English 5213
Eighteenth-Century British Novel
Theory Assignments

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There are two writing assignments grounded entirely in literary theory.

Assignment 1: Choice of a favorite theory.
Assignment 2: Choice of a theoretical approach for your research paper, and defense of that approach.

Theory Assignment 1: Choice of a favorite theory, due September 16.

This assignment is worth 10% of your grade in this class.

Read pages 269-464 of our edition of Gulliver's Travels, including the introductions by Ross C. Murfin and the sample articles. Of the five critical approaches, choose one that you find particularly interesting. Then read the corresponding section of Raman Selden's Reader's Guide to Contemporary Theory to increase your knowledge about this particular approach and get information about it from a slightly different point of view. Write a short essay of 900-1,200 words (about 3-4 pages typed, double-spaced), explaining what interests you most about it. Include specific examples and direct quotations to support your points.

Your essay should not be a mere summary of Murfin's or Selden's point of view. Use examples from the sample article as well as from Murfin and Selden. If you want to get an A on this assignment, you should also use examples from one or more of the works we have read in class and show how they might be interpreted according to the theoretical framework you have chosen. By putting the theory into practice, you will demonstrate that you are able to apply it yourself in an original manner.

Use MLA citation format to cite your examples, and include an MLA-style Works Cited list at the end.

Regarding the 900-1,200 word requirement: I will count words, so make sure you do, too. An easy method is to compose or paste your essay into a word processing program such as Microsoft Word or Wordpad, and then use the "Tools" function to get an exact word count. Just don't forget to subtract the paper's title, your name, the name of the class, and other header information from the total. The Works Cited list, too, should always be excluded when you calculate a paper's word count. It's okay if you go a little (note I said a little) over the maximum of 1,200, but you will be graded down if you come in below the 900-word minimum.

Theory Assignment 2: Choice of a theoretical approach, and defense of that choice, due November 2.

This assignment is worth 10% of your grade in this class.

Choose any critical approach from our Gulliver's Travels text except reader-response as the approach for your final research paper. This does not need to be the same theory as the one you chose for Assignment 1. If you don't like any of them you may substitute Marxist, semiotic, post-colonialist, or cultural materialist criticism for one of the approaches in our text, since these theories work extremely well with eighteenth-century fiction. If you do so you'll need to do outside research on your chosen theoretical approach on your own. I can recommend some good sources if you decide that's the way you want to go.

Theory Assignment 2 is a preliminary assignment, designed to help prepare you to write a paper within a critical framework.

In a short essay of 900-1,200 words, explain why you chose this particular approach and how it is likely to apply to your final research paper. Give examples from secondary texts (Murfin, Selden, and one other book of your choice on the subject of literary criticism) and at least one primary text (the work of eighteenth-century fiction that is the subject of your paper) to illustrate how this approach is an effective way of reading your primary text(s).

Use MLA citation format to cite your examples, and include a Works Cited list at the end. The Works Cited list should be excluded from your word count.

You might choose to reuse portions of this assignment verbatim as part of your research paper. If so, that's fine with me. In fact I encourage it, because I believe that if you are working with this end in mind you will do a better and more thorough job on Theory Assignment 2. You don't have to, though. As the research paper evolves, you might find that your grasp of theory evolves along with it.