Stephen W. Potts
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. Short papers should be 1200-1300 words long, about four pages of double-spaced lines in a standard 12-point font such as Times Roman. Each should have 3-4 critical non-fiction sources, cited in your paper and listed as Works Cited at the end. Long papers should be approximately 2500 words long, with 6-8 critical sources.
See further advice on research on “Starting Points” below, as well as advice on producing a good paper, which is attached as “Words for the Wise.” Ignore these attachments only if you don’t care about grades. I will be happy to help anyone with topics, theses, and ideas during office hours.
As noted on the syllabus, you may turn in papers at any time during the quarter, although there are a couple of hard deadlines after which papers will be graded as late. Note that the deadline for the long paper is the Monday of finals week. Plan ahead. Since you can produce the papers at your own convenience, excuses for lateness will be pointless.
In discussing our assigned readings, we touch on a number of sources, such as Celtic mythology, African folklore, Chinese fairy tales, the Grail legend and the Fisher King, psychologically based theories of fantasy such as those of Freud, Jung, and Joseph Campbell. Investigate any single source in more detail and discuss its use in the novel in question. How close did the author stick to the original or how well did s/he adapt the material to fit the purpose of the story?
Select a work of modern (post-1970) fantasy outside the syllabus and frame a discussion around it. Focus on a single argument/thesis: for example, is it rooted in a specific mythic, folkloric, or pop culture tradition? Does it advance a particular theme or message? Or critique it as a literary artifact, elaborating on the author’s technique, style, characterization, etc.
Analyze a work of classic fantasy, up to and including Tolkien. How did your chosen work fit its time or contribute to the modern genre?
Analyze a work of fantasy outside the literary genre, such as a film, TV show, or graphic novel. Does it demonstrate any artistic sophistication, or is it purely commercial entertainment? Is it a good example of its genre?
If you have another idea of your own that does not fit the above, discuss it with me.
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 UCSD students, in fact, you may even access much 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 it can point you to quotable resources. Instead, begin by turning to the many excellent reference works or databases available through the library website. You might be surprised at how much has been written about fantasy in print form, much of it now available online. Fortunately, UCSD offers access to many electronic journals and other potential research materials alongside the non-virtual books and periodicals in the library building itself. Despite the many useful online sources, books and articles in print have information that is not available online. Don’t take short cuts that will hurt your grade: use research in many media.
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.