Colloquium: Final Dystopia
Your third essay should focus on one of the novels on which you have not yet written an essay, OR on comparing/contrasting two of the novels, on at least one of which you have not previously written an essay.
Length: about 6-7 pages / 1500-1750 words
Draft due F 16 Nov
Final version due W 21 Nov. (attach copies of your draft and your class reviewers’ signed comments).
You will discuss your work in progress at two different points. You will meet with either Rachael Green (x 2718, <rgreen>) or Prof. Michel (x6389, <fmichel>) at least once in the preparation of the essay. You'll discuss your draft with classmates on Friday 16 Nov. (bring four copies).
You will also need to submit your essay electronically to Turnitin. class id# 1981460
Here are some possible topics. You are free to develop others. If you choose another topic, you must send me an email with a few sentences about your plans by 11/15.
Note that these topics will not supply you with a thesis or a structure. The essay should have a clearly-stated thesis that takes account of both conceptual and stylistic aspects of the text and relates them to each other. The thesis should be supported through quotations from the text and through analytic discussion of quoted words, phrases, and sentences. More information on how to write an essay can also be found in guides to academic writing available in the Writing Center library and through these links.
How did this dystopia come about? About what is the text warning its readers? How did aspects of economic inequality, gender relations, religious practices, environmental damage, or other cultural or political factors influence the dystopic world? What continuities are there between the dystopic and pre-dystopic societies represented in the novel?
What does the novel suggest about resistance or rebellion? Who rebels against or resists the dominant social and political order? What motivates their resistance? What forms of resistance or rebellion take place in the novel, and what are the goals of such resistance or rebellion?
What’s the role of storytelling in the novel? How do(es) the perspective(s) of the narrator(s) shape the meaning of the novel and its effects on readers? What does the novel suggest about retrospective knowledge and the understanding of history?
What’s the relation between the personal and the political, or the public and the private? How are these boundaries erased or redrawn in the dystopian world? How do romantic or sexual relationships constitute or undermine possibilities of resistance?
What's the role of religion in this novel? How does religion shape structures of identity, community, behavior, and/or law? What does the work suggest about the relations between religious belief and religious institutions?
How does the ending of the novel shape its meaning?
In this paper, your purpose is to read and think carefully about an aspect of one of the assigned dystopian novels on which you have not previously written, and to consider its political, social, or cultural implications.
Your readers, you should assume, have read the text, but they haven’t read it with the same questions in mind that you have, so they will most certainly expect you to provide examples from the texts and to give them a little context for remembering the place of those examples. Help your readers out by being careful, if you quote directly from the text, to explain what the quotation is meant to point to or argue or support. Tell your readers where they may read an example you’ve referred to in the original themselves, by putting page numbers in parentheses directly following.
Because you are writing an essay, there is no set organization, but you should certainly have an introduction and a conclusion! Between them you’ll organize your material to make the best case. Often writers want to move from the most obvious example to one that would have been harder to see if a pattern weren’t already in place. Or they move from least important to most important. Or one point really depends on a previous one and must, therefore, follow it. Once you’ve decided what your arguments are, you can best decide what order they belong in.
For this essay, support should probably come entirely from the primary text. Quote sparingly, but refer to passages in the text through summary or paraphrase and cite the page numbers in parentheses. If you do consult other sources, you must cite them as well. Provide full bibliographical citations for the novel and for any other sources you draw on in MLA style at the end of your paper. You may refer to Hacker for the form.
The English editing conventions for this essay are those of the scholarly world: you should write in a human voice (think of you at your best here!), but a scholarly human written voice. That means precise diction, carefully formed sentences, and no errors in grammar, punctuation, mechanics, or spelling. It is wise to get in the habit now of using a header for your first initial, last name, and page number. Do not produce a separate title page. Put your name, the course name, and the date top left; center the title (same font as the rest of the paper) below that; skip two lines, and let the essay follow (double-space your pages and leave 1” margins all round).
Excellent papers will have an engaging thesis, will not only notice textual details but also consider their meaning, and will reflect their writer’s attempt to get beyond “this is what I’ve always known and thought” reasoning. They will be persuasive partly because their examples are well chosen and well explained, and also because they are organized in a compelling sequence. They will use words carefully. They may even craft sentences elegantly!
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