Schreiner University, ENGL 2340: World Literature through the Renaissance–Papers 1 and 2

Below appears an authoritative version of the guidelines for Paper 1 (Ppr 1) and Paper 2 (Ppr 2), superseding any previously published information regarding the Pprs.


As noted for another, similar assignment, that the assignment sheet is long is understood. It is also an artifact of trying to be detailed and explicit about expectations for the project. Additionally, it offers  practice in attending closely to detail, which is likely to be of benefit.

One of the tasks of ENGL 2340 is to introduce students to the shape of literary study. As such, it is just and fitting that students be asked to try their hands at the kinds of tasks expected of literary scholars, and among the chief such tasks is writing literary explicatory papers. As students in the class are generally presumed to be relatively new to the field, however, some scaffolding is in order; it is perhaps overly ambitious to ask novice students to produce conference or seminar papers without having built up to the work of doing so. Accordingly, students in Dr. Elliott’s section of the course are asked to draft two relatively short pieces of explicatory prose, each exploring in a few hundred words a particular bit of humor in world literature.

Completing each paper will require students to accomplish several tasks:

Information about each follows, along with a copy of the relevant grading rubric and notes.

Identify a Topic of Discussion

Writing a paper requires having something about which to write it. Fortunately, the class is amply equipped with such materials, working from an extensive anthology of texts that cannot be fully treated during the course of instruction. In the interests of offering students the chance to customize their course experiences and follow their interests to some degree, as well as to foster additional reading (always to the good for literary scholars), the papers should each treat a text contained in the NAWL A, B, or C, but not listed among the assigned readings for the course. Additionally, in the interest of fostering the international, cross-cultural aspects of the class, each paper should treat a work not from the British Isles unless demonstrably originally in one of the non-English languages indigenous to the islands, and not from the English colonial holdings once they became colonial holdings. And each paper a student will write must be on a different work. While it may seem that such restrictions are overly harsh, they still leave a great deal of material open to treatment, so students should be able to find something that speaks to them, their interests, and their senses of humor.

Additionally, students may petition to treat other topics. Such topics must be from the appropriate historical period (i.e., prior to the outbreak of the European Renaissance, treated for purposes of the papers and the sake of convenience as 1492 CE), and they should preferably originate outside the English-speaking world (i.e., not from the British Isles unless demonstrably originally in one of the non-English languages indigenous to the islands, and not from the English colonial holdings once they became colonial holdings). Petitions must be made to the instructor in writing, preferably early on in the process to facilitate review and possible approval. Papers treating non-approved topics will automatically receive failing grades, so getting a start on permission for desired non-standard topics is worth doing.

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Find the Humor and Assert a Thesis about It

Given the stated focus of the course on humor, the papers should treat humor. As such, students should look in their selected texts for something funny—and they should do so initially without deep thought, responding to surface readings and understandings to find their laughter in the work. Parts of the selected text that do evoke laughter should be noted; only afterwards should thought be given to how and why any given funny thing is funny. The joke should be appreciated before it is studied.

Once a particular bit of humor is selected, though, something about how and why it works—and for whom it works—needs to be said. That is, some thesis needs to be advanced, something on the order of “Humor on display in A Work serves to point out the foibles of the mighty for its early readers” or “That current readers see Another Work as laughable bespeaks a shift in what is permissible for public discussion.” Any number of arguments can be made—and, indeed, one of the hallmarks of artistic quality is that a work sustains multiple arguments—but, given the focus of the class, those treating how humor happens are to be pursued. (They can’t run quickly, so they should be easy to catch.)

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Explain the Funny Principle

For a particular thing to be regarded as funny, there needs to be some standard or rubric applied that permits of funniness. What that is will vary for each reader, of course, but for others to understand what makes something funny for a given person, they need to have some indication of what kinds of things the writer thinks is funny. At root, the paper-writer will need to lay out some definition of funniness—or at least one type of funniness—so that others can follow the line of reasoning involved.

The International Society for Humor Studies is a valuable resource for such discussions, both in itself and in its journal, HUMOR. Additionally, Isaac Asimov, in his Treasury of Humor and Asimov Laughs Again, articulates some useful, if non-scholarly, ideas about what makes things funny; they may be useful. Comedians’ reports may also be helpful in constructing critical frames for the papers; attestation of them abounds.

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Explain the Shape of the Joke

While some readers will doubtlessly be familiar with the text treated in each paper, most will not. Too, those readers who are familiar with the selected text will benefit from having their attention called to specifics of the text. As such, writers should identify where in the text they take their example of humor from, and they should give a summary of it. That is, they should provide illustrative examples of the funny bits they mean to discuss.

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Explain How the Joke Works—and for Whom It Works

Armed with a critical frame—the funny principle—and a funny thing, it remains only to apply the principle to the evidence, demonstrating how the evidence supports the conclusion to be drawn from it. That is, how the humor identified in the selected text functions, how it supports the thesis, needs to be shown. Keeping in mind that the joke is presumed to do a certain thing for a certain audience, how it does the thing for the audience needs to be demonstrated. The more detailed the progression from evidence through critical frame to thesis can be, the better off. (Think of baking; smaller, more detailed steps will likely result in better pie—all the better for throwing later on.)

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Compose the Ppr 1 or 2 PV

Taken together, the five items noted above constitute a sequence of prewriting that should guide student thinking about the topic and the desired approach to it. That is, the aforementioned do not produce deliverable writing in themselves, but they lead towards the first deliverable for the project: the Ppr 1 or Ppr 2 PV.

Each PV should be a reasonably complete explication of how the selected topic performs an identified humorous function for a specified audience. The explication should be written towards a primary audience of interested literary scholars, and it should keep in mind secondary readers such as future undergraduate literature students. Textual and critical details should be presented plainly and explicitly, their functions attested in detail and in such a way as facilitates easy reading by the primary audiences.

The PV of each paper should be approximately 1,300 to 1,625 words in length, exclusive of heading (student name, instructor name, course/section, and date of composition), title, and any necessary end-citations. It should be typed in black, double-spaced, 12-point Garamond, Georgia, or Times New Roman font on letter-sized pages; the heading should be flush left, the title centered horizontally, and the body flush left with the first lines of paragraphs indented one-half inch from the left margin. Page numbers should be in the margin at the top of the page on the right margin, preceded by the writer’s surname, and in the same typeface as the rest of the paper.

Each writer should bring a PV that represents the writer’s best work to class as a typed, physical copy on the assigned day—19 September 2016 for Ppr 1 and 14 November 2016 for Ppr 2. Class those days will be taken up with peer review, during which other writers will read and comment upon the content and organization (not the mechanics) of the paper, making suggestions for improvement and indicating places where the paper works well—and explaining the comments so that the underlying principles can be used in future writing.

As peer review progresses, the instructor will call for individual papers, checking to see if they are present as requested and whether or not, in general terms, they do what they need to do. Time constraints in class will prevent detailed reading by the instructor during peer review, so specific comments will be few, but the setting does allow for a holistic sense of each paper’s direction to be developed. That sense will be noted as the score for a minor assignment grade; the score will conform to the grading scale in Table 2 of the course syllabus. (Obviously, those students who do not arrive in class with their PVs in hand will not be able to receive any helpful score for the assignment. Note the “Late Work” section of the course syllabus.)

Although a reasonably complete paper is expected, it is understood that the each PV is a work in progress. Changes to it are therefore also expected; they should not be viewed as failures, but seized upon as opportunities to improve writing techniques and to enhance the connections between writer and topic and writer and readers.

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Revise the PV into the Ppr 1 or Ppr 2 RV

After peer review, writers should take their papers, review the comments made by their readers, and incorporate those found useful into their ongoing work. That is, they should work to improve how they present and support their theses, enhancing the clarity of evidence and explanation and ensuring that their papers encourage reading rather than interfering with it. The result will become the RV for each paper.

Each RV should still present a reasonably complete explication of how the selected topic performs an identified humorous function for a specified audience. The explication should continue to be written towards a primary audience of interested literary scholars, and it should yet keep in mind secondary readers such as future undergraduate literature students. Textual and critical details should still be presented plainly and explicitly, their functions attested in detail and in such a way as facilitates easy reading by the primary audiences.

The RV of each paper should continue to be approximately 1,300 to 1,625 words in length, exclusive of heading (student name, instructor name, course/section, and date of composition), title, and any necessary end-citations. It should yet be typed in black, double-spaced, 12-point Garamond, Georgia, or Times New Roman font on letter-sized pages; the heading should be flush left, the title centered horizontally, and the body flush left with the first lines of paragraphs indented one-half inch from the left margin. Page numbers should still be in the margin at the top of the page on the right margin, preceded by the writer’s surname, and in the same typeface as the rest of the paper.

Each writer should submit a typed, electronic copy of each RV to the instructor through Schreiner One before the beginning of class time on the assigned day—26 September 2016 for the Ppr 1 RV, 21 November 2016 for the Ppr 2 RV. The copy needs to be in .doc, .docx, or .rtf format so that it can be opened and read by the instructor; other file formats potentially present difficulties in that regard, and a paper that cannot be read cannot receive a useful score or commentary. It will be assessed according to the grading rubric below for a minor assignment grade, and comments will be offered on a copy thereof that are meant to guide further improvements to the work. (Obviously, those students who do not submit either RV in timely fashion should not expect to receive any helpful score or commentary for the assignment. Note the “Late Work” section of the course syllabus.)

Although a reasonably complete paper is expected, it is understood that each RV is still a work in progress. Some changes to it are therefore also expected; they should not be viewed as failures, but seized upon as more opportunities to improve writing techniques further and to enhance the connections between writer and topic and writer and readers yet more.

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Revise the RV into Ppr 1 or Ppr 2

After receiving instructor feedback, writers should take their papers, review the comments made by their reader, and incorporate those found useful into their ongoing work. That is, they should work to improve how they present and support their theses, enhancing the clarity of evidence and explanation and ensuring that their papers encourage reading rather than interfering with it. The result will be the full and final version of each paper.

Ppr 1 and Ppr 2 should each still present a reasonably complete explication of how the selected topic performs an identified humorous function for a specified audience. The explication should continue to be written towards a primary audience of interested literary scholars, and it should yet keep in mind secondary readers such as future undergraduate literature students. Textual and critical details should still be presented plainly and explicitly, their functions attested in detail and in such a way as facilitates easy reading by the primary audiences.

Each paper should continue to be approximately 1,300 to 1,625 words in length, exclusive of heading (student name, instructor name, course/section, and date of composition), title, and any necessary end-citations. It should yet be typed in black, double-spaced, 12-point Garamond, Georgia, or Times New Roman font on letter-sized pages; the heading should be flush left, the title centered horizontally, and the body flush left with the first lines of paragraphs indented one-half inch from the left margin. Page numbers should still be in the margin at the top of the page on the right margin, preceded by the writer’s surname, and in the same typeface as the rest of the paper.

Each writer should submit a typed, electronic copy of Ppr 1 and Ppr 2 to the instructor through Schreiner One before the beginning of class time on the assigned date—7 October 2016 for Ppr 1 and 5 December 2016 for Ppr 2. The copy needs to be in .doc, .docx, or .rtf format so that it can be opened and read by the instructor; other file formats potentially present difficulties in that regard, and a paper that cannot be read cannot receive a useful score or commentary. Each will be assessed according to the grading rubric below as a major assignment worth 20 % of the total course grade, and comments will be offered on a copy thereof that are meant to guide further improvements to the writer’s technique. (Please note the “Late Work” and “Revisions” sections of the course syllabus.)

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Grading Rubric

Grading of the PVs is discussed above. The rubric used to assess other versions of the papers can be found here: ENGL 2340 Pprs 1 and 2 Gradng Rubric.

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Notes

As has been noted during class discussion, the model of essay provided by The Explicator is one worth following. Students are encouraged to look over the articles in its pages for examples of how to craft their own texts.

Other examples of similar works are available. One such is “Sample Textual Analysis: Picking apart a Fictional Puzzle,” available here. Another, targeted to the current class, is “Sample Paper: A Quiet Zinger in Gantz’s ‘Pwyll Lord of Dyved,'” available here.

As exercises in literary explication, particularly exercises that will filter perspectives through critical lenses, it is expected that there will be need for formal citation in the papers. Failure to provide such citation may be investigated as an academic integrity violation, with potentially adverse effects on students.

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Geoffrey B. Elliott
13 September 2016

Edited to include link to a targeted model essay.

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