For this shorter essay (4-8 pp), write in expository fashion about a theoretical concept of interest to you and synthesize several sources. The essays in CTLS are great models for the general approach; you will have to be more modest, of course.

Sample Topics
What does it mean to hold that gender is constructed? Why is this significant? What are its consequences?
How is it that a literary text can foster mobility? Is the idea that a book can give readers or citizens in a society avenues for action? Strategies for avoiding constraints? IS this actually a radical idea about art changing the world? Or is it more conservative than this? What does it mean for readers or characters in a text? Example -- Fifty Shades of Grey. (Reread Greenblatt's "Culture"; look up similar concepts in the Johns Hopkins Guide; and link with Fred Jameson's chapter in the Prison House of Language.)

The concept may be one of those assigned or something we don't treat as a class; you may explore a contested concept in terms of multiple perspectives, engaging in an ongoing debate (eg. Marxist vs. Feminist perspectives on identity) or you may choose to delve more deeply into a single perspective on a topic. At least one of your sources (3 min.) should be a "serious theory" text (i.e. the author of a new theory rather than a commentator on theory). You do not need to break new theoretical ground. Your goal is to gain fluency, to practice thinking with and through the paradigms of theory.

  • Please DO NOT simply “apply” theory to a literary text for this assignment
  • If you want, you may analyze a literary excerpt in a manner informed by a theoretical concept as PART of your essay.
  • You SHOULD confine yourself to one concept; keep life simple! Even better -- try to frame your essay so that you can discuss just a small, modest part of that concept.
  • Imagine your audience is a graduate of this class, an experienced reader of theory if not a total expert. Explain but don't spend half your paper summarizing.
  • Ask some specific questions and try to answer them. Your conclusion CAN BE provisional.

Concept Essay Rubric

Student Name

Choice / definition of appropriate “concept”

Depth of presentation/ analysis

Theory accuracy

Integrates and sythesizes theory sources
Intro: clear thesis, arguable, fulfilled

Conclusion: clear, encompassing

Development: logical, progression, integration.
Quotation framing and incorporation

MLA Citations, Bibliography

Error-free usage