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Remember, the essay should respond to our course framework, addressing some of the issues and using some of the terms that have structured out class discussions. Choose one of the prompts below to focus the essay on. Please do not use any outside sources besides the story or novel the prompt is discussing. Please use at least 2-3 direct examples from the passages themselves.
1. Analyze the crucial implications of the image of a wind (or a breeze, or something like that) in some of our readings. (How, that is, can we understand the wind or breeze—or what one critic called “air-in-motion—as an important aspect of Romantic expression?)
2. Analyze how the passages we’ve read from Keats letters address some of the key elements of Romanticism. Do this by drawing connections between the letters and some of our other readings (this could involve contrasts, too, of course.) (Some issues you might consider are “education,” “knowledge,” “time” and others, of course.)
3. Analyze Romantic Time (the ways some of our readings represent the relations among past/present/future, for instance) in relation to our discussions about Romanticism in general. (Perhaps: how is Time understood in a way similar to how space is?). (You might consider how “time” is an element of “nature.”)
4. Analyze how Frankenstein can be understood as an extended Romantic critique of the Enlightenment paradigm. (This a general prompt, of course; you’ll need to narrow it in some ways.)
5. You’ll have noticed that in Frankenstein, Mary Shelley quotes both Wordsworth and Coleridge. Analyze Victor in relation to those two poets (I don’t mean the specific quotations that appear; you don’t have to mention them, though you’re free to.) Which poet does he seem more like? (You might show here how Wordsworth and Coleridge in some ways present a sharp contrast, in the ways we’ve discussed them.)
6. Argue, in detail, how we can read the creature as Victor himself—that is, as Victor’s “unseen” self. (How is the creature’s story the story of Victor’s unseen self?)
7. Analyze how the question of looking and seeing (of “seeing” and not being “seen”) is crucial to understanding Frankenstein as a Romantic text. In your argument, show how scenes of “looking” and/or “being seen” are crucial not only to Frankenstein but to some of our other readings as well.
8. Analyze Victor’s relationship with Elizabeth (in relation to understanding the novel as a Romantic text). Is he really romantically/sexually attracted to her? (Perhaps Victor’s real romantic/sexual attraction isn’t to Elizabeth but to Clerval? [Maybe even something similar with Elizabeth and Justine?] How would that be important in reading the novel as Romantic?)
9. I’ve pasted below a few of our “introductory quotations” that focus on the question of Enlightenment (or theocratic) “dualism.” In our readings, to what extent have we seen a critique of dualism that involves a critique of systems of oppression (objectifying other people). This could involve question of race, gender, or class. (The question of “to what extent?” invites you to consider if there are ways that, when it comes to race, gender or class, some of our readings do not critique, or even perpetuate, dualistic thinking)
If environmental catastrophe has been produced by Western capitalism and Western capitalism is a product of the Enlightenment, then the romantic poets’ hostility to Enlightenment dualism can be seen as an early version of ecological thinking
[Romanticism pursues] the deconstruction of both the theological and enlightenment epistemes, since they are linked in the promotion of different yet related forms of dualistic thinking,
Where the theological paradigm separates body and soul to valorize the latter, the enlightenment paradigm separates mind and matter to valorize the former, yet both share a tendency to promulgate dualism, with its attendant alienation of self from other, and reduce “nature” to the enemy of and the fuel for an anthropocentrically constructed subject
Tips for Writing this paper:
1. Please have a thesis—something that can be argued. It should be clear what this is, usually by the end of the first paragraph. Try to make it precise as possible. Don’t try to keep a secret until the conclusion, but rather put the main idea up front. (Often one will discover one’s real thesis in the process of writing a first draft, so that it often appears in the conclusion. So, after you’ve written the first draft, see if your “conclusion” [or some version of it] is the real thesis.)
2. It should be clear how each paragraph contributes to the argument—what step it covers. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence, asserting exactly what the paragraph will show.
3. The paragraph should actually address what the topic sentence claims it will.
4. Often, the best way to begin a paragraph is a “bridge” sentence. (I’ve found this to be among the most helpful things to keep in mind when I’m writing my own essays, and it has been especially important in helping others write cogent, focused arguments.) (Words like “this,” because they refer the reader back to something, are very useful in bridge sentences.)
5. A bridge sentence is a particular example of the larger issue of “signposting.” Try to make sure your reader knows where you are in the argument at all times—that the reader is never “lost,” or wondering about why something they’re being told is important to the overall argument. (The tricky thing, of course, is that this requires you to know where you are in the argument and why what you’re writing is relevant to it—which, again, is hard.) Here’s a (partial, obviously) list of some possibly helpful “signposting” words (I’ve emphasized what I think are the most useful ones):
accordingly (meaning “and so”)
consequently (meaning “and so”)
in addition (besides, also)
indeed (in fact)
just as. . ..so too
more specifically (for example)
on the other hand
rather (however, instead)
then (thus, therefore)
that is (meaning, “in other words” or “that is to say”)
thus (therefore, so)
to sum up
6. Use specific evidence. This can be summary or paraphrases of some material, but the most important kind of evidence involves quotation. When you quote, be sure the pertinence of the quotation is clear; use the quote to help you make your point, rather than asking the quote to make it for you; that is, digest the quote into your argument. The most focused way of doing this is usually working the quotation into the syntax of your own sentence. (We’ll discuss this a bit in class.) For quotes from our class texts (or handouts), parenthetical citations of page numbers will suffice (no need for a cumbersome footnotes or endnotes).
7. Try to make an outline, or whatever kind of blueprint will help you think about and clarify the structure of your argument. (A list of paragraphs and what each one will do).
8. Unless you have a particular reason and discuss it with me, please don’t use outside sources. This is an analysis, not a research paper: it asks you to make an argument, not to draw on arguments others have made (unless, again, that seems important for your particular argument). (Online sites like “Shmoop,” Gradesaver,” Cliff’s Notes,” etc., are especially unhelpful. They don’t engage the books in the ways we do in class, or the ways I’m asking you to do in the paper.)
. If the essay is a comparison or contrast, it’s usually best to organize around issues of c/c
(so that you’re going back and forth between the two things, rather than having the essay
split into two long sections). This helps you formulate exactly what the issues are, and
thus helps keep the essay analytic, as opposed to lapsing into summary. If you do a c/c,
be sure the point of the c/c is well-defined; that’s your thesis. (As with everything
mentioned on this Writing Advice list, there is plenty of explanatory material available on
line about this “back-and-forth” method. Here’s one:
9. Assume the reader has read the text(s) you’re writing about, so you don’t need to summarize, unless you are doing so to clearly make a specific point. The reader knows the text but doesn’t know your argument. (Summarize? No! Analyze/argue? Yes!) (It sometimes helps to think of you presenting a case to a jury.)