English 456: C20 Criticism and Theory

Paper 2 Prompt and Suggestions

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

Paper 2 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. Mechanics are important: observe MLA conventions about quotation format, works cited page, etc. and proofread carefully.

Some Topics you may follow as-is or reshape to suit your interests:

1. Examine the significance of authorship in either Barthes or Foucault, or both. What value does your chosen theorist attribute to "the author" in the production, circulation, and interpretation of literary or other texts? To what extent do you find the theory advanced satisfactory or unsatisfactory, and why?

2. Examine the claims of one author who opposes "theory" or "poststructuralism/postmodernism." (Habermas and Michaels/Knapp would be the most logical choices here.) To what extent does this author make a cogent case against the tendencies or errors he ascribes to the theories he opposes? What is your own view of theory's value (or lack thereof) within literary study and of its broader significance for social and political issues?

3. Our syllabus includes several "cultural studies" or "postcolonial" theorists (Fanon, Said, Babha, Hall). Explore the value one of those authors ascribes to literature, literary theory, and intellectuals (whichever proves appropriate) in relation to the struggle against colonialism and the difficulties that remain in its aftermath.

4. Explore Levi-Strauss' claims about the function of writing amongst both Europeans and the Nambikwara tribesmen whom he is studying. To what extent do you find his claims about writing valid, and to what extent does he successfully work through his own involvement in the narrative he relates?

5. Our syllabus includes three feminist authors--de Beauvoir, Cixous, and Butler. Explore one author's theory of gender (that is, gender relations and, if appropriate, gender acquisition). Also explain and assess the degree to which the author sets forth practical suggestions for women's advancement.

6. Consider Derrida's critique of Western philosophy's privileging of speech over writing. Explore his strategy as he "deconstructs" this privileging, and offer your own carefully argued view concerning the implications of Derrida's critique for the way we interpret literature.

Informal Suggestions: Email me or come to an office hour with some ideas about your author/text. I will respond with ideas and questions to help you make progress on the paper.

Due Date: 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. The final draft will be due along with your take-home final exam copy, May 15, 7:00-9:30 PM Thursday at our usual location. It is also acceptable to send your paper (and exam responses) as an MS Word attachment, but please remember that it's vital to get confirmation from me that I received the attachment and was able to open it. If you don't receive such confirmation within approximately 24 hours, please call 714-434-1612.