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ENGLISH 110 C03/C04
THE PERSUASIVE ESSAY (BRIEF LITERARY ANALYSIS)
ASSIGNMENT: Write a well-organized persuasive essay on one of the following topics. You will need to develop a strong thesis statement and write a clear, cogent argument to defend your thesis. Be sure to make specific references to the literary work that you are discussing, with at least one quotation per paragraph as the supporting evidence for your claims.
GUIDELINES: Your essay must be typed and double-spaced. Papers which are not properly formatted will not be read. Please number all pages in the top right-hand corner and include a separate title page (see instructions below). Remember also to include a properly formatted Works Cited page even if your only “source” is one short story or a novel. Incorrectly formatted title or Works Cited pages and faulty quotation integrations will receive increasing deductions. You must also submit your work in an acceptable format like .doc, .docx, .rtf, or .pdf. Documents written with Google Docs, or using .odt or .pages are not acceptable and will not be marked. Photographs and essays copied and pasted into emails are also completely unacceptable.
TIPS FOR ORGANIZING YOUR ESSAY: Your primary or fundamental answer to the following essay questions should form your thesis, which, along with your focus or approach, you should develop in your introduction. To support and develop this thesis, you should locate three main points in which you can develop your overall answer or argument; please state these clearly in an outline or preview statement preceding the thesis in your introduction. Next, devote a body paragraph to each point, and find one or two especially provocative examples (quotations and references to textual evidence) for each point that allows you to show off your analytical skills, interpretative ability, and close reading of the text. Use your three body paragraphs (and the points and the examples in them) to argue persuasively for what these points and examples teach us about the issue(s) mentioned or claim(s) made in the thesis. Use your conclusion to sum up and to expand the significance of your essay’s topic to other, larger, gothic or feminist issues.
Your essay must include the following:
1) A properly formatted title page containing your name, your title, the topic number, my name and the due date (following the template given on p. 35 of the U of R Style Guide) and a Works Cited page created according to the MLA method. If any of these elements are missing, deductions will be made. (See the sample title page provided on the UR Courses Page or the Style Guide).
2) An original title which is not the same as the heading on the topic sheet. Essays without titles will receive an additional deduction.
3) A clear, concise thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph (i.e. your introduction).
4) A preview or outline of your argument in a sentence somewhere in the introduction (it should precede the thesis statement).
5) Focussed topic sentences at the start of every paragraph.
6) At least one short quotation per paragraph, and where possible, two per paragraph, to support your points. Avoid paraphrasing or summarizing the text, but instead, make an interpretation. Include at least a line or two of commentary on the textual evidence that
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you have provided in support of your argument.
7) Your quotations should be properly integrated according to the techniques discussed in class. There should be no comma splices and no hanging quotations – mistakes such as these will receive extra deductions.
PLAGIARISM: Your essay should be made up of your own words. All borrowing from secondary sources must be properly acknowledged, including electronic sources. Any student who knowingly passes off another’s work or ideas as his/her own is guilty of PLAGIARISM and will be liable to a range of very serious penalties ranging from failure in the class to dismissal from the University. Please refer to the University of Regina General Calendar or speak to me if you have questions. Finally, when you submit your essay for evaluation through the portal, Turnitin.com will generate a report of similarities between your essay and their database as well as online sources: your score on this report must be no more than 10% or your paper will not be marked.
LIST OF TOPICS:
INSTRUCTIONS ON CHOOSING A TOPIC/ FOCUS: Please ensure that you pick only one topic from the list below and, once you’ve chosen your topic, choose only one guiding question or prompt as the focus for your argument/ thesis. If you prefer a simple topic rather then a more detailed question as the basis for your essay, then please refer to the heading of your chosen topic when formulating your paper’s thesis/ focus.
1. INTERPRETING THE HEROINE OF PERRAULT’S “BLUEBEARD”:
Although women generally revile him, one daughter in one family chooses to marry Bluebeard despite her disgust at the fact that “he had already been married to several women, and no one knew what had happened to them.” Why does she make this fateful choice? How is it presented? What does this decision say about her, her motives and her character? Is the rest of the story a punishment or consequence for her failure to make a good decision? How does Perrault represent the young bride’s curiosity about the contents of the forbidden chamber? What do you think of it, and is there another way to interpret this curiosity? What sort of message does this heroine’s experience convey about marriage, and how young wives should behave? Finally, why is female curiosity and independence condemned, while male violence towards women is apparently excused, or dismissed with a joke?
2. THE ENDING AND/OR THE MORALS OF PERRAULT’S “BLUEBEARD”:
Discuss the mortal peril and escape of Bluebeard’s newest wife at the end of the Perrault story. What do you think the nightmarish threats of discovery, punishment and death of the young woman represent? Does she deserve any credit for her survival, or is she only a passive recipient of help? Note the precise circumstances of the rescue of the young bride. Is she portrayed as clever or as desperate in seeking a delay? Why does the story provide her with a sister and brothers to come to her aid? Do you find the conclusion of this tale convincing and satisfying? What about the happy ending – how do you interpret that? The heroine provides for her sister and brothers and is then married to a “very worthy man who banished the memory of the miserable days she had spent with Bluebeard.” Finally, Perrault offers two morals to this tale. How do you interpret these “lessons?” Are they consistent or contradictory? What is Perrault’s tone here?
3. ADAPTING BLUEBEARD:
For this question, choose one of Le Fanu’s short story “A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family,” Sylvia Townsend Warner’s “Bluebeard’s Daughter” or Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber,” but not two or three of them. How do these authors use and subvert the original Bluebeard story (from Perrault)
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in his/ her narrative? How much do these authors take from Perrault’s original, and how much do they ignore? Do they succeed in subverting the original stories conventions and characters, and with what purpose? How and why do each of these authors add material of his/her own to the story? Why do they each make the changes that they do? Ultimately, how do these changes revise and re-envision the main story of a murderous serial-killing husband and his latest curious wife in a new context? How radical is the overall nature of this re-envisioning? For instance, does it make some of the characters more sympathetic, more interesting, more complex or less, and how? How in particular do these stories transform the heroine and the villain, and to what end? (In your paper, be sure to avoid simply listing the differences between your chosen adaptation or appropriation and Perrault’s source text, or else simply itemizing the central features of the later version; this essay must be an interpretation of your chosen story as an adaptation of Perrault’s, not a comparison).
4. MADNESS AND SUICIDE IN “A CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF A TYRONE FAMILY”:
Analyze the mysterious and inconclusive nature of Glenfallen’s suicide in J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s short story, “A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family.” In another of his short stories called “Willing to Die,” Le Fanu writes that suicide is both “the maddest and most mysterious of crimes.” Does our story feel strangely incomplete, because no one provides an explanation for Glenfallen’s motives or death, and even the heroine cannot explain exactly what has led to her husband’s suicide? Remember that although she perceives his insanity, she has no idea of its cause. (Note that she sadly confesses after his death that “All, then, was over; I was never to learn the history of whose termination I had been so deeply and so tragically involved”). Think about the effect of this unexpected suicide on the narrative: does it add mystery and horror to the story, or is it merely baffling and frustrating? Justify your answer with textual evidence.
5. FEMALE MARGINALIZATION IN “A CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF A TYRONE FAMILY”:
What are some of the ways in which women are marginalized or rendered powerless in Le Fanu’s reinterpretation of the Bluebeard story. In particular, discuss how the character of Glenfallen uses a strategy of “divide and conquer” to marginalize and subjugate the women living under his roof ? How does he undermine the independence and autonomy of the heroine, who is supposedly the new Lady Glenfallen? How does he try to silence and manipulate the “old Dutch woman” who calls herself the original Lady Glenfallen? To what extent does he succeed with either woman, and why does he fail?
6. SUPERNATURAL INTERVENTION IN “CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF A TYRONE FAMILY”:
If you consider the surface of the narrative, Glenfallen’s madness seems to be the most logical explanation for his shocking death; however, it is also possible that this short story is a sort of ghost story. Discuss whether or not you think there is a supernatural dimension to the story, making sure to take into account the heroine’s strange premonitions at the start of the story (the first presaging the death of her sister, and the second, the black pall, hinting at the doom about to befall the Glenfallen family. Be sure also to look carefully as well at any evidence that Glenfallen encounters the ghost of his wife. Does the supernatural play a role in this story, and if so, how?
7. WARNER’S FEMINIZED BLUEBEARD SEQUEL, “BLUEBEARD’S DAUGHTER” AS A REPLY TO PERRAULT:
Warner’s sequel to Perrault’s “Bluebeard,” “Bluebeard’s Daughter,” is a story which many modern critics do not admire because it appears to excuse Bluebeard’s crimes. However, what are some of the ways that Bluebeard’s daughter Djamileh responds to her father’s story. How, for instance, does she try to escape her father’s misogynist legacy and disgrace? What does it mean that she refuses to do obvious things like dye her hair? Alternatively, why does Warner spend so much depicting Djamileh’s innate and incurable curiosity as well as that of her new husband, Kayel? Does she ever learn to control it, and if so, what
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does this ability suggest? What does it mean that Warner eventually reveals curiosity to be a human and not just a feminine trait through the young couple? Ultimately, how and what does Djamileh learn from her father’s tale? Is it important that she learns to channel her natural human curiosity into Astronomy, and what does this outcome reveal? In what key ways does Djamileh revise and transform her father’s character through her own behaviour and her story’s ending? Could Warner’s story be seen as a witty reply to Perrault’s from a female perspective and, if so, how?
7. CARTER’S REPRESENTATION OF DANGEROUS MASCULINITY:
Consider Angela Carter’s dark and complex representation of the relationship between men and women in her retelling of “Bluebeard.” Arguably, in this story, Carter exposes and explores the ways in which masculinity can be deadly and dangerous to women. How does she specifically represent misogynistic masculinity through the male protagonist in “The Bloody Chamber”? What does her portrayal imply about the Marquis, the heroine and their relationship? What are some of the ways that she also suggests such forms of masculinity can be entrapping for men too here? What does she suggest about female and male corruptibility? What, ultimately, is Carter saying about the dangers or qualities of masculinity in this story? You can also examine and discuss Carter’s reasons for retitling her version of Bluebeard as “The Bloody Chamber,” and thereby focussing attention on her Bluebeard’s horrific crimes rather than just his appearance.
8. DEPICTIONS OF FEMININITY IN “THE BLOODY CHAMBER”:
Discuss how Angela Carter creates a positive and empowering image of female capability in her “Bluebeard” story (especially in relation to Perrault’s original). What is the meaning of the heroine’s mother character in the story, and what does she add to the story’s depiction of femininity? Consider also the contribution of the close and intuitive relationship between mother and daughter here: what does this strong maternal bond suggest about these women, and about women in general? What does it mean that the heroine is a talented musician who gives up a potential career to be married? Why is her musical ability an essential part of her attraction for the Marquis? To what extent does Carter also complicate the portrayal of the heroine, revealing a certain darkness and moral ambiguity in the supposedly innocent young protagonist? What does Carter’s depiction of the heroine’s complicity and sense of shame add to an understanding of femininity? Finally, do you agree that, as one critic has said, Carter’s stories are about ‘undoing the repression of gender’? How does she do so here?
9. DU MAURIER’S REVISIONS IN REBECCA: MAXIM AS BLUEBEARD/ HERO VILLAIN:
Discuss the character of Maxim in light of the traces of “Bluebeard” still present in Du Maurier’s novel. Is Maxim a Gothic hero (of the brooding romantic type), a hero-villain, an outright villain, or an anti-hero? (Or some of each?) What are some of his Gothic traits and how do you interpret their meaning? In what ways is he similar to the character of Bluebeard? How is he different? How are his actions consistent or inconsistent with this character? Do Maxim’s revelations about Rebecca and their unhappy marriage make you sympathetic to him or to her? Was he justified in murdering Rebecca (as he claims), even though she apparently goaded him into it for reasons of her own? How does Rebecca, along with her full story, undermine or challenge his position as hero of the novel? What about his treatment of the unnamed heroine – how does he perceive her and treat her? In your view, does he genuinely love her or does he choose a woman over whom he can wield power and influence in a way that he couldn’t with Rebecca (or for some other reason)?
10. DU MAURIER’S NARRATOR AND HER CONFUSED IDENTITY:
In Rebecca, what do you make of the apparent complicity of the nameless heroine with her husband, and her negative view of her predecessor, Rebecca, in light of the behaviour of the original heroine in the tale? As well, what is the effect of the dual voice of the older narrator and the narrator-when-young as the
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speaker unfolds her tale? What do we see (through details provided by the older narrator) that the young girl misses? Why is the narrator haunted by her fantasized construction of Rebecca from the start of her marriage? How and why does this dream-Rebecca point up for the narrator all of her deficiencies and inadequacies? Do you trust the girl’s voice as she discovers/creates Rebecca for herself? To what extent does the girl identify with Rebecca, and when does this identification occur? Is there a point where she ultimately rejects her identification with Rebecca and the potential identity that could be hers, and, if so, why does she reject Rebecca?
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