Understanding Literature Today
Write an essay of 2500 words on one of the following topics. Your essay must begin with a coherent thesis paragraph that clearly states the direction of your argument. Keep in mind the distinction between description and analysis as you write: your essay must be grounded on close readings of passages from the literature. You must use two secondary sources in your essay; these sources must date from no earlier than 2005. Your essay should conform to the formatting guidelines set out in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. You may not analyze texts that you wrote about in your previous essay. You may not write on texts covered in the first four weeks of our class (i.e., Byatt and Hawthorne). The essay is due by 12 noon on March 1, 2021. Please submit the essay via email to your TA.
1. Analyze the role of misogyny in one or two poems, one or two short stories, or Antigone. What, precisely, does this term—misogyny—mean in the context of the literature? How is this misogyny manifested or made known? What use do various men put their misogyny to in these texts?
2. Is Antigone justified in her actions? Is her refusal to obey Creon’s proclamation against the burial of her brother one that the play as a whole seems to support? This essay is not simply an opportunity for you to voice your opinion: you must support your views with detailed textual evidence.
3. We perhaps instinctively think about loss in negative terms: the condition of loss is that of feeling the absence of something. But is it not possible to argue that loss always brings with it some sort of compensation? In an analysis of one or two poems, one or two short stories, or Antigone, analyze the compensations that loss may bring.
4. We have argued that the act of witnessing is a crucial—even critical—component of some of the literature we have studied. Analyze the idea of witnessing, or the witness, in two or three poems, one or two short stories, one play, or Sexing the Cherry. What are the ethical implications of having the act of witnessing inscribed into the art work? What are the implications of the act of witnessing for the reader of the poem?
5. Endgame and Sexing the Cherry are, at one crucial level, about storytelling. Endgame features a character, Hamm, who seems addicted to the act of storytelling; Sexing the Cherry is a novel that critically re-tells a number of traditional narratives. Analyze the role of storytelling in either Endgame or Sexing the Cherry. What function does the act of narration serve? Why do characters tell stories? Can re-telling traditional narratives fundamentally alter the way we might perceive our histories and ideologies?
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