SMC How to Shine Your Light on Someones Life Literary Criticism Research Paper

Literary Criticism Research Paper — INSTRUCTIONS

Description of the assignment:

In working on this paper, I invite you to reflect back on where we started in this class and where we have traveled in our examination of poetry and short stories. Some of my opening words from the beginning of class:

“We have just passed through a very difficult year, politically, socially, and economically. The pain is not yet over. This class examines voices that speak to the pain of exclusion, the fear of vulnerability, the loss of a sense of agency in the world, and to how we can heal, individually and as a society.”

I think you would agree that these words resonate with the themes Butler explores in her stories. Find a topic that helps you think about your own experience and the potential growth that has occurred over this very difficult year.

Instructions: Carefully examine one specific idea (theme) that arises and is developed in Octavia Butler’s short stories. This should be some aspect of human experience that Butler is using the stories to explore, or, in Philip K. Dick’s terms, a “new idea” that is being presented to the reader in order to generate a “conceptual dislocation” by which we are jarred out of habitual ways of thinking or by means of which we have our assumptions about our lives and other lives clarified in new ways.

As Rune Johnsen says in “Amnesty,” describing how impossible it feels to accept the “alien” communities:

“I suppose that’s because we’ve been displaced again from the center of the universe. We human beings, I mean. Down through history, in myth and even in science, we’ve kept putting ourselves in the center, and then being evicted” (Butler 157).

How do these stories displace us from the center of the universe? What are the implications of such displacement? What is being asked of us?

Your exploration will be most effectively approached through drawing connections between two or three stories. Use textual evidence (short quotes) throughout your analysis to support your interpretation. No plot summary. Again, the focus here is on YOUR ideas, your interpretations, your close readings of the texts.

Use the materials I provide on the next page — the scholarly article and Butler’s autobiographical essay “Positive Obsessions” — as they can be helpful in illustrating your analysis, along with at least one outside source that you found in the SMC library collections.

The length of this essay is 6-8 pages. That length reflects the research materials you will be required to integrate into your analysis.

Strategies for beginning:

Brainstorm a potential topic. Review your brainstorm and organize it as an outline. Develop a thesis that reveals the argument of your paper (your interpretation). Identify quotes that you can use as evidence to illustrate and elaborate your points. Quotes should be brief and must be accompanied by a page number. A descriptive title is always helpful for any essay.

The purpose of this assignment is to demonstrate that you can 1) do in-depth close reading and analysis of literary texts, 2) effectively use textual evidence in your analysis, including correct citation format, 3) find and integrate research sources to illustrate and expand your analysis, and 4) can effectively organize your ideas and clearly communicate your interpretation of the texts to your readers.

Here are some ideas to begin with. Use these, if they appeal to you, to spark further thinking. Use them as starting off points for further brainstorming and refining.

  • Language barriers having to do with communication and community; in relation to emotions; as a function of borders or boundaries; language as blocking communication or as a bridge across differences; naming; etc. (“Bloodchild,” “Amnesty,” “Speech Sounds”)
  • Adaptation to the environment in relation to questions of freedom and constraints; consensual relationships; interdependency (“Bloodchild,” “Amnesty,” “Speech Sounds”)
  • Sacrifices along with loss and gain (here you might focus on the characters of Gan, Rye, and Noah)
  • Transformations (“The Book of Martha,” “Bloodchild”)
  • Love and/or fear (anger) (“Bloodchild,” “Speech Sounds,” “Amnesty”)

Use one of these prompts to write your proposal for the paper topic. This will be due as a discussion post.

Format reminders:

Here (Links to an external site.) is a page from the OWL with reminders and instructions about MLA format, including the header and page numbers!

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