English 481: Popular Then/Classic Now: Advanced Study in American Authors, 1865-1940

Paper 4

Length: 8-10 pages, 2200-3000 words

Proposal for Paper 4 Due: March 27, 2012
Final Paper Due: April 19, 2012
Presentations for Final Papers: April 24-26, 2012.

Proposal: Your proposal (50-100 words) indicating works to be discussed and a possible thesis should emailed to me on the proposal date. It will receive comments rather than a grade, but if you do not send a proposal, your final paper will lose 5 points (about ½) grade.


1. For this paper, you will want to use either secondary sources (i.e., literary criticism in the form of books and journal articles) or additional primary sources--stories, poems, plays--beyond the ones we've read in class.

2. If you want to, you can develop and expand on a previous short paper for the final paper.

3. Remember, Wikipedia and "student help" sites are NOT legitimate sources for this paper. The phrase "secondary sources" means "journals and library books," along with some legitimate literature web sites. Ask me if you're not sure whether a site counts as a legitimate source.

4. Web pages are someone's intellectual property and ALL WEB PAGES MUST BE CITED just as journal articles must be. Copying without attribution is plagiarism, and you will receive an F for the paper even if your paper is only partly copied from a source without attribution. See the syllabus for more information on the consequences of plagiarism.

5. Style counts as well as substance, so edit and proofread your paper carefully. If you have questions, meet with me before turning in your paper.

6. Check the various guidelines carefully:

Citing Sources http://public.wsu.edu/~campbelld/cited.htm
Formatting Papers: http://public.wsu.edu/~campbelld/format.htm


Option I. Texts in Context Paper

Examine the periodicals in which one of these novels appeared (Holland Library has many of these in their original bindings) and read selections from the other works included in the same volume. You’ll probably want to choose 3-4 pieces from the volume and analyze them in detail.

You may instead want to work with the primary source materials to which you were introduced when we visited the MASC. You might also choose to look at a work's reception in the popular news outlets of the day or to compare it with a popular story on a similar topic.

Here are some questions that you may want to consider, although you don't have to address them all in your paper.

1. Why was this author popular in his or her time? What clues to this popularity do you see in the contexts in which he or she was published? How do the works of this author compare with those of his or her now-forgotten contemporaries?

2. What was the context within which this work was originally read? What works surrounded it—travel articles, short stories, author profiles, opinion and commentary, or some other form of writing?

3. What kinds of fiction appear in the same volume with the work? Do they address similar themes? Do you notice a preponderance of one kind of story or setting (e.g., dialect stories, stories about the West, stories about courtship, and so on)?

4. In what kind of publication does the work appear?

  1. Does the journal publish travel pieces, jokes, articles on current events, letters to the editor, illustrations, and other kinds of matter in addition to literature? Does any of this relate to the subject of the work? How might the existence of these features alter the way in which a reader 100 years ago would have read the novel?
  2. Judging by the kinds of articles and other materials in the volume, what were the concerns of the original audience? What was the political climate like? Does the journal address or ignore concerns such as racism, women's suffrage, industrialism, imperialism, poverty, inequality, and the rights of labor?
  3. What books are reviewed in the periodical? Read through some reviews and figure out what kinds of qualities were valued in books during that period. What were the controversial literary issues of the day?
  4. Does the magazine version of the work include illustrations? If so, how do they enhance or detract from the experience of reading the book?
  5. Does the magazine version of the work differ from the version as finally published? What’s the effect of these changes?

Option II: Traditional Critical Analysis Paper

These are broad topics and are only suggestions; you will need to shape and to limit them.  I encourage you to stop in to see me well before the paper is due. If you want to write on a topic that does not fit under one of these topics, please let me know.

  1. Choosing one of the authors we've read this semester, explore the varying ways in which the author was perceived in his or her own time and at the present time. Why was this author "popular then/classic now"? You may want to look at contemporary book reviews of the author's work for this paper.
  2. In what ways did the author write works that enhanced his or her popularity or credibility with the public? You could look at this question in a few different ways. For example, how did the author promote the work or himself/herself through interviews, speaking tours, and so on? Do you have evidence that the author wrote this work specifically to please the public?
  3. Choose a lesser-known work or one that we didn't study in the course and analyze it in light of what you know about the author. Why didn't this work become as famous or well-respected?
  4. Analyze one of the works we've read by comparing it to another work by the same author, preferably one with similar themes.
  5. If you have special knowledge of some aspect of the culture of this era (e.g., paintings, sculpture, fabric or decorative arts, or music; the landscape or vegetation discussed in the work; the architectural features; etc.), analyze one of the works in terms of this knowledge. You might find good information at the Library of Congress's American Memory Home Page, Harpweek, or other sites (see http://www.wsu.edu/~campbelld/amlit/sites.htm).
  6. The literature of this era is sometimes seen as furthering the nation's imperialist and expansionist aims; according to some writers, it implicitly promotes an agenda that is racist and anti-immigrant and that seeks to affirm the aims of white America. Write an essay in which you support or refute this idea using historical information as well as analysis of the works.
  7. If you would like to continue to explore the ideas in a previous paper, that could prove to be a good subject for Paper 4.
  8. Is it true that Stevens, Frost, or Crane (choose one or more) are the "heirs" of Emily Dickinson? Analyze poems to support your point.
  9. In what ways are modernist writers such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald examining the idea of a loss of meaning after World War I? What kinds of code for living do they propose?
  10. In keeping with our "popular then/classic now" theme for the course, choose a current book that you think may become a classic in the future and write a serious, extended analysis of it explaining its literary qualities. You might want to choose to compare it with a book that we've read or discuss it as an example of a genre that we've studied. If you choose this option, please let me know ahead of time so that I can read the book. new

Option III.  Annotated Web Version of Text

Texts produced:

  • A hypertext or wiki version of several stories, or a cluster of chapters, or an examination of a major theme or concept
  • A 3-4 page typed, double-spaced typewritten rationale for the interpretation, texts, and method you chose
  • Option III asks you to prepare an annotated hypertext (web site) or wiki version of works studied this semester. Your web site or wiki will define words, analyze images and themes, create a coherent interpretation, and provide a brief bibliography of works consulted. Important: It must be available for viewing on the web when you're done.

    If you choose this option, your prospectus will outline your plans for the project.  You may work in a group if you choose this option; all participants will share in the final grade. 

    In interpretation level and analytical quality, this should match the kind and length of work you would do for the 8-10 page paper; the difference is that your analysis will be broken into shorter segments and connected to the text by links. 

    Your group will also need to write a 3-4 page essay explaining why you made the choices you did in terms of analysis. Your paper should provide metacommentary on the reasons why you chose what you did, sites you chose (or declined) to link to, conversations you had about interpretation, ideas, insights, responses to the text, and so forth.

    Free wiki sites (for setting up a wiki) include www.pbwiki.com. I don't recommend wikihost.org because it has several layers of usernames and passwords, and it can be very difficult to log in to the site.


    Length: About 5-10 minutes for the presentation. (No additional written work must be turned in for a grade.)
    As part of your final assignment, you'll be presenting your original research to the class during one of two presentation days at the end of the semester. You may also choose to present your research on a different, but most people will probably want to combine the presentation with their research for the final paper.

    Your purpose is to inform the class about some facet of literature that was “popular then/classic now.” If you've done the "texts in context" paper, for example, you may want to discuss what you've discovered about the periodical or author you focused on for the paper. If you've completed a web project, you may want to show that project on the screen and discuss it with the class. If you've worked with someone else on the project, you can present your research together.

    Although this presentation will be based on your final project, you shouldn't simply read your paper to the class, although you can present portions of your paper in your presentation. Instead, you should feel free to bring in film or music clips, use PowerPoint or pictures, ask students questions, and otherwise make your presentation lively and informative for the class. You can also present your research in innovative ways..