LITR 4328 American Renaissance
research project options

Option 1 Research Essay
(traditional 7-10 page analytic / research essay relevant to texts, authors, or history in course)

guidelines and requirements

Due date: 28 Nov. (no class meeting 26 Nov.; instructor in office for research consultations) 

Option 1 (analytic / research essay) requirements

  • The research essay option involves a more or less "standard College English paper" in which the student analyzes a literary text or texts.
  • The topic is open to any type of literary analysis, but it must have some relevance to the course. That is, a member of the class reading your essay would be able to recognize the relevance of the text or its major themes.
  • Possible topics: tracing in one text, or comparing and contrasting in more than one text the development of a theme, image, symbol, use of language, character type, plot pattern, or conflict.
  • In terms of primary texts, you may choose a text from beyond this course, but if you use more than one primary text, at least one should be from our course readings.
  • In terms of research, you must incorporate references to at least three secondary and background sources--that is, your research sources must include both secondary and background types of research. See Primary, Background, & Secondary Research.
  • Follow MLA style for documentation and mechanics.
  • Length: 7-10 pages + Works Cited
  • Research Requirements: One or two primary sources or texts; at least 3 secondary and background sources (distinction explained below). At least one source should be "print"--i. e., not from the internet. (see note below)

Model Assignments:


Subject prohibition: Too many students usually want to write about the lives of Poe or Dickinson and how their writings reflect these authors' personalities and experiences. Such topics often engage the biographical fallacy, which is typically counter-productive to literary criticism and critical thinking.

If students insist on writing about Poe's and Dickinson's lives as ways to interpret these authors' writings, they may do so under the following conditions:

1. Acknowledge and describe the biographical fallacy, explaining how your interpretation will transcend this approach's limitations and

2. Emphasize and defend the insights that biographical study produces.

3. Keep returning to the texts or writings of the author, informing how these texts gain meaning as a result of biographical knowledge and how a reader could not adequately appreciate these texts without biographical knowledge (even though most readers find plenty of meaning in these texts without such knowledge).

cf. Early American Literature assignment prohibitions (on writing about Salem Witch Trials as if they were really about witchcraft instead of moral hysteria).