For your final essay, I’m asking you to generate your own paper topic. To that end, you will submit an essay abstract by the beginning of class on Tuesday, November 28th. The sooner you generate your abstract, the more I can assist you with developing your final essay.

Your guidelines for the essay are as follows:

1) Ideally, you will write on at least two novels but no more than three.

2) You must draw upon at least 1-3 secondary sources in your consideration of primary materials (i.e. literary theory and/or applied literary criticism. I’d recommend that you stick with the essays that you have been assigned to read. If you want to go further afield, we’ll need to discuss that

3) Your final essay is due via electronic submission by Friday, December 8th at 8:00pm.

4) You may draw upon the short essays you’ve already submitted to me this semester. If you do so, keep in mind that I will expect you to significantly transform the work you’ve already done. You may also draw upon any of the essay topics I’ve designed this semester when designing your own.

If you return to an earlier essay, you must send me an email that briefly (1-2 sentences) explains how you employed it in the long final assignment.

I’m encouraging you to significantly transform any of your shorter writing assignments not “re-use” or “cut and paste”. The more you transform earlier work, the better your essay will be. Remember that it is not page length but quality of argument and language that matters here. Please do come to office hours if you have any questions.


Please send me your abstract via email ( by 11:00 on Tuesday, November 28th. I’ll print up multiple copies to bring to class for peer review and discussion.

An abstract of an essay sets forth the thesis and provides 1 or 2 pertinent examples of what you will argue in the essay as a whole. Particularly strong abstracts also give some sense of the structure of the essay. An abstract is not binding, but it should reflect serious consideration on your part. I want to see evidence that you have given your final essay significant thought and planning. The more thorough the abstract, the more helpful that I can be. It should be no less than 3 paragraphs in length.

If you are drawing upon earlier work, please note this in your abstract.


  • It is important for your essay to have both a thesis and specific evidence from the literature to support that thesis. Remember: saying that there are “similarities and differences” does not a thesis make. When comparing two or more things we can always find shared elements as well as disparate elements. In your thesis you need to specifically identify the grounds of your comparison. Do not stop with an observation; you need to convince the reader of the significance of that observation, and its importance to understanding the text (or texts) that you are writing about. Think of a thesis as the first step in proving your particular reading of a piece of literature.
  • There are no hard and fast rules for developing your topic. Here, however, are some suggestions:
    • formulate a topic that interests you
    • take notes, free write, generate in some way more specific ideas for your paper
    • mark, note down, or copy passages or chapters that are likely to be important for your topic
    • start analyzing the passages: take notes, underline, make notes in the margin, and write out analyses of the passages in paragraph form
    • read further; consider major themes of the class, as they have come from our discussions
    • transform your topic into a thesis
    • start to formulate your thesis and write the paper (use the notes and analyses that you have made)
    • leave yourself enough time to write, revise, and write again


Paper Length: 8-10 pages, typewritten and double-spaced.

Paper Style :Please write your paper according to the principles outlined in the MLA Manual of Style.

Refer to the Writing a Literary Essay Presentation prior to and during the writing process.

DUE DATE FOR FINAL DRAFT: Please turn in your essay via electronic submission by Friday, December 8th at 8:00pm. I will have it graded by Tuesday, December 12th and hand it back at the final.