Essay 1

The essay is an opportunity for you to explore a set of ideas in a little more detail than is possible in class. I am looking for a considered argument and thoughtful discussions of the works in question – not a random assemblage of observations.

It might be worth bearing in mind that an essay is, in a sense, two separate processes: first, you have to work out what you feel about the topic—something that you do by reading, researching, and writing—and then, secondly, you have to explain your take on the topic to someone else (me). These two processes do not occur simultaneously. Often it is necessary to rewrite your first draft (when you were working out your ideas) before submitting it in a final draft (when you make the case for your ideas). I would suggest that you write your response, share it with a classmate or two—and even visit the department’s tutors—and get their feedback, and then rewrite it so that it makes your points clearly. 

Basic requirements

The first essay is due by 11.59 pm Monday 23 March. (There will be a 10% penalty per day—or part thereof—that a paper is late). 

It must be submitted via Turnitin (accessible through Blackboard). 

It must be approximately 1200 words (10% either side is fine).

It must address one of the topics listed below. 

Essay expectations

The essay should provide a clear response to the prompt and should make an argument in support of its position. 

The essay should provide textual evidence from pieces studied in class, either in the form of direct quotations or by reference to specific episodes. You might like to draw on scholarly resources (essays, etc.) in support of your argument but this is not essential.  

The essay should be largely free of grammatical or writing errors. 


The essays will be graded according to three criteria: 

1. Argument: How convincing is the overall argument? Does the argument successfully integrate all three works under discussion? Is the argument outlined clearly? Do the transitions help clarify the course of the argument? Is it clear why the books have been discussed in the order they have? (40%)

2. Analysis: How compelling is the analysis of each individual work? Are there good insights?  Does the essay display a command of each particular work? Are scholarly references used intelligently to support your take on a particular book or topic? (40%) 

3. Technical competence: Is the essay well written? Are there any basic mistakes in grammar and spelling? Are quotes integrated correctly and effectively? Is the reference system coherent and comprehensible? (20%) 

These areas, of course, are interconnected: an essay full of grammatical mistakes, for example, often has a lack of clarity in its basic argument and an essay that is vague in its analysis of a particular work often has a weakness in integrating that work into the argument. In general, however, grades will be broken down as follows:

A – Excellent in all three areas.

B – Good in all three areas, or excellent in two and average in one. 

C – Average in all three areas,  or good in two but poor in one. 

D – Poor in two areas. 

F – Poor in all three areas. 

Be sure to submit the essay, via turnitin on the class blackboard site, by the due date. 

Please come see me if you have any questions. I would like you to produce a piece of work of work with which you can be genuinely pleased and which I will enjoy reading.

Essay Topics:

1. What role do economic pressures play in the life experiences of the characters in Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper” poems, Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” and Joyce’s “Eveline”? 

2. What do we learn about the representation of racial oppression in Hannah More’s “The Sorrows of Yamba,” Robert Southey’s “The Sailor who had served in the Slave Trade,” and William Blake’s “Little Black Boy”? 

3. What kinds of experiences are the main characters in Katherine Mansfield’s “Daughters of the Late Colonel,” Virginia Woolf’s “The Mark on the Wall,” and Elizabeth Bishop’s “In the Waiting Room” permitted?

4. How do D.H. Lawrence (in “The Prussian Officer”), W.H. Auden (in “Lullaby”), and Christina Rossetti (in “Goblin Market”) represent illicit sexual desires? 

5. What role does sexual desire play in the consciousness of the central characters in Larkin’s “Annus Mirabilis,” Mansfield’s “Bliss,” and Lawrence’s “White Stocking”? 


English Department Tutors are available in AL 232 at the following times to help with your essays:

Monday           9:00 am   –   12:00 pm

Tuesday         12:30pm   –     3:00 pm   

Wednesday    10:00am   –     1:00pm   

Thursday       9:30am      12:30pm 

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