21L.325 | Spring 2007 | Undergraduate

Small Wonders: Staying Alive


Also, please see study materials for writing guidelines.


Essay 1

Due one day before Ses #13

Select one of the propositions/questions offered by one of your classmates (or one of your own, for that matter, but in either case, one we didn’t really “solve” in class). Use it as the point of origin of a five-page (1250 words) analytic essay on the relevant text (or, if it works, another text on the syllabus).

The links in study materials will help you understand how to formulate an analytic thesis and probe a text analytically. Please, spare me the vague impressionism, the plot summary; stick to the hard, precise, focused attention to the nuts and bolts of a piece of writing.

Essay 2

Due one day after Ses #25

Choose either Cosmicomics or The Periodic Table and write an essay that is 8-10 pages (2000-2500 words) in length. Focusing especially on one chapter in the book you choose and proceeding by way of close textual analysis, articulate what seems to you to be a primary thematic concern of the book, and show how the “science” deployed either deepens or obscures that theme.

Exemplary Student Essays

Essay 2: Cosmicomics

Whitfield, Christopher. “The Thread of Existence.” (PDF)

Staid, Andrea. Analysis of Cosmicomics. (PDF)

Essay 2: The Periodic Table

Le, Danielle. “Zinc and the Relationships It Forms.” (PDF)

Mohan, Anjana. “The World as Understood by Chemistry in The Periodic Table.” (PDF)

Shklyar, Irina. “Acquiring the Capacity for Endurance.” (PDF)

Trowbridge, Sarah. Analysis of The Periodic Table. (PDF)


Using the class mailing list, students were expected to post a provocative statement or probing analytic question about the course readings throughout the semester. Students were required to post their “provocations” prior to the class discussion of the readings.  These assignments and their respective due dates appear in the table below.

Ses #1 Getting to know you: Prepare and present “your story.” (Fact, fiction, no matter what the proportions.)
1 day before Ses #3 Post on the class mailing list either a provocative statement or a probing analytic question about Cosmicomics.
1 day before Ses #7 Post the usual provocation about “Bartleby, the Scrivener” or “The Minister’s Black Veil.”
2 days before Ses #9 Post a provocation about any of the upcoming week’s readings: “The Lone Ranger and Tonto” or “I Stand Here Ironing.”
1 day before Ses #11

Post a provocation about Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

1 day before Ses #15 Post a provocation about Daisy Miller.
1 day before Ses #17 Post a provocation about Spotted Horses.
1 day before Ses #19 Post a provocation about Joyce’s “The Dead.”

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2007
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples