Class Consciousness

Stephen W. Potts

UCSD Spring 2017: LTWL 116 Paper Assignments

LTWL 116: Coming of Age

Paper Assignments

For each paper, devise a topic and thesis from one of the subject areas below. Think of your topic as a question you are trying to answer, and your thesis as your potential answer to that question. Whatever your subject, you will need to take advantage of outside sources — articles, books, other critique — to support your argument, and you must append a list of these sources — roughly a handful (4-5), not counting fiction. See further advice on research on “Starting Points” below.

Each paper should be 1200-1300 words, approximately four pages double-spaced in 12-point standard font. Further advice on producing a good paper is attached as “Words for the Wise.” Ignore the attachments only if you don’t care about grades. I will be happy to help anyone with topics, theses, and research options during office hours.

For both the midterm and final, formulate a topic from any of the following subject areas:

  1. As noted in class, the coming-of-age story (Bildungsroman) intersects significantly with modern literature because of its emphasis on the assertion of identity in the face of the challenges of modern society. Choose any work of literature that deals with personal discovery or development and address one of its primary themes or techniques. (Examples: “Ellison’s Invisible Man: Anonymity as Identity”; “Persepolis: A Graphic Look at Growing Up”)
  2. The novels we are reading have been subject to much critical analysis. You may focus on one of them, taking a different critical approach to that employed in class. Or compare our assigned novel with another by the same author. (Examples: “The Self-Created Self from Amory to Gatsby”; “Community as Chorus in Song of Solomon“)
  3. Many modern novels for both adolescents and adults consider racial and gender identity or other issues such as class, cultural difference, or psychological problems. Choose a novel that confronts such a problem. How does the character’s development reflect or project understanding of the issue? (Example: “Challenging Gender Expectations in House on Mango Street“; “Transcending Trauma in Diary of a Wallflower“)
  4. Young protagonists in genres such as fantasy and science fiction often reflect some form of the archetypal hero’s journey (e.g., Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Katniss). Analyze one such character arc, keeping in mind the psychological importance of the hero myth. In other words, if you use a conventional pattern like Campbell’s monomyth, don’t just check off the steps; bear in mind that Campbell was working off of Freud and Jung and embracing topics like Oedipal resolution and individuation. Better yet, be aware that there are other versions of the hero’s journey besides Campbell’s. (Examples: “Ender’s Game: With Power Comes Responsibility”; “The Hero’s Journey of Hermione Granger”)
  5. If we expand adolescent literature to include all YA (Young Adolescent as well as Young Adult, i.e., ages from 11 to 22), a substantial number deal with empowerment, disillusionment, and/or self-realization. Select any work aimed at adolescent readers of any age and examine it from the standpoint of a single specific thesis. (Examples: “Nature and Culture in Julie of the Wolves“; “Esperanza Rising as Inverted Fairy Tale”)

The Long Project Option: Some students will be allowed to turn in one long project instead of the two short papers. This project should be 2500 words long and cite 8-10 outside sources. It can be fashioned from one of the subjects above or one of your own choosing. Before signing the long project permission sheet, you must:

  1. Offer a topic that can best be presented in the longer form;
  2. Justify your experience in producing projects of this length and depth;
  3. Agree to turn in the paper during the last week of instruction. Long projects turned in later will be graded as late.

The Fine Print: The university and the department have stringent regulations regarding cheating, plagiarizing, and turning in papers copied off the internet. We are asked to inform you that we have access to the same online sites and term paper services as you do, and means for comparison and identification. Past offenders can be visited in the cadaver vaults at the medical college.

Starting Points for Research

In the age of the Internet, an increasing number of students have come to believe that “research” means Googling for half an hour. While there are now more excellent resources than ever online, you need to know how to find them or evaluate their usefulness. Besides, as students at UCSD, you are paying a lot for your education, some of which goes to support a superb library/research system on campus. Get your money’s worth: take advantage of this university’s facilities and its reputation for higher learning. As students, in fact, you even access many of the university’s library and online resources from the comfort of your own home.

Not all research materials, whether in print or in photons, are created equal. For example, Cliff Notes, SparkNotes, and their equivalent are for high school students who haven’t done the reading, not for university students supporting critical arguments. Likewise, most general encyclopedias are so secondary school. That includes Wikipedia, which is simply an online encyclopedia. It may be useful for background and inspiration, but it is not a quotable resource, though at best it can point you to quotable resources. Instead, begin by turning to the many excellent reference works or databases available through the library website, such as the Literature Resource Center. Fortunately, UCSD offers access to many electronic journals and other potential research materials alongside the printed books and periodicals in the library building itself. Make use of resources in all media.

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