Guidelines for Essays

  1. Submission, grading, and format: you will submit your essays and receive comments and grades back from me in electronic form. Please double-space your essays and format them in Courier New 12. Send them as .doc or .docx files (not as pdfs). (I know Courier is ugly, but its size makes it easier to work with than some of the alternatives.) I work in MS Word and will use the Track Changes and Insert Comment functions.
  2. Lateness and extensions: Essays turned in late without prior approval will receive an F. I am happy to grant brief extensions, but you must contact me in advance of the due date to request one.
  3. First page: Your essay doesn't need a cover sheet, but at the top of the first page it should give your name, the class, and which topic you have chosen. It should also feature a good title and a pledge stating that the paper is entirely your own work.
  4. Please number your pages.
  5. Quotation: You will need to quote a good deal from the text(s) you are discussing. When you quote, follow your quotation with a parenthetical citation giving the work's name (the first time; after that, if you're quoting only one work, it's not necessary to keep repeating it) and the page number. You don't need footnotes or endnotes, or a "Works Cited" list or bibliography. Quotations of longer than 5 lines should be set in on both sides and should be double-spaced. They do NOT need quotation marks around them (the setting-in indicates that it's a quotation). They don't need an extra blank line before and after them. Quotations from poetry should reflect the line breaks in the quoted poem.
  6. Revision: You will have the opportunity to revise your first essay. If you decide to revise, notify me as soon as possible after receiving the graded essay back from me. We will set up a meeting to discuss the revision. Bring the graded essay with you to the meeting and be prepared with specific questions and suggestions about how the essay might be improved. We will agree upon a due date for the revision. The grade on the revised version will replace the original grade.

Assessment of Writing

I expect written work of the same caliber as the work required in your other MIT subjects. This means carefully composed and proof-read (no sloppy errors), thorough, well thought-out, sufficiently supplied with supporting material quoted or paraphrased from the text(s).

In reading your work, I do not distinguish between "content" and "style" or "quality of writing." How you decide to state something, how you assemble an argument, how you construct each and every sentence – these things constitute your argument and are indistinguishable from its "content."

Advice on Writing

On the Use of External Sources

You should have no need to consult any outside sources when you write your essays for this class. The essays are opportunities for you to solidify and demonstrate your grasp of the material we have covered in class. You will draw upon our class discussions, your notes, your imagination and memory.

Topics for Essay 1

Review the sections "Guidelines for Essays," "Assessment of Writing," and "Advice on Writing". Choose one of the following and write an essay of about 2000–2500 words. Make generous use of passages from the text to support your argument.

  1. "Nothing can be done. Things are they are, and will be brought to their destined issue" (Jude the Obscure, 328). Jude quotes these words from Aeschylus's ancient Greek tragedy Agamemnon. Write about how Hardy attempts in Jude to update the genre of tragedy for modern times. What forces work to give the novel an air of fatefulness or predestination?
  2. "Done because we are too meny" (Jude the Obscure, 325). Write about the function of Little Father Time in Jude. How does his perspective resemble that of the novel's narrator? What kind of perspective could have led him to do what he does? How does his perspective relate to the discourse of Political Economy?
  3. In Conrad's Lord Jim, why is it so important to Marlow to tell the story of Jim? What does he seek to accomplish by doing so? What has this got to do with the repeated assertion that Jim was "one of us"?
  4. In Lord Jim, what does Stein mean by "in the destructive element immerse" (154)? Has Jim done that throughout the novel?

Topics for Essay 2

Review the sections "Guidelines for Essays," "Assessment of Writing," and "Advice on Writing." Choose one of the following:

  1. In Kipling's Kim, the title character's ability to mix unnoticed among various types of Indians makes him valuable to the British Secret Service. In what ways does Kim's identity seem fluid and in what ways does it seem fixed? Make sure to write about Kim's training with Lurgan.
  2. In Ford's The Good Soldier, is Dowell stupid? Or willfully blind? If the former, in what ways? If the latter, why?
  3. In Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, how does Stephen learn to associate physical defilement and powerlessness with more abstract conditions of being under the power of others? Give plenty of examples of these conditions.
  4. Describe the stages of Stephen Dedalus's progress from childhood to departure from Ireland. Write about Stephen's tendency to expect a once-and-for-all transformation from some pivotal experience. What becomes of such expectations? Does he finally achieve transformation to a condition a maturity and independence? What evidence from Chapters 4 and 5 best help you answer this last question?