Some Types of Previous Successful Midterm Paper Topics
(All papers are available for reading in my office and all met the 3-page rule!)
These are by no means the only kinds of papers that will work. As those of you who already have taken English 215 ("Critical Methods") will recognize, few of them go beyond New Critical "close reading" for their method. If you can use some of those other interpretive theories' methods, consider doing so. If not, close reading works for me. English 211 assumes you already know and can use basic terms of art for literary analysis, but click here for a review of: character, plot, point of view, setting or scene, ambiguity, irony, allusion, image, symbol, binary opposition, closure, and validity (as a test of an interpretation's quality). You also should benefit from using the terms in 211's more specialized glossary, perhaps those assigned for the day on which your primary work was assigned.
Remember the main purpose of this assignment: show me you can read the literature assigned for the course and develop an original, non-obvious insight about some of it, and explain the insight, and its importance, in a coherent, economical fashion. This is not about your ability to summarize published scholarly research on the literature. Nevertheless, if you know how to use secondary scholarship as a scholar would, to solve problems and to situate your own ideas in the ongoing conversation about literature, please use them and you will be rewarded for doing so. Remember that endnotes (MLA style--at the end of the paper) and the Works Cited section do not count in the 3 pages. As scholars of literature, you also can shave pages off the paper by dispensing with any previous need to summarize the primary source you are writing about (cut to the chase--your readers have read the work, too!) or to quote lengthy passages from the primary source (use MLA parenthetical citations--your readers have the Norton open beside your paper). I am willing to be lenient about papers which run over the limit if there is a good reason why they could not be shorter. I also pay attention to students who have used the Writing Center, including how often and how many times they have used it, and I look with a kindly eye upon their efforts. They have demonstrated a belief in a fundamental belief shared by all English majors--IF YOU PRACTICE USING ENGLISH WITH EXPERTS, YOU WILL LEARN TO READ AND WRITE BETTER!
As I mentioned in class, I would be delighted to reply to emails describing hypothetical papers. Give me the primary text you are analyzing (specifying pages or lines where the evidence is found), your tentative thesis, and the logic which makes it work. If possible, think about why it would not be obvious to the casual but competent reader.