Deadline: variable (see below)*

Title Template: “[Quote]:” [Key term 1] [optional: and Key term 2] in [Author’s] [Title] [date of first publication]

Example: “I Dissolved into Nothing:” Subjects and Hyperobjects in John Doe’s The True Adventures of Everything (1732)

For your critical essay, you should choose one assigned novel from the course. A critical essay begins with a purposeful summary of your chosen text. Then a critical essay next summarizes arguments about the text in question that have already been established by reliable experts. Next, a critical essay advances your own interpretation of the text within the framework and using the terms established by reliable experts. You do this with a They Say / I Say thesis statement that a) adds additional to previous arguments, b) explores a further implication or nuance of previous arguments, c) applies previous arguments to new evidence, and/or d) gently disagrees with previous arguments. The above usually takes about two paragraphs.

The rest of a critical essay provides examples in support of your They Say / I Say claim, interweaving your close readings of specific passages with references to your expert sources. You will introduce these examples, summarize them within the contexts of both the text and your sources, and then use technically accurate terminology to explain to your reader how the formal elements of a text — its patterns of diction, imagery, plot, character, allusion, theme, etc. —  illustrate your claim. Throughout, you will need to take into account the specific claims also made by your secondary sources and bridge the gap between their and your interpretations of the passages. Each example usually entails one or two well-developed paragraphs.

You conclude your essay by summarizing your argument and considering the larger implications of your claims.

Review: A critical position paper offers a reasonable, insightful, and unique interpretation of a text by responding to, working within, and building upon the framework and critical insights established by reliable sources.

Grading Criteria

  • Does the essay use critical sources that conform to the conventions of specialized, advanced research in academic contexts? Are the sources well-chosen?
  • Does the essay accurately and purposefully summarize the text?
  • Does the essay accurately and fairly summarize critical interpretations of the text?
  • Does the essay include a thesis statement that is productively and reliably engaged with reliable, expert sources?
  • Does the essay provide examples in support of its thesis that integrate the writer’s close readings of passages with those of reliable experts?
  • Does the essay demonstrate the writer’s ability to introduce, integrate, and explicate passages from the text as well as from critical sources?
  • Is the essay purposefully and logically organized, making use of clear transitions, critical key terms, and sentence tags throughout?
  • Does the essay follow the conventions of writing about literary texts in formal, advanced academic contexts?
  • Does the essay conform to conventions of style, grammar, and citation?

*About the deadline: there is a floating deadline for this assignment in the course. You choose one of the options on the course schedule for submitting your critical essay. Your essay must, however, be focused on the novel that we have just finished discussing. For example, if you choose to submit your critical essay for grading on 1/30, it will need to be about Gulliver’s Travels. If you choose to submit your critical essay for grading on 3/6, it will need to be about Pamela; it cannot be about Gulliver’s Travels.

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