Essay: Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Paper instructions

Write an essay (~1000 words) in which you provide a close reading and interpretation of a short passage (one paragraph or so) from Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl or Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. You should provide adequate contextualization (i.e. at what point in the narrative does your passage appear?) in order to set up your discussion, and your thesis should make an argument about the significance of the passage in terms of the book as a whole. You may quote other short passages from the book in order to back up your claims about your major passage. While you may select any passage from the text, keep in mind that a strong paper should do more than reiterate class discussion; therefore, I’d highly encourage you to choose a passage we have not discussed in class. Basically, the goal of this assignment is to demonstrate that you can do a careful, patient reading of a key section of a text; this task is the building block for any larger paper.

Your paper will be evaluated primarily according to the following criteria:

-Does the paper provide a thesis that sets up the work of the paper and explains the significance of the analysis?

-Is the thesis clear, arguable, specific, and original?

-Is the interpretation grounded in thorough close readings of individual passages?

-Does the paper move beyond summary and description to analysis and interpretation?

-Does the paper provide sufficient textual evidence to support its position?

-Does the paper integrate quoted and paraphrased material smoothly and effectively?
-Is the paper logically organized, with strong topic sentences and transitions between ideas?

-Is the paper stylistically smooth and easy to read, generally free of grammatical or mechanical errors?

-Does the paper provide a title that sets up the argument?

Papers should be typed, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins on all sides. Use a standard serif 12-pt font (such as Times New Roman). Consult the MLA Style Guide, available online or in the library, for any questions about grammar and style. Papers should be stapled, with your name and page number on each page. No plastic cover sheets, please.

Stick to the text; do not consult or cite any outside sources for this paper. Evidence of doing so will be considered a violation of academic integrity and will result in a failing grade. If you work with a peer or writing tutor, please ensure that both the phrasing and ideas are legitimately yours.

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