· The Exhibit
· A passage, an example, an incident in the plot – something from the text that illustrates your paper topic
· Concretizes something abstract – helps us understand your topic in specific, detailed way
· Draws the reader in – hooks our attention and helps us understand why your topic is worth exploring
· Research Question(s)
· Uses your exhibit to ask questions about the text or texts you’ve chosen to analyze
· Should be (once again) specific and detailed – you’re assuming your audience has read the text, so there’s no need for vague, general, or over-obvious questions
· Question(s) arise from the text itself, but also relate to larger problems beyond the text (social, ethical, political, philosophical issues)
· You might not know your argument until you’ve written most of the paper – might want to save this for later!
· Should offer us a guide for reading your paper – you don’t need to give many details here (that’s why we’ll read the paper!), but you should tell us where this is heading, in a broad sense
· Should be somewhat surprising or provocative – give us a reason to get invested in your argument, frame it in a way that offers something interesting to your reader
POOR EXAMPLE OF AN INTRODUCTION
In the film Jane Eyre there are many examples of Christianity. Several characters are Christians, and Jane herself spends some time in Christian institutions. In one scene, Jane meets a Christian missionary named St John Rivers who proposes to her and asks her to go with him to India. This scene makes me wonder: is Christianity important in this novel? Does Christianity play a role in the development of the characters? Is being Christian good? I want to argue that Christianity is important and that Jane’s interactions with St John are one example of how Christianity is portrayed in the novel.
BETTER EXAMPLE OF AN INTRODUCTION
Late in 1997’s film adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, our titular heroine finds a temporary home with a Christian missionary and his sister; after a life of struggle, from the harsh conditions of the Lowood Institution to the surprise betrayal of her beloved Rochester, she seems to have finally found peace. When St John Rivers proposes to Jane, she is impressed by his religious fervor, his conviction in his beliefs and his desire to spread these beliefs throughout India. However, she soon discovers that he only proposed because he believed she’d be a “dutiful” wife; her desire for self-determination and true love runs up against her desire to live according to Christian doctrine. Furthermore, her rejection of St John’s proposal raises the question of Jane’s – and the novel’s – feelings about missionary work generally, and in the English colony of India more specifically. Can we read Jane as conscious of colonialism and its consequences? Can we understand the film’s conception of Christianity as one that understands racism, misogyny, and classism? Does the common understanding of Jane Eyre as a feminist masterpiece stand up under this kind of scrutiny? This paper will argue that Jane’s reaction to St John exemplifies a specific kind of Christian feminism, one that is ultimately individualist.
Scholarly Conversation (Status Quo)
· What have other people said about your text (or about your topic)?
· Give us an outline of the conversation that exists around this text
· Include quotes and examples (hint: you can often find the juiciest bits in the introductions and conclusions of scholarly articles!)
· Focus on how this conversation relates to your topic – a kind of selective listening
· What is the “common sense” or “status quo” idea about your topic?
· Here’s where you set up your argument as interesting, original, or otherwise noteworthy
· A common formulation: “Although many scholars have said…”
· You don’t need to be contrarian – disagreement for the sake of disagreeing is tedious and annoying, no one likes a “devil’s advocate”
· But you should think about what you can add to this conversation, even if it’s just a minor adjustment, reconsideration, critique, etc
· Historical Context
· Help us understand how your topic was thought of at the time of the text’s composition
· Give us insight into the ideologies and popular thinking that might’ve informed the author’s own rhetorical decisions
· Provide us with a plot refresher
· Again, you’re assuming that your audience has read the text; however, you still want to give us enough information so that we can remember the points relevant to your argument
· Think about the paper as a kind of economy – the summary is pretty low-value, so you’ll want to devote less space/time to it. Be as efficient as you can here, so you can move on to the richer stuff
· If there are minor plot points that are important for your specific analysis, this would be a good place to remind us of those plot points.
· This will be the bulk of the essay: find examples in the text that support your argument
· Here’s where you can utilize your close reading skills – zoom in on specifics, details, rhetorical decisions
· There should be at least 3 examples you can use – they don’t all have to be the same; in fact, each example should build on, complicate, or add nuance to your argument
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