Wednesday, November 6, 2013

In-class essays--sample prompts

--> Essay prompts for in-class writing generally involve giving student writers a general literary topic and asking them to apply that topic to their knowledge of a specific play or novel. The ability to refer to specific scenes and characters is crucial, but the preparation for the essay generally consists of reading carefully, participating in discussions and activities, and being able to transfer knowledge of the novel from memory into an essay. Here are two examples of this type of prompt.

1.              The eighteenth-century British novelist Laurence Sterne wrote, “no body, but he who has felt it, can conceive what a plaguing thing it is to have a man’s mind torn asunder by two projects of equal strength, both obstinately pulling in a contrary direction at the same time.” Choose a character (not necessarily the protagonist) whose mind is pulled in conflicting directions by two compelling desires, ambitions, obligations, or influences. Identify the two conflicting forces and explain how this conflict illuminates the meaning of the novel as a whole. (Choices for this prompt originally included Macbeth. I think it would work well for Frankenstein also.)
2.              Writers often highlight the values of a culture or a society by using characters who are alienated from that culture or society because of gender, race, class, or creed. Choose a play or novel in which such a character plays a significant role and show how that character’s alienation reveals the surrounding society’s assumptions and moral values. (Choices for this prompt included Othello. I can imagine a pretty solid essay for Gardner's Grendel as well.)