Rail yard background, from the Library of Congress

Connections

A Hypertext Resource for Literature

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Exam(s) and Paper(s)

The course will have three exam/paper dates. On each date, you can choose whether to write a paper or take an exam. The only stipulation is that you must take at least one exam and write at least one paper. All exams are closed notes, closed books. Each exam will cover the module of the class leading up to the exam with a combination of short-answer and essay questions. The final exam will be longer and more involved than the first two exams, and the final paper likewise will demand more than the previous papers. We will discuss the exams more thoroughly as they approach. I have designed the Study Skills section of Connections to provide tips on preparing effectively and gradually for exams. Here follow some guidelines for the papers:

Length
The shorter paper(s) should be between 1500 and 2100 words long, approximately 5-7 pages. If you have a large amount of quoted text, the paper can be slightly longer. If you choose to do a final paper, it should contain about 2400-3000 words, approximately 8-10 pages.

Secondary Sources
The shorter papers do not require you to use secondary sources (critical or theoretical writing that informs your argument), although such sources often help focus or extend a critical essay. The final paper requires you to quote at least three secondary sources, at least two of which must have been published in or after 1990. Those sources must substantially affect the shape of the argument; by that I mean that you should not conceive and write a paper and then retrospectively sprinkle it with quotations. You should rather think of yourself as joining part of an ongoing conversation about a text. As in a "live" conversation, the most productive participation involves listening carefully to what others have said before formulating your contribution to the discussion.

Audience: What You Can Assume About Your Reader
You can assume that your reader has read the primary text you discuss and understood them at a superficial level. (There's no need, in other words, to explain what the text or texts are "about.") That understanding is only superficial, however; your essay, then, should present to your reader a way of seeing the text[s] at hand that will teach that reader a more worthwhile and interesting way of understanding that text.

Thesis, Argument, Etc.
For guidance about what I look for in papers, see the following links. They contain a lot of information; I assume that each of you will find some parts more relevant and useful than others.

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