ENGLISH 4030: CONTEMPORARY Critical theory

Fall 2005                                                                         First Essay Assignment


Please submit a 4-6 page essay on one of the topics below by FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30. Remember to support the claims you make with frequent, accurate, and direct reference to any texts you consider, and be sure to cite correctly any sources you use (Chicago or MLA style preferred).  Do not hesitate to ask me questions (or ask one another questions) about this project; email inquiries are welcome. Proofread twice, and then have someone else do it again.


1. Design your own topic, of suitable specificity and sophistication, about something that interests you in the material we’ve covered so far.  If there’s a discussion question that particularly intrigued you or you now wish you could have said more about, this would be a chance to pursue it further.  If you decide to design your own topic, you must discuss it with me and provide a description in writing (at least a paragraph) by Monday, September 26.


2. Expository: Explain, carefully and thoroughly, one of the concepts we’ve encountered so far this term.  Good candidates would include “canon,” “literature,” and "unconscious."


3. Also expository:  Explain, carefully and thoroughly, the difference between an "Oedipal" reading of Dracula and a "pre-Oedipal" one, and what the critical payoff is for each one--that is, what does each approach teach us about the novel?


4. Autobiographical: Is Gerald Graff’s account of the structure of English Departments and majors in “Taking Cover in Coverage” borne out in your own experience?  If so, how could your course of study have been altered to accomplish what Graff advocates with his “teaching the conflicts” model?  Note: be specific rather than hypothetical, that is, rather than fantasizing about utterly remaking the Department, think about ways in which courses you have actually taken could have been linked together or brought into dialogue (or conflict).  Names may be changed  to protect the innocent.


5 Curricular: Take up again the question of whether a course in Shakespeare should be required of UM-St. Louis English majors.  Your argument should move beyond questions of taste--the notion that you or any individual student might like or dislike Shakespeare enough to seek out or avoid such courses--and try to address the ways in which such a requirement might or might not fit into your vision of what it means to be an English major.  Is it largely a matter of acquainting yourself with a tradition in which Shakespeare looms large, or is it an opportunity to explore the widest possible variety of literatures in English, or is it a process of acquiring certain interpretative skills that don't require the study of any particular author?  What, you might ask, do other schools require--and are those schools whose example UMSL should seek to imitate or to avoid?

(use this link: http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/english/links/engdpts.html#HooverEnglish)