Stephan Flores/Overview Guidelines for Evaluation, Context, and Resources for Critical Essay Assignments

Typical Writing Assignment(s)/Examples[from Engl 345]: (1) The Critical Analysis assignment on your choice of Richard III or The Merchant of Venice or Henry the Fifth (850 words, single-spaced, titled) directs you to explore a significant issue and rhetorical strategy that you identify in relation to cultural, historical, or theoretical contexts and concerns, with some support/citation--at minimum--from the Norton edition headnotes and instructor-specified essays and online resources and from McEvoy's Shakespeare: The Basics. Your topic may be prompted in part by our discussions, by published scholarship/criticism (from a select/provided list), and of course by your reactions and understanding. Your analysis can be quite "thesis-driven"—that is, you may find it effective to compose a thesis for your response that maps out for readers the engaging, important points that you want to develop—or you may prefer a more reflective, question and problem-posing approach; (2) Critical Essay on Richard III , or The Merchant of Venice, or Henry the Fifth, or Twelfth Night, or Measure for Measure (do not write about the play that was the subject of your prior Critical Analysis); 1600 words for main body of essay, double-spaced, with reference to at least one piece of “instructor-specified” secondary criticism beyond our assigned reading in the Norton edition and in McEvoy, according to selections posted on our class website for criticism on each play. The primary aims of this thesis-seeking/problem-posing exploratory essay assignment is to engage with the play and its critical interpretation/reception by identifying problems, developing claims and arguments, and enriching your literary understanding, interests, and commitments. Use/learn Modern Language Association format for any notes or works cited (see, for instance, link to MLA format guidelines further below, and the Norton Shakespeare's online resources/example of developing a research essay; (3)Term Essay on play or plays (excluding topic of prior Critical Essay and Critical Analysis, 2100-2200 words for main body of essay, double-spaced (12 pt, Times New Roman, 1-inch margins, MLA format), with significant reference to at least two “instructor-specified” secondary works of criticism, which include recent articles or book chapters: this critical essay develops ideas prompted by our study, discussion, and viewing of the plays, by recent scholarship, and by your perspectives. I shall attend to the ways that you select, define, and engage questions and contradictions, and to the clarity, imagination, and grace that you demonstrate in presenting your topic, (hypo)thesis, and argument, and the extent to which your work engages with, explains, and contributes to the larger "conversation" of scholarship on the topic and drama under analysis. I do not always expect essays to conclude by "solving" such problems or by "proving" your thesis; I hope that you address interesting topics (questions for debate, interpretation, and analysis) in thoughtful and useful ways. Please feel invited to confer with me during the writing process.

Initial/General Criteria for Evaluating Critical Writing/Essays:

1. Strength and clarity of (hypo)thesis/focus/introduction
2. Intellectual/conceptual strength and persuasiveness of main claim and ensuing argument/logic/premises/critical method/theory/ideas;
3. Cohesive and coherent development, logical organization, including well structured paragraphs with clear points and compelling, specific support/evidence
4. Analysis of text’s/topic’s relevant cultural/historical contexts and if specified, related scholarship/criticism; Text’s rhetorical methods, structure
5. Topic’s depth/complexity, including recognition of conflicts/contradictions
6. Significance/ conclusion
8. Effective sentences, syntax, verbs, diction, punctuation, complexity, and suitable style: academic, critical, appropriate to your understanding of the materials/subjects
9. MLA style--parenthetical citation of sources, works cited; format; spelling ungraded but noted

Questions to Guide Review of Draft of Critical Essay:

1. Does the essay clarify and advance understanding of problem/topic/method/perspective related to the “literary” text’s purposes and rhetorical strategies and to the ‘student’ writer’s interpretation and understanding of the text?
2. Can one understand the writer’s approach and strategies for introducing and developing the critical essay?
3. Sum up the essay’s central idea, hypothesis or purpose in one sentence.
4. What might a reader like best about the essay? Where might the reader want to know more or to pose a critical question?

See and review several additional resources about writing, on the course Blackboard site, and also examples of students' writing on the main course website.

Lessons on Style (general advice/quited dated handout but perhaps worth looking over) [pdf]

Quick Advice on Punctuation (also dated) [pdf]

Online Writing Center Resources (from writing essays to grammar and usage advice):

OWL Review Guide to Using MLA Style for Citing Sources

Desired learning outcomes in the context of the Department of English and its major:

1. Students can exhibit knowledge of the aesthetic qualities of literature.
2. Students can exhibit knowledge of the cultural and historical contexts of diverse literatures in English.
3. Students can write a well-focused essay that exhibits critical thinking and effective rhetorical strategies.
4. Students exhibit standard usage in their edited work.
5. Students can conduct research in accordance with professional conventions.
6. Students can integrate their knowledge and abilities so that they attain a level of competence sufficient for productive citizenship and sustained learning.

Professor Lye's Advice on Analyzing Literature

Professor Lye's useful review-essay on Contemporary Literary Theory

UI and Department of English Policy on Plagiarism (also applies to work in this course)

Flores: Review of Initial Concepts from Critical Terms for Literary Study

Broader Contexts and Criteria for Learning at the University:

University level learning outcomes broadly describe expected and desired consequences of learning through integrated curricular and co-curricular experiences. The outcomes become an expression of the desired attributes of an educated person and guide coherent, integrated and intentional educational experiences. They provide us with a basis for ongoing assessment to continuously improve teaching and learning.
1. Learn and integrate - Through independent learning and collaborative study, attain, use and develop knowledge in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences, with disciplinary specialization and the ability to integrate information across disciplines.
2. Think and create - Use multiple thinking strategies to examine real-world issues, explore creative avenues of expression, solve problems and make consequential decisions.
3. Communicate – Acquire, articulate, create and convey intended meaning using verbal and non-verbal methods of communication that demonstrate respect and understanding in a complex society.
4. Clarify purpose and perspective – Explore one's life purpose and meaning through transformational experiences that foster an understanding of self, relationships and diverse global perspectives.
5. Practice citizenship – Apply principles of ethical leadership, collaborative engagement, socially responsible behavior, respect for diversity in an interdependent world and a service-oriented commitment to advance and sustain local and global communities.
–University-Level Outcomes Affirmed by UI Faculty Council, October 3, 2006