English 456: C20 Criticism and Theory

Paper 1 Prompt and Suggestions

Al Drake | Cyber Cafe | Thurs. 6-7 | 714-434-1612

Paper 1 Formal Prompt: Choose a text by one author on our syllabus and write a 5-page essay that is clear in its thesis, structure, and language. You may also write a comparative paper on two authors / texts, though that structure might entail a paper somewhat longer than the suggested 5-page length.

Some Possible Topics:

1. In the Grundrisse, Marx comments briefly on the relationship between art and the economic base. Explore his attempt to distance himself from the most straightforward kind of "economic determinism" with regard to the production and appreciation of art. How successful do you find his comments on this matter? Also, using additional Marx selections from the Norton, explore the implications of Marx's notion of ideology for the task of literary criticism.

2. In "Truth and Falsity in an Ultramoral Sense," Nietzsche suggests strongly that "truth" is a species of useful error. Explore his arguments to that effect - how does he establish his case, and what are the implications of his investigation of "truth" for more traditional notions about humans' ability to know themselves and the world in which they live?

3. Compare and contrast Marx and Nietzsche on the issue of humans' ability to know themselves and the world in which they live. How would each author criticize the other's ideas?

4. In "The Heresy of Paraphrase," The American New Critic Cleanth Brooks writes about the special characteristics of poetic language and structure. Explore his comments about the main characteristics he identifies, and discuss the implications of his ideas about poetic language for the task of literary criticism. To what extent do you find his formalist claims about poetics valid?

Informal Suggestions: Email me or come to an office hour with some ideas about your author/text, I'll respond with some ideas and questions that should help you start drafting the paper.

Rough Draft: I do not require that you turn in a rough draft before the final draft is due, though I suggest that you do so I can comment and return it in time to help for the final draft. I do, however, require that you include with your final draft a copy of some notes or an early draft. The final draft will be due Wednesday of Week 6 (March 5).

Please look over some of the materials on writing available via hyperlinks on the "Guides" page. "Deductive Essays" is particularly recommended because in it I comment on the basics about structure and purpose in college papers. Another set of handouts deals with how to introduce and cite a literary text properly -- that is certainly something every writer needs to know.