Colloquium: Utopian Visions
Essay Two: We and/or The Dispossessed
M Oct 13 bring to class four copies of a complete draft (about 5 pages/1250 words)
M Oct 20 paper 2 due
F Nov 14 optional revision due
In formulating a topic and generating an initial, preliminary draft, review your notes on the text (and in the text), and think about aspects of the book that you found striking, puzzling, or otherwise resonant. That is, I recommend the inductive method: start with concrete particulars, the words on the page.
Review the book(s), noting and explaining significant details. Then think about what you have found and reorganize (and where necessary cut and develop) your discussion to support a thesis that analyzes how the text says what it says, does what it does to the reader, or means what it means.
In this paper, your purpose is to read and think carefully about an aspect of Zamyatin’s We and/or of Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. You may choose to compare and contrast the two novels, in which case the emphasis should be on contrast, and the focus should remain on one of the two books.
You might explore the text's (or texts’) assumptions about property, family, religion, government, or other matters of concern. Whatever your topic, consider how the book’s narrative form contributes to its meaning.
Here are some possible topics.
walls: Consider, for instance, the Green Wall in We and the many walls, both literal and figurative, in The Dispossessed. What do these walls signify? Does their meaning change in the course of the book, and if so, how?
mothers: Neither the One State of We nor the society of Anarres in The Dispossessed places emphasis on the nuclear family. Yet in each book, the main character wishes for (more) maternal care (We 189; The Dispossessed 364). Other characters also become or wish to become mothers. What role(s) do these wishes and relations play in the novel(s)? How do they comment on the larger society represented?
religion: Neither of the revolutionary societies in these two novels includes organized religion as such, yet in We, especially, the imagery of Christianity plays an explicit and substantial role. What is that role and what is its significance?
voting: In One State, votes are public and expected to be unanimous; on Anarres, no votes are taken. To what extent and in what ways do these works criticize or otherwise comment on the sort of elections or practices of voting that are more familiar in our own society?
surveillance: In We, One-State buildings are made of transparent glass, "diaphragms" record street conversations (48) and the Guardians provide further surveillance. In A-Io, there is a microphone hidden in Shevek's rooms, and Pae and Chifoilisk are agents reporting on Shevek's activities to their governments (137). What are the purposes of surveillance in these works? How does it affect the characters in the books?
freedom v. happiness
You will discuss your work in progress at two different points. You will meet with either Writing Consultant Megan Zane (<mzane>) or Prof. Michel (x6389, <fmichel>) at least once in the preparation of the essay.
On the 13th, bring four (4) copies of a full first draft (1250 words) to class. You will exchange drafts with classmates and give thoughtful feedback to one another.
Your revised draft will be due at the beginning of class on the 20th.
You will also need to submit your essay electronically to Turnitin, class id# 2364372
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(s). 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. For practice, please provide full bibliographical citations for the novel(s) 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!
Read your classmate's draft carefully. At the end of the draft, briefly restate, in your own words, the central argument of the essay (1-3 sentences).
Note one thing you particularly like about the essay.
Suggest one additional piece of evidence in support of the argument, or, propose an alternate interpretation or counter argument for the writer to consider, or, ask a question about the argument.
Give the essay a (new) title.
Sign your comments.
When everyone in your group has read and commented upon all the drafts, discuss your responses.