal, email me just the central question you are pondering (to chip.rogers@mga.edu).

Matters of course: the bedrock basics (from chipspage.com, "grades and grading criteria").
In order to receive a passing grade:

  • An essay must first and foremost address a viable topic, meaning that if you are given a specific assignment for the essay, your paper must address the assigned topic squarely, directly, and fully. In the absence of a specific assigned topic, the essay must set up and address a topic genuinely worthy of exploration at the college level. We will deal with this issue later in the semester, but here's one quick illustration: a beautifully written paper proving that Hester Prynne is treated harshly in The Scarlet Letter for her sin of adultery would receive a quick F because the point is too obvious to need elaboration: any reader of the novel would know that Hester is treated harshly simply from reading the book. Your essays should develop a thesis that will enlighten your readers: you should present and develop significant argument or analysis that goes beyond simply stating the obvious.

  • Secondly, every essay should meet all specified assignment requirements. For instance, if an assignment stipulates that you must incorporate a personal anecdote from your own life and you do not include one, your essay has no chance of passing however brilliant it may be in other respects. Or if you are asked to incorporate quotations from four sources and you cite only two? No chance to pass.

  • An essay must be adequately developed in order to receive a passing grade. At the very least, essays must exceed the minimum word count—in the text of the essay itself, excluding the title, header, works cited page, etc. If you are asked to write an essay of 500-750 words, 498 words will receive an automatic F. The word minimum means absolute minimum in this class.
Note well: Feel free to contact me by email or telephone for help. If you would like to meet face to face but my office hours don't mesh with your schedule, let me know, and we'll make other arrangements. We can always meet over video or by telephone. Don't be bashful! I am happy to help each of you set up and develop strong, successful papers.


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! Tutoring, in person and online, is available in the Writing Center and in Student Success Centers (SSC) on all campuses. The Macon campus Writing Center is in TEB 226 and the SSC is in the lower level of the Library building. You can book tutoring sessions on the Macon or Cochran campus or fully online at mga.mywconline.com/. The SSC website also posts tutoring schedules for other centers across the five campuses, including the Writing Center (in Macon, TEB 226: 478-471-3542). All tutoring centers across the five campuses are free of charge. Be sure to show your tutor a copy of this assignment in any tutoring session.