General Remarks (HUM303/415/510)

In general, the responses to the paper “workshop” were not entirely what I was hoping for, with some gratifying exceptions. There was some confusion about the meaning of the phrase “formal concept” and the terms “theme” and “motif.” Often these aspects of the assignment were missing entirely. If you have any doubts at all about the the definition of this critical terminology you should look it up in the relevant text (MacKay, Abbott, or consult the Routledge Dictionary of Literary Terms— available as an e-book via the library website). “Formal concept” means “formal element”– which is to say a component of a text, or a literary resource (setting, analepsis, free indirect discourse, etc.) that a writer uses to construct a narrative. Form, then, is distinct from content. As everybody in HUM415 and HUM510 should already know, in Abbott’s usage this distinction is expressed as the difference between narrative discourse and story. MacKay, on the other hand, uses the terms syuzhet and fabula. Notably syuzhet is not as encompassing a term as narrative discourse, emphasizing the temporal order (plot) of a novel rather than the multiplicity of elements that go into the “how” (as opposed to the “what”) of a narrative. Instead, MacKay, stresses the formal elements of the novel individually (ex. narration, setting, character, etc.) on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Note that depending on the project of your paper, not all formal elements will be equally effective.

Too many responses to the assignment simply rephrased the instructions. (“I will research credible sources and find formal concepts to discuss ideology critique.”) Such a reply is clearly inadequate because it demonstrates the student either 1) can’t be bothered to think about what s/he’s been asked to do or 2) simply doesn’t have a functional minimum of information (i.e., has not done the reading for class nor taken the opportunity to reflect on what s/he’s read). I want to be clear that I am expecting serious academic essays written at the college level. Vague generalizations or the mere repetition of remarks made in class will not be sufficient. Consult the Paper Rubric tab at the top of the main page of this blog to get a better sense of how I will be grading this assignment. Or come see me. Or email me. I am here to help you meet my expectations.

The first paper is worth one-fifth of your final grade. If academic writing is not your strength then I urge you to produce a full draft of your paper by Monday and take advantage of the tutoring services offered by the LAC and CARP. I am willing to guide the drafting process as well, but there is a probability that I will have so many requests for assistance that I won’t be able to respond to everyone in a timely fashion.


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