Building on the close-reading and interpretive skills required for the first essay, Essay #2 will require you to develop your own thesis and then to make an argument based on that thesis using close-reading of at least two or more passages from a selected text. For this assignment, students will select one of the works listed below and use close-reading analysis to demonstrate how evidence from the text supports a clear thesis argument. Remember that a thesis is a statement that your essay asserts as true (you make a claim) but that requires proof (through textual analysis) that it is true. Summary or opinion without substantive literary analysis is not interpretation, and therefore not proof of an argument.
It has been said that "empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself" (Mohsin Hamid). It has also been suggested that "evil is the absence of empathy" (John Connolly). What is significant about having the ability to connect empathetically with someone else? What are the consequences when a character is unable to make such a connection or deliberately refuses to do so? Do those consequences affect merely the individual who lacks empathy? Or do the consequences extend to an entire society? What do such examples in literature suggest to us as readers about the importance of exercising empathy?
For this essay, you will make a thesis driven argument on how a lack of empathy significantly impacts how one character understands (or misunderstands) another character and what the consequences are for that character(s) or the world that character inhabits.
For example: In Akutagawa's "Rashomon," what prevents the servant from empathizing with the old woman? What are the consequences for the servant due to this lack of empathy? In Faulkner's "Barn Burning," what are the consequences of Abner's lack of empathy toward his family? Toward his community? In Shakespeare's Othello, how does Iago demonstrate his lack of empathy and with what result? In Aidoo's Anowa, does Anowa's husband Kofi's attitude about slaves truly do no harm in his community?
These are some questions to jump start your brainstorming and thesis developing process – but you are not limited to addressing one of these questions; in fact, you are encouraged to develop your own. An essay that merely answers one of these questions will not be very original – since we are providing the question – and therefore not very successful.
You can select to write on one (and only one) of the following texts:
Ry?nosuke Akutagawa, “In a Bamboo Grove” or “Rashomon”
William Faulkner, "Barn Burning"
William Shakespeare, Othello
Ama Ata Aidoo, Anowa
Important Components of your Essay:
1) Make sure you have a clear thesis, which makes an argument (not a summary) about the text
2) Make sure to support your argument with evidence from the text
3) Make sure to close-read that evidence, and tie your reading into your thesis argument
4) Pay attention to advice provided in Dr. Valint’s “Writing Workshop” for detailed information about structuring your essay
5) We strongly encourage you to make an appointment with the Writing Center – either in person or online – well in advance of the essay’s due date.
Minimum Expectations for Structuring Your Essay:
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