Critical Response Essay

| March 16, 2014

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Purpose: Demonstrate close reading and integrate evidence in a critical response essay.
Prompt:
We have read several works all of which have something to do with the uncanny. Your task will be to decide what interests you enough from your reading and our class discussions to write about in your essay. Feel free to use one of your annotations as a first step in writing this essay. Below are two possible topics. They are big and general, so you’ll need to narrow them for your own purposes. Narrowing means focusing on specific passages or scenes, clearly defining the stakes of your argument, and writing succinct prose.
In general what I’m looking for is your intellectual engagement and critical attention to literary texts and issues.
You must engage at least 3 texts in your essay. These include essays by Freud, Bennet and Royle, The Turn of the Screw, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, and “The Tell Tale Heart”.
Select one of the essay prompts below:
• The Uncanny. Use an aspect of the uncanny as defined in Freud’s and Bennet and Royle’s essays, as the starting point for writing your essay. You might want to focus on a single aspect – doubling for example – or you may want to develop your own take on what Freud calls “that class of the terrifying which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar” (369-370). In other words, you can look at the ways that things or people or experiences come back to “haunt” characters. For example, one might argue that the governess’ initial interaction with the master prefigures the haunting she experiences at Bly.
• Home/homelessness. An essay starting from this topic might begin with Freud’s distinction between the ;heimlich and unheimlich;, or it might simply focus on the fact that houses represent particular issues that get worked out in the course of the narrative. Think about some of the issues represented by the houses: property, ownership, possession, haunting, domesticity, mobility and confinement. If you choose to write about one or more houses (comparing and contrasting them, for example), you’ll want to focus on one of these issues and then reframe it in terms of a question. For example, how do the houses critique and/or reproduce the idea of confinement?
Criteria for Evaluation
Questions: Can the writer answer the question, “so what?” That is, how interesting are the questions raised by the essay? How are they presented? Would those questions allow someone unfamiliar with the work to get at some of the works’ intricacies? Raising good questions is more important than coming up with particular answers.
Definitions: Think about major terms (home, possession, confinement). Are the main issues focuses, narrowed and defined?
Argument: First, can I find a thesis? How well is the argument laid out in the opening? Does the body of the essay follow and extend the thesis? Does each paragraph extend the argument, working from least important to most important issues? Are paragraphs dynamic, that is, do they create a sense of direction for the reader? If I look at a paragraph, does it focus on and develop a single idea (the paragraph topic)?
Analysis: Does the essay analyze the texts rather than restate them? If you engage a source do you provide your analysis? Don’t expect the reader to do the work of analysis for you. Remember, information from texts is not considered evidence until you clearly link the summary, paraphrase or quote, to your own ideas.
Integrating sources: Evidence from at least three texts is integrated in support of your views. You utilize summary, paraphrases or quotes appropriately and provide your own analysis, linking the source to your own ideas. You provide correctly formatted in-text citations and a bibliographic entry on your Works Cited page for each source.
Formatting, MLA citations, bibliography: Your essay is formatted according to MLA guidelines. Your in-text citations and Works Cited page conform to MLA standards.
Length: 3 pages, double-spaced using a 12 pt. font
Writing: I will take the quality of writing into account in the final grade. Revise and proofread your work.
1. Give your work a unique title. This helps frame your discussion before the reader starts to look at it.
2. When writing about literature use the present tense. For example, “The governess is not a reliable narrator.”
3. Be direct. Avoid unnecessary words and the passive voice.
Passive: The work is considered to be his best.
Active: Many consider the work to be his best.
4. Be clear and be specific. Leave out “everyones” and “somethings”, etc. Too many abstract nouns make the essay seem vague. Use specific nouns, adjectives and active verbs to give the essay concreteness.
Vague: George seeks to uplift her race.
Better: While race for George becomes a matter of rational choice rather than ideological construction, he assumes some of the same racial distinctions of society in an attempt to uplift – that is, educate and socialize.
5. Be consistent: Be sure pronouns agree with their antecedents.
Wrong: A person must fight back when they are in danger.
Correct: A person must fight back when he or she is in danger.
6. When quoting keep punctuation inside of the quotation marks: Finally, Wayne sees the truth, “it’s too late.” However, when citing a page number you place the parenthetical citation before the end punctuation mark. Finally, Wayne senses the truth: “it’s not too late” (133).
7. Short stories, poems and essays are denoted by quotation marks (“The Uncanny”). Book titles and film titles are italicized (The Turn of the Screw)
8. A dangling modifier (a bad thing) occurs when you begin a sentence with a clause that does not work with the subject of the sentence.
Wrong: When quoting, the punctuation should remain outside.
Correct: When quoting, you should leave the punctuation on the outside. (In this case, the subject is you
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Category: Humanities

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