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Dear All, As you know from the syllabus and from earlier discussions in class, a “prospectus” is due on April 13, about three weeks from now. But what is a prospectus? In order to use your time well over the next two weeks (which includes Spring break and, additionally, two “reading days” off from normal class meetings), I would like the assignment to be clear so that you can use this time to think about your final essay. The Prospectus: 1. A one-page, double-spaced typed statement which a) includes the working title for your final essay; b) includes the thesis (or argument) you are defending, clearly stated in a sentence or two; and c) a description of how you are going to argue your thesis (what are its corollary arguments or key points? What passage or passages from the readings will you be analyzing? What is the significance of your argument in light of your interpretation of the meaning of the work as a whole? (See example below to get a sense of what your prospectus should look like).
2. If I have defined the prospectus above, let me address my reasons for assigning one. The prospectus 1) forces you to make a decision about what you intend to argue in your final essay early enough for you to compose an essay worth reading. That is, since it gives you a clear idea about how you are going to proceed, you have the time to write a draft of the essay early so that you can revise and polish in advance of the due date; 2) it forces you to put down on paper what you are thinking, and in that way, to see whether your ideas are valid (or not); it gives you the opportunity of “working over” your ideas, getting them in the right form, and in the right order. One never knows whether one has a good idea or not until one writes it down. 3. The logical way to go about this assignment (as I said in class) is to pick one of the readings from class, and then to zero in on a key passage or passages from the reading. Your “argument” can be modest. For example, you can propose an interesting and significant interpretation of the meaning of the passage, and in an act of close reading, show how it resonates with the whole work in which it is found, amplifying some of its larger themes, or complicating some of its earlier assumptions. Remember, in literary studies, we are asking you not to regurgitate information, but to think for yourselves, to be critical and creative. Hopefully, this assignment will allow you to express that. Sample Prospectus (with my comments):
Alienating Intellect
In this essay, I want to explore Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd” with respect to a facet of the argument asserted in Georg Simmel’s “The Metropolis and Mental Life”, particularly the idea of alienation in the modern urban environment. The main character/ narrator in “The Man of the Crowd” is alienated from the members of the crowd he observes and exists among, I would argue, by his intellect and the modern metropolitan valuation of the intellect above all else [NICE. I AGREE] He feels himself to be qualified to make judgements about these people, as though he were above them. However, when the narrator encounters a man he cannot accurately “read,” he goes to great lengths to try to understand the man through observation, yet comes up empty. Thus I argue that, according to this account from Poe, the modern metropolitan intellectual cannot understand or relate to other individuals through the methods of his alienating intellect. [YOU’VE FULFILLED THIS PART OF THE EXERCISE BEAUTIFULLY. YOU DEFINITELY HAVE A THESIS HERE, AND AN INTERESTING ONE. YOU MIGHT TOY WITH THE TITLE A LITTLE MORE TO INDICATE THE LOSS, OR FAILURE, OF THE ALIENATING INTELLECT PERHAPS. BUT YOU BRING TOGETHER DIFFEENT STRAINS OF OUR DISCUSSION IN A COGENT AND ORIGINAL WAY. SO FAR, SO GOOD. NOW ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS WRITE THE PAPER, DEMONSTRATING THE ACCURACY OF YOUR THESIS, AND ATTENDING TO THE ACTUAL WRITING. VERY GOOD.

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