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ENGL 1260W: Heroes & Villains Constructed
April 19, 2018
Paper #3: Prompts and Parameters
For your third and final paper assignment in this course, you will write a formal analysis
(complete with close readings) of one of the texts we have read thus far.
The final draft will be due by Thursday, May 3rd by midnight, to be sent to my email
(email@example.com). There will be no mandatory first draft for this one,
though you may of course send me one if youd like written feedback or to meet in
person to discuss.
Your paper should be between three and five double-spaced pages in length.
Papers should be formal in structure, with an argument and a thesis statement.
Your paper should be typed in Times New Roman 12-point font, with one-inch margins.
Be sure to include a thoughtful title that gestures toward the claims you make in the
MLA format is preferred for citations, though you may use any formatting style so long
as you stick with it consistently throughout the paper. You can find comprehensive
guidelines on using MLA at Purdue Owl:
Keep in mind your obligations to academic honesty. Do not plagiarize, it will be
unpleasant for all involved.
For this paper, you will look to one or two of the texts we have read in class and forge an
argument on said selected text(s). This argument should be summed up in a thesis statement at
the beginning of your paper. Your thesis statement should be clear, specific, contestable, and
Make sure that, whatever you choose, you are as specific as possible in laying out your textual
evidence. This means that I expect to see arguments that are very much grounded in the text(s) of
your choosing, and that you are performing close readings of every textual moment you
incorporate to support your argument. Avoid generalizations and summary, and keep an eye
always on our Close Reading handouts (available on Brightspace) and in-class exercises.
Because these papers are only five pages long and you are expected to offer in-depth analyses of
every piece of textual evidence you provide, you will probably want to choose only a few key
moments of textual evidence that best bolster your central claim.
As for the contents of your argument, you have quite a lot of freedom in what you may write
about. I do ask that you stick to the texts of the course (unless you have gotten permission to
do otherwise), but you are welcome to make any claim that you would like, even if it hasnt
explicitly come up in class discussion.
That being said, I offer the below prompts as a means of jumpstarting your thinking, should you
find them useful. You are not obligated to stick to one or any of these topics, nor to adhere
rigidly to the questions and ideas they provide. Approach these as queries that will move you in
the direction of your own individual argument rather than as strict prompts you must follow to
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a family history seeking to tell a story that has
been in some way suppressed, erased, or unheard. Yunior says on page 243, We are
trawling in silences here. What is the significance of silence throughout the novel? What
does it suggest for our characters and the story at large that Yunior is recompiling a
history that has been in many ways effaced?
? Consider gender in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. How do ideas
of femininity or masculinity come to be constructed? How are those constructions altered
in their intersection with Dominican culture? What are some of the outlets of gendered
expression in the text, and what do they reveal about the novels gender politics or
philosophy? (Things you might want to consider include: the act of writing/storytelling,
sexuality, fan- or nerd-dom, political regime, revolution, etc.)
? The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a novel heralded often for its realism and
authenticity. Yet it is also a novel that frequently engages ideas of the divine, spiritual, or
supernatural. Consider one or several of those moments and what they offer the narrative.
Alternatively, there are recurring images in the novel that engage this same idea most
notably, the Mongoose and the Man with No Face. What do one or both of those symbols
represent for the text?
? Luke Cage (2016) was a series lauded for its realistic and thorough representation of a
black superhero enmeshed in the culture of a black community. Consider: how do ideas
of race typically come to bear upon heroic narratives, and in what ways does Luke Cage
complicate or reify those ideas?
Remember that you may use the Writing Studio (Vanderbilt.edu/writing) as a resource (and will
in fact gain extra credit for doing so), and also that you may talk to me at any point about ideas,
questions, or concerns that you may have either in person or via email: calendly.com/navarrk |
An A paper is superior work:
The paper has a strong introduction that builds to a thesis statement that is sophisticated and
interesting; it develops an arguable stance that shows great creativity and insight.
Author demonstrates deep familiarity with the text(s) under discussion.
The author uses textual support with considerable skill and with serious thought about its
appropriateness. Close readings are lengthy and detailed, drawing inspiration from our Close
The paper is extremely well organized. The argument flows seamlessly with no ruptures in thought.
The conclusion reiterates the thesis statement gracefully and situates the paper within a larger point
about the text.
A B paper is good to very good:
The author describes a position on the text and engages it. The thesis is good but might need
strengthening. The introduction stimulates interest in the authors position.
The author cites appropriate textual evidence for his/her points, although at times he/she may need to
pause and analyze the evidence more closely.
The paper is generally well-organized but is at times choppy; transitions may need more attention.
The conclusion reiterates either the thesis or the main points but creates an abrupt ending to the paper.
A C paper is adequate:
The author identifies a thesis statement, but the thesis is too broad, too vague, or is more of an
observation than a contestable argument. The introduction itself may be vague or unfocused.
The author does not venture beyond a conventional understanding of the text or merely reproduces
ideas from class with little attempt at analysis.
This paper contains references to the text, but the author does not analyze them with appropriate
depth. Rather than offer a close, careful reading of the relevant sections of the text, the speaker
focuses on his/her own broader ideas without grounding them in the language of the text.
The author has organized his/her material in a relatively coherent fashion but without much attention
to transitions between different parts of the paper. Author is vague and moves away from claims
without developing them. References may not be appropriate for the specific claims.
The paper does not contain a conclusion, or the conclusion is under-developed and/or abrupt.
A D paper is poor:
It at least hints at a controversial position, although it does not develop this position in anything like
the depth required. The introduction is unfocused and does not build toward a solid thesis statement.
This paper does demonstrate that the author has read the text but not carefully or with a critical eye.
The paper shows a greater attempt at organizing thoughts than an F paper, but such attempts are
tentative and fragmentary.
Paper often falls into summary or long descriptions.
An F paper has no thesis or recognizable argument:
This paper does not show evidence of a serious understanding of the texts nor does it show any
attempt at textual support for the claims it makes.
Ideas are not organized in any coherent fashion.
An F paper is also one that is turned in so late that it cannot be graded.
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