Wednesday, November 18, 2009

English IV-final paper

For your last essay of the semester, identify an important area of human life, human nature, or human values and write a paper of five to seven pages (1600-2000 words) discussing the theme you have identified. In your discussion, refer generously to three works we have studied. Choose one work from each of the following groups. Your third work may be chosen from either group.

Group A—Antigone; Things Fall Apart; A Doll's House; One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; Much Ado About Nothing; The Post Office

Group B—“War,” “Torn Lace,” “The Heavenly Christmas Tree,” “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” “Sunrise on the Veld,” “Good Climate, Friendly Inhabitants,” a Garcia Marquez story, “Forty-Five a Month,” “Interpreter of Maladies”.

Your papers are due Monday, December 14 by 11 AM, hard copy with turnitin receipt number (turnitin title: 2009-Final Paper). Papers are to be turned in at the Upper School office. They will be collected as soon as my exam is over at 11 AM; papers arriving after that time will be marked late and penalized accordingly. Use MLA parenthetical style for textual references with list of Works Cited.


Week of November 30:

Day 1: Finish Much Ado about Nothing discussion, including examples of findings of search teams

Day 2—Much Ado About Nothing Quest

Day 3—Preliminary thesis and list of texts for final paper due, in writing, with a short note on each explaining why it was chosen—10 points

Day 4—Outlines brought to class for discussion and approval—10 points

Week of December 7
Monday, December 7—Three pages of draft due in class for editing—10 points

Tuesday, December 8—Five-page drafts brought to class for editing—20 points

Week of December 14

Monday, December 14—11 AM—papers due, both hard copy and, 1600-2000 words—150 points

(N.B.-point values may be adjusted slightly, as this assignment is weighted as 25% of the semester total by Upper School policy.)

Sample Questions (develop your own variations):

What does it take to be a successful human being in the world? Is “success” a matter of getting what one wants, of attaining a desired result—love, money, power, freedom, social status—or is it a question of character, of developing within the self those qualities most essential to a complete human being: virtue, wisdom, compassion, spiritual enlightenment, moral insight, ethical depth, duty, honor?

Can social institutions, cultural traditions, or rituals help develop successful people, or does the literature portray these customs more as impediments to growth?

What is a “complete” human being? What components are most important in defining what a human being “should” be?

Under what conditions do the characters’ worlds become traps, bringing out the worst in people, debasing their lives and stripping their existence of meaning or purpose? What happens to the hearts and souls of those who live in such worlds?

Professor Robert George of Princeton says, “the conquest of the self is part of what it means to lead a successful life.” Which characters have inner demons or parts of themselves they must conquer? How successful are they?

William Faulkner said that literature is composed of “old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed—love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.” Which of Faulkner’s truths find most powerful expression in the literature we have read this semester.

Dr. Carl Hammerschlag, a psychiatrist, writes, “Mental health . . . can be described as having your head, mouth, and heart in a straight alignment. Mental health happens when what you believe in your heart is the same as what you say with your mouth. You are mentally healthy when what you feel is something you also believe. . . .You have to keep in balance if you want to stay healthy.” In these terms, which characters are healthiest? Which are not? How do they achieve balance? What are the costs of not finding it?

Many works we have read center on characters who, because of their personalities, beliefs, or personal circumstances, find themselves in conflict with their society. Choose three important characters from different works and discuss the ways in which they are out of synch with the world around them. For each character you discuss, say whether the conflict primarily reveals a flaw in the character or in the society’s assumptions and moral values.

You may of course find other similarities around which to build your papers. An ethical issue, a question of human relationships, a political question, the idea of conscience, the issue of identity—any of these or a wide array of potential topics lie at your disposal. But choose wisely. You want a topic that lends itself to the three works you will discuss, and it must be not too broad an issue to develop specifically in the assigned length. For example, the question “What is human nature,” while intriguing, is too general to be useful here. Pick something narrower and try to go deeper in your discussion.