Final Project – ENGL 100
The final project for ENGL 100 involves writing a short five-paragraph essay between 1000-1100 words in length in MLA format; your paper must include a Works Cited list. At least one additional secondary source must be quoted in at least one body paragraph of the essay.
Here are some possible avenues of inquiry:
1. Many characters in the graphic novel Skim project their emotions and expectations onto Kate Mathews as she mourns a tragic death. This burden of public perception about how she’s supposed to act in public weighs heavy. At one point we are told that Kate Mathews sat at the back of class and “looked like a bag of stones” (102). What do you make of how she is treated by the others at the school? Does her treatment change as the narrative advances? Or does her character change and eventually find a way forward? Consider, for instance, the formation of the GCL board after the suicide. For what purpose and for whom was this group to serve at the high school? What public rituals and private gossip is she subjected to after losing someone to suicide? Is she scapegoated? If so, why? Read the text carefully. Be specific. Quote often.
2. Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray demonstrates how an art object can reflect a more accurate view of a person, granting perspective of a character that the world might not otherwise see. Write an essay that accounts for the portrait as it changes in relation to Dorian’s increasingly amoral behavior. Choose at least three scenes that demonstrate the power of art to provide an accurate message to the world even when morality appears to be corrupted or absent. You may wish to consider what motivates Dorian in the beginning, middle and end of the novel and how his character changes. Alternatively, the novel was censored; perhaps Wilde’s target audience of upper-class Victorian England might not have been ready for the message that his gothic novel depicts? Read each scene carefully at the level of language to support your thesis. Be specific. Quote often.
3. Louise Erdrich’s story “The Red Convertible” is about two brothers. You may have noticed that one brother is very good at converting and the other is not. What are the definitions of convertible? Write an essay which discusses the various forms of convertibility featured in the story. What does this key term allow us to explore about the predicament that each Indigenous character faces? How is each character forced to navigate between two very different belief systems in modern America? Avoid thematic summary. Be precise as possible by focusing on how the pattern of convertibility is represented in various ways throughout the text. Quote often.
4. One of the observations made in Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” is that a cathedral is made by many hands. By this definition, the cathedral, as a space for communion, belongs to more than person. Cathedrals are also places where flawed characters are led by others to undergo salvation. Consider how this story functions as a modern allegory of salvation. How does Carver’s story, told from the point of view of an unreliable narrator, test the limits of the work of art to bring redemption to community members who at times appear beyond hope? Why, at the end of the story, does the narrator feel he’s no longer inside anything? Who leads him? Be specific, ground your argument by reading the complex character dynamics as they are represented in the story. Quote often.
5. Blake’s title “London” may evoke luxurious, cosmopolitan notions of modern city living, but the descriptions he provides hardly document an optimistic portrayal of its “midnight streets.” Drawing on examples from the text, write an essay that examines how the poem critiques the capital of the British Empire by showing the characters left to fend for themselves on the streets. However you choose to narrow your topic, whether examining the difference between innocence and experience, and/or the historical context in which the characters in the poem are situated, focus on a literary pattern that recurs throughout the text and, importantly, why this matters to defamiliarize preconceived notions of class divides? Be specific. Quote often.
6. Write an essay that rigorously expands on the topic you briefly touched on in your keyword assignment. You will need to do more than simply add a few additional paragraphs. Instead, you will need to revise and revamp what you have written to avoid repetition. You will also need to select additional scenes, and read these scenes carefully, in a logical sequence, as you reason toward your conclusions and thus avoid repeating the same point. Interpretation rather than summary is essential. Locate a key pattern and read the text carefully to argue for its larger significance. Be specific. Quote often.
These topics are merely suggestions. As a university student, you are authorized and encouraged to adapt, narrow, or refocus topics to match your individual explorations of the course materials.
How to find scholarly articles:
Go to the Library’s e-resources page here. You can search a number of academic databases for journal articles including:
• Academic Search Complete
• eBook Academic Collection • JSTOR
• Literature Resource Center
Search by story title, theme, and/or author name. At minimum, include one direct quote (use quotation marks) from one academic journal article. A magazine or newspaper review does not qualify as an academic article because it is not peer reviewed. A chapter from an edited collection of essays published by an academic press certainly does qualify. Review the MLA format handout to
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