Formal Essay Cynthia Ozick "The Shawl" & Louise Erdrich "The Shawl"


Formal Essay for Women’s Literature ENG 2080-800 Summer II 2018

This essay requires students to demonstrate a deeper understanding of two works of literature that they will read during the first two weeks of class. In this 500 word essay students will explain how the author or narrator of one work would interpret another work. Some of the discussion questions provide writing prompts to help students begin thinking about this essay. One of these discussion questions could serve as an essay topic.

The essay will need to focus on one aspect of the works that the student chooses to write about. One cannot cover everything in 500 words; therefore, essays must focus on a particular aspect of one work that would be of interest to the author or narrator in the other work.

Students will need to do some research. They need one acceptable academic source for each of the works chosen. Academic sources come from peer-reviewed journals or books published by academic presses.  Although one may find interesting ideas, most of what one finds with a google search is not an acceptable academic source. Spark Notes, Cliff Notes, Wikipedia, and other similar sources also have their places, but they are not acceptable sources for a formal essay. The UNCP library has many databases that can be used to find sources. I recommend the MLA International Bibliography, JSTOR, and Project Muse. The reference librarians are very helpful. If students are not familiar with finding appropriate academic sources, the librarians are there to help. All one needs to do is ask.

At the bottom of this assignment, I include Guidelines for Writing Formal Essays. Please follow these carefully.

Because we are so short on time in this five week semester, we do not have time to conduct a formal peer review session.  However, I encourage students to ask a friend to read and comment on their essay before they submit it.  It would also be a good idea to make an appointment with a tutor in the University Writing Center to review the essay. Anyone reviewing this essay should first read this assignment sheet so that they understand what the writer is trying to do. Print this out so that it can be shown to any reviewers. Students should evaluate any feedback they receive, decide how useful it is, and then make revisions accordingly. Ultimately the student is responsible for the quality of the essay submitted; it is, therefore, important to evaluate any feedback received and decide how useful it is before making revisions.

Requirements: 500 Words; 2 secondary sources and 2 primary sources*; MLA format: Any essays failing to meet these basic requirements fail will receive 0 points.

* Primary sources are the literary texts that you are writing about—for example Louise Erdrich’s “The Shawl.”  Secondary sources are the critical resources that you will find using our library, such as an essay about the narrator of Erdrich’s “The Shawl”

This assignment will be assessed based on the following criteria:

-the student’s ability to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the two works that he or she chooses to write about.

-the student’s ability to write an organized coherent essay. It should have a clear thesis statement or claim at the end of the first paragraph. The body paragraphs must include a topic sentence that supports the thesis statement or claim, and all the sentences in the paragraph must relate to that topic sentence.

– the student’s ability to use evidence from the text to support his or her argument. Paraphrasing, quoting, and summarizing from the text all serve as evidence and must be cited. The evidence must be integrated into the text of the essay using attributive phrases such as “according to” or “as Smith asserts.” Students must also explain how the evidence supports the claim.  Never use a phrase like “In John Smiths article found in the JSTOR database ‘The Narrator in Louise Erdrich’s the ‘Shawl’ on page 207 it states.  . . ” This is completely unnecessary and very bad style. Most of that information belongs in the works cited list at the end of the essay.

-the student’s ability to use correct grammar, style, and punctuation.

-the student’s ability to follow MLA guidelines in formatting the essay and in citing sources in the essay.  Be sure to study the information at these links and follow them in your essays: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Guidelines for Writing Formal Essays

  1. Essays must follow MLA format . See (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. and watch this videoPurdue OWL: MLA Formatting – The Basics (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.Purdue OWL: MLA Formatting - The Basics
  2. To cite sources see (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. and (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. Be sure to see how to cite “a work in an anthology” and “an article from an online database.”
  3. Be sure to include the identification, page number, and a thoughtful and appropriate title on page one of your essay.
  4. Use Times New Roman Font 12-point double-spaced.
  5. Punctuate titles of works of literature and secondary sources appropriately. Generally, longer works, entire books, journals, and plays, etc are italicized with no quotation marks.  Shorter works, poems, short stories, articles in journals or newspapers, and essays in books are enclosed in quotation marks, without italics.
  6. When you refer to an author in your essay, use her full name the first time, e.g. “Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre.” Thereafter use only her surname, e.g. “In Jane Eyre, Bronte elicits the reader’s sympathy for the young Jane.” NEVER refer to an author by her first name only.   
  7. Introduce quotations with attributive or contextual phrases such as: As the narrator explains, ” . . . .” (967).  When he found his wife crawling around the room, John exclaimed ” . . .” (458).
  8. Always cite page numbers in parenthesis when you either quote from or refer to the text—even if you paraphrase or summarize in your own words. NOTE that the period for the end of the sentence comes after the closing parenthesis around the page number.  Also note, only include the number NOT “page 967” or “p. 967.”
  9. Where to place punctuation marks when you have quotation marks:
  10. If you have a parenthetical citation see 8 above; the period belongs after the closing parenthesis.
  11. Otherwise commas and periods will go inside of the quotation marks, larger marks of punctuation such as exclamation points, question marks, and semi-colons will go outside of the quotation mark. So if you write: “In the short story “No Name Woman,” . . . the comma goes inside the quotation marks. But if you were asking someone “Have you read the short story “No Name Woman”? the question marks follows the quotation mark.

Stylistic issues

  1. Write in the third person. This is very important for formal academic. Use she, he, and it; NOT I, me, and you. Since the student is writing the essay, readers understand that it comes from his or her mind unless otherwise cited. Therefore, there is no reason to write “In my opinion . . .” or “I think. . . .”
  2. When the gender of the person or character to whom you refer is unknown, use gender-neutral language.
  3. Spell out all words; do not use contractions. For example, write “do not” instead of “don’t”
  4. Write in the active voice. To learn more about active voice go here: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
  5. Proofread carefully for correct spelling, use of proper names, punctuation, and grammar before submitting your paper.
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