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Women: Prizes, Goddesses, Mothers, Wives in Gilgamesh or Sundiata or Oedipus Rex

These are all good STARTING POINTS into most of the works we’ve read, although you can take other approaches.

One such approach is to examine the works of a particular writer within the historical context during which it was written. What, in other words, makes the works represent a particular period, culture, etc.? You can also examine the relationship between the author’s life and the works he/she writes.

Once you have decided on a general topic to explore, you could go one of three ways: examine a couple of shorter works by the same author, examine a longer work by one author, or examine a few short works by two different authors. I would try not to examine more than one novel or play, two short stories, or three poems.

  • Again, remember that this is a Critical response paper, NOT a Personal response paper.
  • It is also an ARGUMENT Paper, not a REPORT Paper. Do not provide a history of the Harlem Renaissance or a biography of Langston Hughes. You may, however, analyze specific works by Hughes and explain the ways in which they demonstrate characteristics associated with literature of the Harlem Renaissance (unless of course, you are in Humanities 201, which focuses on earlier texts).

  • Please!! Avoid making comparisons to Present Day Society !!! Such comparisons almost never have a basis in actual textual analysis !!
  • Avoid plot summary! Use quotes from only those sections of the text immediately relevant to your discussion!
  • Use past tense to discuss historical or biographical events, but present tense when discussing literature.
  • Be very careful when making references to the Humanities textbook. For example, Homer is the author of The Iliad. Martin Puchnar is the main editor of the work in which The Iliad appears. Also be careful when citing information from the introductions to the authors and works.
  • Sample Entry:
    • Foster, Benjamin, translator. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Norton Anthology of World Literature Shorter. 3rd Ed., edited by Martin Puchnar, et al. Vol. 1. NY: W.W. Norton, 2013, pp. 38-88.
    • (Note: only the first line is flush with the margin; subsequent lines are tabbed over. It’s called reverse indent, if you want to look it up.)
    • Do Not Number the Entries in a Works Cited.
  • When citing verse, use slashes to show line breaks and cite by line (or act.scene.line for plays).
  • Avoid plagiarism !! See Policy
  • On a related note, please be very selective about the sources you utilize from the internet. The ideal sources are those found on or the Literature Resource Center or MLA Bibliography–essays that have been previously published in journals or books and are now available online.

Other Mechanical Issues:

  • Use only ONE edition of your primary source. If you wish to refer to an editor’s introduction to another edition, cite by the editor’s name.
    • Be sure to use quotation marks for titles of shorter works, such as poems and short stories, and italics for titles of longer works, such as plays, epic poems and novels.
  • Do not rely too heavily on secondary sources. The number of citations to your primary source should be roughly equivalent to the total number of references to ALL your secondary sources combined.
  • Do NOT use secondary source material to summarize plot or quote from the primary source.
  • Make sure it is clear WHOSE ideas you are presenting. If Critic A is quoting Critic B, and you use the quote, your citation should say (Qtd. in Critic A #). The #, of course, refers to the page number in Critic A’s text.
  • Avoid unnecessary changes to quotes. Instead of saying, “Jacobs describes, ‘[She] felt hopeless’ (24),” say, “Jacobs describes that she ‘felt hopeless’ (24).”
  • Avoid using direct quotes in either your introduction or conclusion. Discussion in these two paragraphs should be more general.
  • Avoid long paragraphs. A long paragraph is maybe 2/3 of a page. If you find yourself with paragraphs that are over a page long, figure out how to break them up.
  • Do not use quotes as the subjects of sentences: The quote “———” (29) shows that. . . or “———–” (87) means that . . .
  • Don’t use “in which” when you mean “that.”
  • Don’t use “that” when you mean “who” (i.e. when referring to people)
  • Try to use specific nouns with “this”: Avoid “This causes things to happen . . .”
  • Use Punctuation to show Possession: “Morrison’s book” not “Morrison book”
  • Introduce the work(s) to be discussed by Author and Title as early as possible.

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