Pasternack -- English 10: New Historicist Essay
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Pasternack: New Historicist Essay
Write an essay in which you demonstrate how a literary text (or cluster of two to three short texts) and a nonliterary text draw upon certain cultural ideas and/or reshape those ideas or how they try to resolve a conflict in-the culture concerning certain cultural ideas. You may center your essay on Hughes's or Silko's writing.
- A concept you might concentrate on that was (and is still) under contestation is the construction of American identities-African American identity, American Indian identity, or the construction of American identity in a society many think of as multi-racial and multi-ethnic, or you might choose another category on which to focus your analysis.
- In any case, your thesis will either be about
- how the particular literary and non-literary texts contribute to the construction of a significant cultural concept (basically a comparison essay), OR
- how recognizing that this cultural concept was being constructed in a certain way can illuminate ways that the literary text(s) contribute to or contest that construction (an essay which forefronts the Hughes or Silko text, as Lynn's forefronts the Cheever story).
If you write about Hughes, focus your analysis on
- one poem by Hughes that we have-not discussed in great detail in class (two or at most three if they are short and closely related). These may be from the Harlem Renaissance period or from Montage of a Dream Deferred, written in the late 1940s.
- and one other, non-literary text from the "Hughes" section of your Reader. (If there is another text you wish to write about instead, see me about it first.) This other text should be from the same period as the Hughes poem(s). Append to your essay a one-page abstract of the text not written by Hughes.
If you write about Silko, focus your analysis on
- one section of Storyteller (or two closely related sections)
- and another, non-literary text on issues of American Indian education and assimilation on Reserve for our class in the Library. As most of these are books, you will need to select a section on which to focus your analysis. Note the date of this text in relation to the date when Storyteller was published.
Be sure that the vast majority of your paper consists in close reading of these primary materials,
- for the poem or other literary text, analyzing the contributions that image, metaphor, layout, rhythm point of view, and other such concrete details make to constructing the idea;
- for the non-literary text, analyzing such details as diction, tone, order of points, and assumptions, as well as imagery and even metaphors as they contribute to the construction of the idea.
Do not begin your essay with generalizations about the period (see Lynn, p. 114). Do not make the essay about Hughes the man or Hughes the poet, Silko the woman or Silko the writer (follow the directions for New Historicism, not for Biographical Criticism).
To do the two close readings adequately and make explicit your reasoning about them, you will need to write at least 5 pp. Do not go over 7 pp.
Document your sources, using MLA-style citations; that is, use brief parenthetical citations and a "Works Cited" list at the end of your essay. See Lynn's examples in his biographical criticism essay (pp. 135-9) and the pamphlet, Success in English Courses, as well as the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (available at the Reference Desk in the library) and the Web site linked to "Resources" on our class page if you need more information. You will find full bibliographic information for the pieces in the Reader in the table of contents. Be sure to document the literary as well as the other texts you discuss.
Your file name should be "<first three letters of your last name>3.htm". Publish it under your group name and then "p3." Your comments should have the file name "<first three letters of author's last name><first three letters of your last name> htm". Publish them under your group name and then "p3."