ENGL 201 Reflection Essay Assignment
Because the purpose of ENGL 201 is to get you familiar with the evolution of British literature over eight centuries of literature, your major writing assignment for the course asks you to reflect on what you have learned as the course progresses. You are expected to write a properly-documented paper of at least 8 pages excluding "Works Cited" that shows some of what you have learned in the class.
Here are the specifics:
1. The topic of your paper should be one of the four "theme" questions we have for the semester:
How does British literature reflect the relationship between the individual and society?
How does British literature reflect the relationship between the individual and faith/ belief/religion?
How does British literature reflect the question of rebellion and authority?
How does British literature reflect the relations between women and men?
2. Your thesis, then, should answer the question "How do you [as yourself, an intelligent reader] see British literature reflecting X [where X is your topic question] over the historical periods we’ve covered?" What I’d like to see is your interpretation of how and why writers’ responses to these topic questions changed in response to changes in history, culture, society, literary fashion, literacy, etc.—i.e., your interpretation of the sweep of literary history.
3. In your paper, you must answer your chosen question with specific reference to works from all three historical periods: Medieval, Early Modern, and Neo-Classical.
Please note that "specific reference" means that you should quote specific authors, passages, character names, episodes, etc.—not just "Chaucer says a lot about men treating women badly" but something like "When Chaucer’s Wife of Bath says that ‘Experience, though noon auctoritee / Were in this world, Is right ynough for me / To speke of wo that is in marriage,’ she announces to the world her rebellion against a society that saw women as inferior to men (Damrosch vol. 1: 287)." The more specific you can be about the works you are analyzing and reflecting on, usually the better the quality of your paper.
4. You may choose which works you wish to discuss from those we have read in class. If you wish to include works outside our readings in your reflections, you must clear those with me beforehand. I assume that you will wish to discuss at least six works (or writers) in some detail in this essay but you may certainly discuss more (for instance, if you want to talk about how sonnets show the individual’s re-fashioning in the Early Modern period, you may want to talk about three or four different poets and their approaches to the sonnet).
5. Your reflection should demonstrate that you understand and can use key literary terms that refer to the works you choose and that you can connect literary works to key historical events, concepts, and movements that they helped shape (or were shaped by).
6. The primary focus of this essay should be your own reflections on how the works and writers of British literature you’ve selected have tackled your chosen theme question. You are free to use secondary sources in support of your reflections, but this is not to become the "typical research paper" (e.g. "The Role of Women in Shakespeare and Austen"). Any works you use in support of your reflections (whether you quote them, paraphrase them, summarize them, or just get a line of thinking from them) must be documented correctly using the MLA style. This includes works quoted from our textbook or from the class web page resources. I will be happy to discuss documentation concerns with you if you are not sure a) whether you should document a source or b) how to document a source.
7. Your final paper is due on Tuesday, Dec. 2, in class; no extensions are possible. You must turn in both a hard copy to me and an electronic copy through www.turnitin.com. Our class ID # is 1168509 and our class password is chaucer. If you haven’t used turnitin.com before, there are excellent tutorials on its homepage to coach you through setting up your free account and then submitting your paper to the class folder. Don't wait till the last moment to upload your papers!
8. Obviously, a reflection paper should show how much thought you’ve put into these works you’ve read, so don’t start it at the last minute if you want an excellent grade. I will be happy to look at outlines and rough drafts during office hours if you want to bring them by. Remember that the Writing Center has excellent tutors who can offer feedback on your work in progress; you can make an appointment by calling 323-2138.
9. Since this is a personal response paper, use of "I" is certainly appropriate. If you have any questions about any other usage taboos, feel free to ask them.
10. (hint, hint) Use the "grid" sheets you get at the beginning of each new literary period to help organize your initial thoughts and ideas. Then build in your individual discussions of works to create a working draft you can revise and expand.
11. Click these links to see the score sheet I use and the rubric for grading writing assignments. You may also like to look at a sample reflection paper, generously shared by Erin Wilcox in the Fall 2004 class.
12. If you are planning to be a teacher and wish to substitute a well-developed unit of lesson plans for the reflection essay, you must talk to me by November 11.