Mystery Text Assignment

Your two-page, typed essay will be due on Tuesday, September 26, at the beginning of class. (Double-check your printer supplies now!)

Your goal in this assignment is to connect our mystery text to the six writers (Adams, Du Bois, Gilman, Robinson, Masters, Frost) that we’ve read and discussed in class so far.

One possible way to approach the assignment:

  1. Read through your notes and annotations on all of our six writers. As you review, focus on themes (order/disorder, consciousness, self, alienation, etc.), motifs (“the house,” “the village,” ghosts, doubling, etc.) and tropes (irony, epistemology/knowledge, subjectivity/objectivity, etc.).  (Recall that one implicit current in our discussions has been a commonality of themes, motifs, and tropes shared among the texts we’ve read.)
  2. Read (and annotate) the mystery text.
  3. Think about continuities in theme, motif, or trope between the mystery text and our class texts. Focus on the theme(s), motif(s), and/or trope(s) that seem most important in the mystery text. E.g. you only have two pages, so you may not be able to write about all the relevant connections.
  4. In no more than two, typed pages, explain how the mystery text “fits” with the writers and texts we’ve looked at so far. I.e. how does the mystery text seem to develop or rework the particular theme(s), motif(s), and/or trope(s) that you’ve identified as common to the mystery text and our class authors and texts.
  5. In your final paragraph, suggest a title for the mystery text and briefly explain why this title seems appropriate.

Some other things to keep in mind:

One hopeful fruit of all the annotation that you’ve been doing is a greater attention to and appreciation of the words on the page. As you draft your essay, try to work inductively – – e.g. from the words/phrases on the page up to more general meaning and significance. Quote examples from the texts to illustrate and develop your ideas. There’s no need to use MLA citation for your sources – – instead, “just put the author’s name in parentheses at the close of your quotation” (Hanley). (For the mystery text, just use “Mystery Text” as the author.) There’s more than one way to quote a source, and here’s a quick introduction to various ways to handle quotation within your sentences.

It’s absolutely permissible to discuss the mystery text and its various possible connections together in informal groups. (I would encourage it.) However, you must write your own essay.

You don’t need a thesis statement or introduction for this essay. These can be useful for other kinds of essays; here, however, you have limited space (two pages) and a pretty circumscribed task. Just start connecting the texts and explaining the connections right from the start of the essay. The only conclusion you need is the last paragraph – – where you formulate and explain your title for the mystery text.

Be sure to proofread. As always, I will borrow the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” rule from our nation’s most hallowed pastime (e.g. baseball). After the second typographical, spelling, grammar, or usage error, I will stop reading your essay and evaluate what I’ve read.

If it helps, here’s another way to think about this assignment: I’m asking you to use the text we’ve already read to make sense of a text we haven’t read. In other words, how do our class texts alert you to significant and interesting features of the mystery text. How well can you use our class texts to “read” something new? This gives you a chance to extend and reflect on what you know. It gives me a chance to see how much you’ve learned about the texts we’ve read.

I’m available for questions directly related to the assignment up until the afternoon of Saturday, September 23.

Enjoy!