Essay

  
This first essay should explore some of the major themes we have read and written about so far this semester (see theme questions below) in one or two works of literature (I suggest covering two texts if you choose shorter texts/poems, and one if it’s a longer text/essay). Your essay should be 3-5 pages and be in MLA format (double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 pt font, and with proper in-text and works cited page documentation). These should be well developed, argument-based essays in which you clearly state your interpretation of the text, and support that assertion with examples from the text. Be sure to make the focus of your essay the literature we’ve read, as opposed to some of the context about literature and history we’ve read. IF you use these context readings as all, keep it to a minimum using only one or two context references in your essay. DO NOT USE ANY OTHER SOURCES besides the norton anthology american literature 9th edition  to write your essay. If you use ANY OUTSIDE SOURCES to write the essay, you will earn an F for the assignment.
For this essay, these are the following literature/primary text(s) you can choose to write about: “The Relation of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca,” John Smith’s “The General History of Virginia,” William Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation,” Anne Bradstreet’s poetry (any in our book), Mary Rowlandson’s Narrative, de Crevecoeur’s Letter, Douglass’s or Jacobs’s Narratives. Be sure that the wide majority of your essay is a discussion of this literature, and only refers once or twice to context/background readings. 
Here are some questions related to the major themes that have emerged with the reading so far are. Come up with an answer to ONE of these questions as your thesis:
How do the values of the individual compare to the values of the community?
How do characters move from captivity to freedom (physical and/or spiritual) in the early American landscape?
How do ideas of American masculinity and femininity affect the meaning of the text?
How do cultural identities get defined or explored in the literature?
Paper Content Requirements:
Audience and Style-Your hypothetical audience for this paper is an academic one, so you can assume that your readers have some familiarity with American Literature and with your texts. You should not assume that your reader is a member of our class; write as though your essay might be read by students and scholars who are simply interested in your subject. You style should be somewhat formal, but you may use “I” whenever it is necessary. Remember, though, that it’s best reserved for instances in your writing where your own identity or personal experience is somehow being integrated into your analysis of the text. Avoid contractions, and refer to author’s by last name after you’ve given their first and last names once.
Introduction and Thesis (one paragraph)-Your paper should begin by stating the general topic and themes you’ll write about, stating your text (full title and author’s full name), a brief summary of the narrative or essay, and some context (when it was written and any relevant historical background). Your thesis should be stated at the end of the Introduction paragraph, and should make an assertion about the way you think the text(s) should be read and what you think they mean overall. It should be argumentative and analytical, not merely observational.
Body paragraphs-Here is where you support the way you think the text(s) by closely examining specific characters, scenes and examples from the primary text(s) — that is, the literature, not the background reading about the literature. Give your paragraphs clear topic sentences/points of focus. Focus on aspects that you find most interesting, subtle, clever or skillful – you should NOT go through summarizing or paraphrasing the surface meaning of the text(s).
In general, literary analysis consists of two basic approaches, sometimes in combination, and sometimes by using only one or the other: content-based or method-based. This may be something to consider as you decide on your topic and approach. For example, you may look at the ideas and concepts developed, debated and addressed in a text, and you may choose to look at the actual structure and language of a piece and how that way of writing achieves a certain effect. Your own opinion is vitally important, but remember that academic writing requires that you defend your opinion by demonstrating a clear understanding of your material and “evidence.” 
Each body paragraph should contain at least one (two is probably safer) direct quotations from your primary text(s). Read this to learn about how to use quotations well: https://writingcommons.org/avoid-dropped-quotations
Conclusion-Here, bring your discussion to a close thoughtfully, rather than by mechanically repeating what you’ve already said. It can be helpful to emphasize your main points with a small bit of repetition, but add some reflection on such topics as the value of analyzing the text(s) this way for contemporary readers, or the ways that your analysis helps readers understand the social contexts of the periods they were written in. In other words, it should answer the question: “So What?”
Format-Your essay should be in MLA format, without block quotations (nothing longer than 2.5 lines), and without a title page or subheadings. Please see any MLA format handbook, online resource, or my MLA format document posted on Moodle for help with these technical aspects.

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