LTEN 21: First Paper Assignment
Due: In lecture on. Wed. Oct. 23. Please see syllabus for policy on late papers.
Papers that do not conform to the standards below will not be accepted. It is your responsibility to make and retain an extra hard copy of your paper. Emailed papers cannot be accepted.
Length: 5 pages, double-spaced typed (about 1500 words).
12 point font and 8 ½ by 11" paper.
All margins must be 1". (We need room for comments).
Please hold to these guidelines to make the papers easy to read. If your paper is too long or too short, then it’s time to edit.
Presentation: Please go through this handy checklist:
A. No cover sheet or folder.
B. On the first page in the upper left-hand corner please provide:
1) your name
2) the name of your discussion leader
3) course and section number
4) paper topic number and
C. Put your last name and a page number on each page.
D. Staple your paper together.
E. Give your paper a title. A strong title gives some indication of the paper’s content. Center your title on the first page above the beginning of your introductory paragraph.
F. Proofread your paper carefully for spelling, typographical and grammatical errors. One or two minor hand-written corrections are acceptable on the final draft. A paper that is not carefully proofread is not acceptable and sloppiness may have a negative impact on your paper grade.
Folders: Be sure to keep all notes and drafts that show the work you’ve done to write the paper. Don’t turn these in, but, until grades are submitted, be sure to hold on to these materials to use during any discussion with TA or Professor about your paper.
Topics: Choose one of the following topics. The questions range from broad topics that allow you to narrow down your topic yourself to more specific approaches. Be sure to read through this handout in its entirety before beginning your paper. We have outlined very specific guidelines for formatting and citation and they must be followed. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask and we’ll be happy to help. No outside reading is necessary to write on these topics and indeed consulting outside sources is not recommended. If you do decide to consult outside sources anyway, be sure to cite carefully following the form demonstrated at the end of this handout. For all primary source citations be sure to supply appropriate page/line references.
1. In the General Prologue we learn that the Wife of Bath is "somedeel deef and that was scathe" (l. 448). In the Wife's Prologue, Chaucer reveals the story of how the Wife of Bath lost some of her hearing in a fight with her husband. This explanation for her deafness is no accident as it also encompasses the figurative meaning of "dear" as we find in the Oxford English Dictionary: "2. figurative. Not giving ear; unwilling to hear or heed, inattentive. Const. to (†at). Phrase. to turn a deaf ear (to)."`
Using specific evidence from the General Prologue and the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale explain how Chaucer’s depiction of the Wife of Bath’s disability illuminates the tale’s exploration of gender. Your thesis should locate a specific aspect of Chaucer’s depiction of the Wife and argue for a specific reading of how her deafness relates to an aspect of Chaucer’s portrayal.
2. Bodies and body parts in Beowulf: In lecture we have noted the significance of monsters and their body parts in Beowulf. For this paper, take a single element/moment in the poem that refers to one of these parts, Grendel’s hand nailed up in Heorot by Beowulf, Grendel’s head brought back to Heorot (as opposed to his mother’s head), the corrosive blood of Grendel’s mother and use this element—this “place to scratch” as Empson might have called it—as the basis for a reading of the poem. You will want to develop a clear thesis that explains the significance of the representation of this body/body part. It seems very likely that you also refer to other monster bodies in the text make your point, but try to keep your focus as narrow and textually based as possible. It’s just fine if your thesis/reading seems to echo (or contradict) something said in lecture. Your task here is to articulate a thesis and defend it to the best of your ability.
3. Examine a recurring motif in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This paper topic requires you to go through the text with the proverbial fine-tooth comb, reading closely and considering the small detail within the larger context. This is actually not a bad approach to most texts, so if you’ve never tried this method before this might be a good chance to start. Pick one of the following motifs and follow it through the poem, noting where it occurs in the poem: knots, green, red and blood, seasons, old age.
The following types of questions will likely be useful as you analyze the text and build your thesis:
A. How many references are there? Why are there so many, so few? In what parts of the story do these references occur?
B. Why did the author include these references? Are there discernible patterns in their use? Is there any special meaning connected with the motif?
After considering these questions you need to develop a thesis about the role of this motif in the text as a whole. Your chosen motif will doubtless intersect with other significant aspects of the text and it is your job to narrow things down to build a thesis that illuminates some significant meaning in the text.
What are the main things that we look for when evaluating papers?
If anyone tells you that there is a magic formula for English papers, don't believe them. The tips outlined above contain implicit criteria for strong papers, but here's a more explicit set of criteria we use in our grading.
1. Does the paper present a strong, precise unified thesis carefully developed and proven in the paper's body through the use of specific, carefully explained textual evidence? Does it address the paper topic question? Does it define the terms of its analysis? Does the thesis make a significant point about the text in question? Does the argument develop in a clear and logical fashion? Do the points made follow on both an intra- and inter- paragraph level? A strong paper doesn’t just describe the text, but presents an argument/thesis analyzing it.
2. We look for clear, concise prose. Is the paper easy to follow? Are there clear, strong, active sentences that are varied in style? Are there solid transitions between points? Are the paragraphs well constructed? Are there transitions between paragraphs?
3. We look for clear and concise introductions and conclusions.
4. Excellent papers contain few, if any, errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation.
The papers we find to be the strongest fulfill all these criteria and they also often take risks, putting forth original and thoughtful arguments in an engaging style. In the case of LTEN 21, the papers will demonstrate understanding of relevant points covered in lecture, but will not simply repeat lecture or class discussion.
Plagiarism: If you use someone else’s ideas or words you must always acknowledge this use. For example, this section of this handout is taken verbatim from a handout written by John Stillinger, a former colleague of mine and a Norton editor. It explains “plagiarism and how to avoid it.”
“Sylvan Barnet, in A Short Guide to Writing about Literature, remarks that honesty requires that you acknowledge your indebtedness for material, not only when you quote directly from a work, but also when you appropriate an idea that is not common knowledge. Not to acknowledge such borrowing is plagiarism. If in doubt as to whether or not to give credit, give credit (73).”
Plagiarism is a type of theft and turning in plagiarized assignments can result in failing the course. Most plagiarism, though, is not really theft but is, rather, something done by accident. Accidental or unintended plagiarism results from a lack of awareness of the need for acknowledgment of sources and a lack of awareness of the proper forms for that acknowledgment.
You can avoid plagiarism by following a few simple guidelines:
1. Recognize the difference between common knowledge and distinctive content. Common knowledge need not be attributed, while distinctive content, the original work of another writer, must be attributed. Robert Perrin lists, as types of common knowledge, the following: historical facts (names, dates, etc.), literature that cannot be attributed to a specific author (e.g., the Bible), general observations and opinions that are shared by many people, and unacknowledged information that appears in multiple sources (Beacon Handbook 493-94).
2. Always attribute an author’s words, phrases, and sentence patterns if you use them. This attribution must include proper indications to mark off the author’s work (quotation marks for short quotes used in your own sentences, and offset quotation, indented from your text, for longer passages).
3. Always attribute original facts (the result of personal research that the author did), personal interpretations that the author made of information, and original ideas (i.e., those that are unique to the author). These attributions, because they are usually paraphrases or summaries, do not require quotation marks but do require documentation, usually by means of parenthetical reference (Perrin 495).
4. Write paraphrases and summaries completely in your own words.
5. Include at the end of the text a list of sources that you cited in your paper. This list should be in some standard form (most writing handbooks include a section on this matter).
Barnet, Sylvan, A Short Guide to Writing about Literature. 5th ed. Boston: Little, Brown, 1985.
Perrin, Robert. The Beacon Handbook. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.”
As we noted on the syllabus, please retain all materials related to the writing of your paper in a folder. If plagiarism is suspected, we will be asking to review these materials to examine your writing process. You may also be asked to submit an electronic copy of your paper so it can be submitted to “Turnitin.com” or otherwise examined to insure standards of academic integrity. What should go into your folder? Such items as notes, rough drafts, outlines etc. Academic dishonesty, such as plagiarism, can result in sanction by the University, permanent notation on your academic record and even dismissal. Please see your TA or Professor if you have any question at all about how to document your work and avoid plagiarizing.
Link to UCSD’s policy on Integrity of Scholarship: