If you choose this option, you will write an 8-10-page research paper in MLA format. Topics will vary according to student interest, but the essay must comprise an argument about one or two (or more, in the case of sonnets) of the plays or sonnets read in the course. Your thesis must be clear, arguable, and specific; originality and creativity are also valued. To support your thesis, you will need extensive close readings of passages from your text(s) and outside research, including secondary sources and possibly other primary sources, such as early modern historical documents or other plays. You may extend a comparative study beyond the required texts: for example, if you wish to study a Shakespeare play in relation to a play by one of his contemporaries, such as Christopher Marlowe. At minimum, this research paper must include six strong academic sources cited in a separate Works Cited page (not included in the page count).
There are multiple ways to engage with scholarly sources. Most simply, you can include (analyzed) quotes or paraphrases in support of your argument. Alternately, you may choose to engage closely with one in particular; your thesis could make a statement positioning your perspective in relation to something that another scholar wrote. For example, a thesis could be (using a hypothetical article about a text we will not be reading in this class): “Thomas R. Schneider argues for the importance of setting in Hamlet and that the castle of Elsinore mirrors the claustrophobia of Hamlet’s mind. This is true, but I will extend Schneider’s Hamlet-focused perspective and demonstrate that the castle relates just as clearly to Gertrude and Ophelia, and that examining their characters with this in mind sheds light on the connection between physical space and mental space in the play.” You can disagree with, extend (like in the example), or adjust what has been said before. The key is that you must show that you’ve read a part of the “scholarly conversation” about your chosen work of literature and enter that conversation.
The following questions may help to guide you as you craft a thesis:
• What is it about this particular character that piques your interest?
• Is there a particularly surprising, disturbing, powerful, or unsettling moment in the text? Why might it have caused this response in you? Is there something there to explore in an argument?
• Is there a dominant theme or trope in this text?
• Is there any noteworthy symbolism, such as a recurring image, object, or phrase that has significance?
• As you started to research, did anything another scholar write make you angry or frustrated? Is this the starting point of a thesis disagreeing with him or her? Did you find a particular scholar’s argument exciting, and can you build on this by adding your own perspective? You might have also had any of these reactions to an introduction in our anthology.
• Once you have a topic and you are crafting your thesis, ask yourself: is my thesis arguable? (i.e., if I walked into a room of people who had read this text and stated my thesis, would there be any discussion or is it overly obvious? Or would everyone disagree because is it obviously false, based on misreading?) Is my thesis focused enough? Does it rely more on plot summary or analysis? (plot summary should be very brief and the focus should be on analysis).
This essay is essentially looking for the same kind of thesis as the Close Reading Essay, but with the added component of engagement with what other people have written about Shakespeare.
The Book Being used for this paper is William Shakespealuvre “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream”
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