Some Research

Prompt 1

Directions for Draft #1

Using Secondary Sources – Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”

DUE:                                      DATE


                                                Hard Copy due in Class with Outline

Electronic copy of draft (not outline) due by 9:00 pm

PURPOSE:                            Writing to Interpret, using one secondary source

TYPE of ESSAY:                   Thesis and Support Paper

REVISIONS:                         This essay will have two drafts. The first draft will receive my comments and peer responses, but no grade. The second draft will be graded.

FORMAT:                              MLA format for body of essay, citations, and Works

Cited (I will give you a guide sheet to help you with your Works Cited page.)

LENGTH:                               Five full pages PLUS Works Cited page for a total of  six pages

REQUIRED PRIMARY SOURCE:            “The Cask of Amontillado”  by Edgar Allen Poe

REQUIRED SECONDARY SOURCE:    ONE of the four articles (handouts)


It is fine to use only “Cask,” but, if you wish, you may use ONE additional work of fiction, selected from the following list:

  1. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe (622 in your textbook – a short-short story)
  2. “Tape” by José Rivera (1060 in your textbook – a short-short play)

Remember: You MUST use “Cask” and only one of the articles. You may use, in addition, ONE of the works listed above. Using the additional primary work is optional.

See the reverse side of this sheet.

Note: Bring a preview of your essay or parts of your essay to class on March 27th, and we will discuss these in a workshop session. You may also consult with me in out-of-class conferences on March 26, 27, 28. (It’s best to make an appointment, but you can also try dropping in at my office.)

TOPIC SUGGESTIONS:   To generate topic ideas, consider the list of questions

from class discussions, notes taken in class, questions given at the end of the short story in your textbook, ideas drawn from your outlines and the outlines that your classmates shared in class, and the articles you read.

Guide: What are we reaching for in this draft?

1)    A solid first draft that you have already worked on and carefully revised BEFORE you hand it in.

2)    An essay that shows that you are following directions, attempting to interpret the story, and using one secondary source to support your interpretation of the story.

3)    Five pages of solid writing in which you take some risks (a no-filler thriller).

4)    An attempt to develop your own thinking about the story, not merely reproducing information from the secondary source.

5)    Specific and clear thesis statement.

6)    Specific examples (direct quotes) from the story and the secondary source that support your thesis. (If you use one of the optional primary sources, you must use at least one or two direct quotes from that source.)

7)    Clear and coherent organization of your paragraphs in a structure that shows how each paragraph supports your central idea.

8)    Careful integration of your secondary source in which you clearly explain why each direct quote is significant.

9)    A strong conclusion.

10)  An interesting title.

11)  Correct use of MLA formatting of parenthetical citations and Works Cited.

12)  Correct grammar and sentence structure.




Prompt 2: Microscope Essay

**Note to instructors:  The “microscope” concept was thoroughly discussed in class throughout the unit that culminated in this essay.

Spring 2007

Microscope Essay*

Due Dates:   First Draft due Tuesday, February 6

Workshop is Thursday, February 8

Final Draft due Tuesday, February 20

The microscope essay is an important kind of essay to have in your writing toolbox.  In a laboratory, when you look through a microscope, you can see your subject more clearly—the microscope reveals things you almost certainly would not have noticed with your naked eye.  Microscopes can bring certain things into focus, and examine them in detail; but microscopes can also distort rather than clarify the thing we’re trying to see.  We will be discussing all of this in class, too, of course.

We can read texts in a similar way, by looking at one text “through” the ideas of another text.  In the case of this essay, you will look at either “The Disappearance” or “Half a Day” (NOT BOTH) through the microscope of Eric Foner’s essay “American Freedom in a Global Age.”

Looking at the short story through the essay, you will make a literary argument (be sure you’ve read the textbook on this subject!) in 1400-1600 words (about 5 double-spaced pages), using MLA format for citations, your Works Cited, and the formatting for the rest of your essay (name, title, page numbers, etc).

--NO OUTSIDE SOURCES.  All I want to see is your OWN analysis, uninfluenced by any outside information.

--When you turn in your Revision/Final, don’t forget to paper clip your first draft with my comments.

*The Microscope Essay is based on The Lens Essay as developed in Columbia University’s University Writing Program.

Microscope Essay Guide

Here are a few reminders and questions to ask yourself about your microscope and subject before you start your first draft.  For this essay, everyone’s microscope is “American Freedom in a Global Age,” and your subject is EITHER “The Disappearance” or “Half a Day.”


Your subject need not be the entire story—it could be one character, an event, or a couple of paragraphs from the story.

Your microscope need not be the entire essay—it could be one or two ideas articulated in the essay.

Your essay should NOT simply answer the questions below—they are only to give you brainstorming ideas.

In your essay, don’t mention that you are writing a “microscope essay,” or that you are “using a microscope.”  Your writing techniques should go unsaid (for the same reason you wouldn’t tell your readers you were describing or using process analysis—don’t tell us, Just Do It!).


What does the microscope show me about the subject?  These should be things you didn’t see before.

--What part of the subject does the microscope help me understand better?

--What part of the subject does the microscope clarify?

--What part of the subject does the microscope complicate, in interesting ways?

What does the microscope NOT show me about the subject?  What about my subject is outside the view of the microscope?

Turn it around (something you might do in your “landing” conclusion): Does the subject show you anything interesting about the microscope?




Prompt 3

English Composition 1102

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Metropolitan Campus

Spring, 2007

                    Essay Assignment #4Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller

Explore the themes of “the American Dream,” “abandonment,” and “betrayal” as reflected in the dramatic play, Death of a Salesman, focusing specifically on their relationship to the protagonist, Willy Loman.

This four-page (minimum) essay should include the following:

-          specific references to the text (both paraphrased and quoted material)

-          at least one secondary reference to offer relevant historical context

-          at least one secondary reference to offer a relevant biographical connection

-          at least two secondary references to offer relevant literary criticism

-          in-text citations and a works cited list that adhere to MLA format.

Additionally, consider how stage directions and visual elements of the production contribute to development of the thematic issues explored.  Also, be sure to use appropriate literary terms when applicable.

The rough draft, three copies is due on Monday, April 2 for group critique and instructor feedback.  The final draft is due on Monday, April 9.

Questions?  Please speak with me or e-mail me, ASAP.




Prompt 4

Essay #2: Reading Visual Texts

Essay Topics:

Choose one of the topics below. The first deals with photographs and the other considers paintings and poetry. For either essay topic, please be sure to narrow the topic on your own, developing a clear thesis statement that presents your standards for evaluating the texts, whether visual or poetic.  Be as precise as possible when stating your criteria for evaluation. This calls upon your skills of comparison and contrast, as well as concrete, vivid description.

You may use the personal pronoun “I” in this essay, as both topics ask you to relate your experience and point of view to your evaluation of the picture.

You also may do limited outside research on composition in photography or painting and on the history of the  photographer, painter or poet, if you like, but it is not required. This is not an essay on the biography of the artist or the history of art; it is rather your interpretation of the work and an evaluation of it according to standards that you will define in the essay.

Please employ the MLA style of citing your sources, and include a “Works Cited” page at the end of your essay if you quote from any sources, including our book. See p.22 in Lit for Comp for a sample format of your draft. Use the guidelines on p.29-30.

(Required length: 3-4 pages)

1.    See p. 177, Question #7:  Write your own essay on “What Qualities Does a Good Photograph Have?” Illustrate it with photocopies of two or three photographs from the book or from any other source that you wish to draw on.  (You may want to choose two examples of good photographs, or one of a good photograph and one of a poor photograph.) 

*With this topic, you may choose to engage in conversation with Jacob’s essay, comparing or contrasting your own standards of evaluation with his, though it is not required.

2.    See p. 554:  Choose one pairing of a painting and a poem from the book.  What is your own first response to the painting?  In interpreting the painting, consider the subject matter, the composition (for instance, vigorous brush strokes of thick paint, as opposed to thinly applied strokes that leave no trace of the artist’s hand), the color, and the title.

  • After having read the poem, do you see the painting in a somewhat different way?
  • To what extent does the poem illustrate the painting, and to what extent does it depart from the painting and make a very different statement?
  • If the painting is based on a poem (see Demuth’s painting on page 558), to what extent does the painting capture the poem?
  • Beyond the subject matter, what (if anything) do the two works have in common?

DUE:  Thursday, March 3 (Snow date: Tuesday, March 8)

Rough draft is due in class. Please staple your pages.

Everyone should bring a three copies to trade for peer workshopping.

We will not be doing group workshops on this schedule; we will peer workshop on *this* day.

DUE:   Tuesday, March 8 (Snow date: Thursday, March 10)

Final draft is due in class.

Paper-clip your rough draft (with peer comments on it) to your final draft.

Remember to proofread and correct your mechanical errors.



Prompt 5

Spring 2005

Essay 2

DUE:First draft, Mon. March 7

            Revision, Tuesday, March 22

Word Count: 1400-1800 words

MLA citation and formatting.

The following questions have come up in class, and I think each of them is well worth your trying to answer in essay form.  Please choose which question you’d like to answer in Essay 2:

  1. What is the function of dialect in Hurston’s “Sweat,” and Wright’s “The Man Who Was Almost a Man”?
  2. Why might Wright have thought Hurston’s work was stereotyping blacks?

You should use analysis, explication, and interpretation as needed in this essay.  Keep in mind that more successful essays will use all three of these tools, and they will make convincing arguments which land somewhere; they won’t simply answer the question. 

Here are some things you might think about as you try to answer the questions.

For Question 1:  How is dialect used in each story?  What is the effect of the dialect in each story?  How is that effect similar?  How is it different?  What does Wideman say?  Do I agree with Wideman?  Do I disagree?

For Question 2: Please note that the texts at your disposal for this essay (i.e. the 2 stories and the 1 essay) will not help you write an essay which hypothesizes about Wright’s potential chauvinism, sexism, etc.  Therefore, stick to arguments which you can support with the texts you have.  Think about each story’s main characters—Are they stereotypical?  Why or why not?  What about the secondary characters (like Dave’s parents, or Syke’s mistress)?  What does Wideman say?  Do I agree with Wideman?  Disagree?  Do I agree with Wright?  Disagree?

Whichever question you choose to answer, you must use only 3 texts:

--Hurston’s “Sweat”

--Wright’s “The Man Who Was Almost a Man”

--Wideman’s “Defining the Black Voice in Fiction”

*Exception: You are welcome to use another text in your essay, especially since you’ve done some research on the subject (in the Library Assignment)!  However, I must approve the source first.   Just email me by March 10 and explain why you want to use it, and have me approve the source.

**You may not use any other sources than the required 3, and an approved 4th.

***Don’t forget the advice the books offer about drafting and arguing a literary essay.  If you get stuck, re-read those sections.



Prompt 6

ENGL 1102

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Fall 2007

Essay Assignment (#2) – Fiction

Compare and contrast the messages relating to the woman’s role in society and in marriage as conveyed by Shirley Jackson in “The Lottery” and Kate Chopin in “The Story of an Hour.”  In your essay, you should:

 - begin with a focused thesis that will control the essay;

- draw upon specific references to both texts to support the points you make;

-  tie commentary to the historical context and/or author’s biographical information offered in the textbook;

- integrate commentary excerpted from two secondary sources which addresses the issue of women’s rights and attitudes in America during the relevant time period (mid 19th century/first half of the 20th century);

- use literary terms when appropriate;and,

- include in-text citations within the body of the paper and prepare a works cited list that adheres to MLA format.

The essay must be approximately four-five pages in length, double-spaced, with the sixth page being the works cited list. Please note the essay preparation deadlines below:

Rough Draft                     -  Due September 26.

Final (revised) Essay        -  Due October 1.

Questions? Please see or e-mail me ASAP.



Prompt 7

Spring 2006

Essay 2

Due:   Draft 1, Tuesday, February 28

            Revision, Thursday, March 23

For Essay 2, you will craft your own question, and answer it in an argumentative essay, using explication and analysis of two literary texts, as well as a related secondary source.  It will be 1400-1800 words, and you must use MLA citations with a list of Works Cited**.  Your question should not be about this secondary source; rather, you will use this source to help you answer your question about the two literary texts. (for an example of the formatting—and the kinds of question—I expect for this essay, please see the next page of this document)

You may choose one of the following two groupings:

I.  Primary texts:

Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses”

Secondary text:

      “Getting it right: The short fiction on Tim O’Brien,” by Daniel Robinson

II.  Primary texts:

Alice Munro’s “Boys and Girls,” Bel Kaufman’s “Sunday in the Park”

Secondary text:

“Who Says We Haven’t Made a Revolution?” by Vivian Gornick

Remember what we discussed in class:  Good questions are very specific and they are creative.  They strive to find the gaps and indeterminacies that bring texts together in interesting ways. We also mentioned that one simple way of finding a relationship between texts is to find a juicy quote from one text and ask how it applies to another text.  The process you went through for Ex. 2-1 is another way of coming up with a promising question you want to answer.

Also remember:  Don’t get on the cliché treadmill!

**Please note:  In your groups, you will be doing research on the writers you are writing about, which you may want to include in your essay.  You may include this information, but be sure to include the sources in your citations and your list of Works Cited and/or Works Consulted.

***You are not allowed to use any research other than the required readings and the material your groups found.