Research/Seminar Paper: ENGL117c, Winter 2017
In your Research/Seminar Paper, you will develop a 1500-2000 word (5-8 pages) original
may choose to focus on one play or may choose to focus your project around a single
theme/concept you trace across multiple plays. This paper must contain significant textual
analysis, a strong, arguable thesis , and should engage recent scholarly work relevant to your
chosen topic (in other words, this paper is neither a history nor a film review).
DUE: Thursday, March 2nd at 3:40pm
To be considered turned in and on time, you must submit your paper electronically to
safeassign (through course ilearn site) and turn in a printed copy at the beginning of class.
All papers are expected to adhere to the most recent MLA guidelines (eighth edition, released
April 2016) in terms of formatting, citations, footnotes, Works Cited page, etc. The word count
requirement for this assignment does include footnotes (although I encourage you to use these
sparingly). The word count does not include the Works Cited page. All papers should be
double-spaced, 1 inch margins, and in a standard 12 point font (such as Times New Roman).
Your project should take as its focus one or more of the primary texts covered in this course
(Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear). Putting one or more of those texts in
conversation with another text from the period (like Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, for instance)
is also perfectly fine!
Through class discussion and through the secondary/critical reading you have
undertaken for this course, we have opened up many possible paths you might consider
exploring further. For instance, we have discussed how Queer readings of R&J affect our sense
of time in that play. We have explored how the corporeality (or lack thereof) of the ghosts in
Hamlet and Macbeth critique notions of death in those plays. We have talked about Othello as
an expression of subjective anxieties in a globalizing social ecology. Any of these directions, and
many more, could lead to very successful projects.
Each student is encouraged to sculpt their own project, based on their interests. Not
sure where to start? You have already produced a significant amount of writing for this class:
discussion posts. Go back through your posts and look for questions, ideas, interpretations that
interested you. You will likely find the kernel of a project right there. For those who feel they
work best when starting from a set of focused, guiding questions, I am happy to work with you
to develop that in office hours (or another pre-arranged meeting time). However, in order for
your project to be guided by your own interests and investments in these texts–something I
believe very strongly in–it will be important you come with ideas about what you are interested
in that we may then work together to develop.
Remember, you are being asked to present a thesis-driven argument in your paper.
That means you should be presenting a contestable claim about the play(s) or a particular issue
in the play(s) that you then convincingly support with well-chosen evidence and analysis of said
evidence. That evidence should definitely include close reading of the text itself. That evidence
should also include arguments made by others on the play or on the issue/concept you are
discussing (ie: secondary sources, more on that below). That evidence may include other
historical/contextualizing sources (material culture, events, other primary texts). That evidence
may also include other theoretical or philosophical concepts (like the uncanny, or affect, or
Your essay must engage with the arguments made by at least three scholars in books,
chapters, or articles related to your project (and other than those assigned for this course).
Rather than simply quote, or mention in a footnote, you should respond to the arguments of at
least three critics in the body of your paper by analysing how their reading of a particular
play/issue relates to your own. Do they present an idea you then build on and expand? Do they
make a point generally in-line with your reading but in need of a tweak or adjustment? Do they
overlook or fail to acknowledge a certain aspect of the play that then raises questions about
their conclusion? You should strategically utilize these secondary sources to a) give a sense of
what the conversation is around your chosen topic and b) to help build, support, complicate,
advance your own position.
It is certainly ok to use more than three sources. Just remember, the objective of the
project is not to present a survey of what other people are saying about these plays, but to
present what you have to say. Do some solid research, but don’t go falling down the rabbit
hole. Developing and successfully articulating your own perspective and position is a crucial
part of this assignment. I don’t expect you to be familiar with everything ever written about
Hamlet’s ghost, let alone get it all in your paper! Convince me of your position on whatever
debatable point you choose to advance.
Generally speaking, your secondary sources should have been published after 1990
unless you can make a compelling claim as to why an older source is still critical to the
conversation (and that can certainly happen…talking about the uncanny? You may want to
quote Freud. Writing about Copernican traces in Shakespeare? Much of that foundational
scholarship is from the 1970s).
Those needing help/direction with their research should meet with me early on.
Research just takes some digging, and searching, and reading…especially with an author as
well-studied as Shakespeare! I do expect you to undertake that labor. That said, I am also here
to help if you get stuck, lost, or overwhelmed!
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