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The Longer Essay Assignment

Proposal due April 1st.

Draft due April 15th, consisting of:

  • One copy in your section leader's mailbox at the Department of English (3600 Market St., 5th floor);
  • One copy submitted as an email attachment to Professor Gamer.

This assignment is 25% of your overall grade for the course. But remember: you may revise whatever you hand in for your portfolio. We will comment on your drafts and provide you feedback geared toward revision. If you miss the deadline, you merely lose your chance at having your draft read. Put another way: you should hand in something on April 15th at all costs, and provide any instructions you wish regarding what kinds of feedback you require.

The essay should be around 2000 words (approximately 7-9 pages; please note that quotations do not count toward the total word count), elegantly and lucidly written, and should not be padded. You should write on a different Austen novel than the one on which you did your screenplay. As models for your own writing, you should look at the articles and book chapters that you've read during the semester, and write according to their conventions. Ideally, your essay should think of itself as having a project -- i.e., answering a question or solving a problem raised by your reading both of the course materials and current literary and film critics in print out there. You should treat the articles we read during the semester as models for the kind of argument you wish to make, since the aim of this essay is to challenge, transform, and intervene in existing interpretations of your texts. You should absolutely use the books placed on reserve at the Van Pelt Library for your essay; these writers -- and your classmates -- are your audience.

This means that your introduction, rather than starting generally and moving to a thesis statement, should aim instead to provide a rationale for your project. What fundamental question does your essay seek to answer? How are you going to go about answering it? What texts, what passages? What critical writers have made it possible for you to pose your own problem to solve?

Here's another way of thinking about your essay project: Given how critics usually talk about your subject (say, Mansfield Park and Empire), how are you going to approach your subject differently? Are you giving us a different view, or taking an existing view to its logical conclusion? What passages and evidence are you going to show us and why? How do your questions arise out of the debates that we've been having in class and that critics have in print?

Most important: you should think of your audience for this essay as no longer just your classmates but also including the very critics out there whom you are reading, and who are therefore interested in the same issues that you are. Needless to say, we will be helping you to arrive at a viable essay project of which you can be proud -- and that, hopefully, you will be able to use as a writing sample when you apply for interships, jobs, or graduate or professional school.