Studies in Contemporary Literature

ENGL 311: Studies in Contemporary Literature – Semester Paper Assignment ASSIGNMENT EXPLANATION AND REQUIREMENTS:

This semester, I want each of you to research and develop an interpretation of a written work (or works) by a contemporary writer.

There, I got it out in one sentence. And how many pages you ask? Well, I usually ask more for quality than quantity, but to keep everyone together in ambition and scope, I’d say shoot for a 7-8 page semester paper.

By “interpretive,” I mean that you should not exclusively summarize factual information from an encyclopedic source (date of birth, date of death, first crush, first crushing rejection, etc.). It is fine—and perhaps wise—to include factual, biographical information about your author, but only to help illuminate some point you are trying to examine in that author’s written work. I don’t want the whole paper or even a majority of it to become bio or plot summary.

You need to cite a minimum of five sources in this essay. You may document these sources according to either APA or MLA guidelines—I’ve taught long enough to become very familiar with both, and I don’t believe in forcing everyone to use MLA just because that’s what English folks use. You should plan on consulting more than a mere five sources, but I’m only requiring that you end up paraphrasing or directly quoting this minimum in your text. And, yes, the concluding Works Cited (MLA) or References (APA) page can count toward your 7-8 page target range.

I do want the interpretation of your author’s work to be primarily based on your own thoughts, insights, etc., but I also want to see you supporting your interpretations with scholarly sources and / or summarizing some rival interpretations from these outside sources.



At this point, I’m hoping you’ll start the thought process and then begin browsing some of the online resources that Drury offers via Olin Library. Remember, everyone needs to submit a tentative thesis or topic statement as part of the midterm at the end of Week Five. I just want you to do some keyword searches via the databases in Olin Library (JSTOR, Academic Search Elite, Google Scholar and ProQuest Central are the best choices for researching contemporary works of literature) so that you can compare your wish-list topic choices to what is actually available in terms of full text articles. If you even start searching this week, you’ll have time to make an informed and hopefully narrowed choice for a semester paper topic instead of just phoning in a “best guess” at the end of Week Five. Never hesitate to send me early questions or topic ideas, either. I’m here to help!


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