Writing Question

Writing Question

Paper 1: What is Literature?

Due Date:  Paper 1 is due at the end of Week 4, April 13.

Learning Goals  

  • Synthesize the ideas you have considered in answering the question, “What is literature?”  
  • Craft a thesis that clearly states your interpretation of the meaning (significance) of the story.
  • Support your thesis with evidence from the story and base it on the literary elements you have examined. 

For this paper, you will develop an argument that you began exploring in the Week 2 discussion, which asked, “What is literature?” Your paper will answer that question using the following format:  

“This story is an excellent example of literature because it provides meaning about X.”  

Examples of how you might fill-in “X” include “children and parenting,” “the Black experience,” “gendered double standards,” or another aspect of the human condition that you can relate to and that has a significant presence in the story. Note that you may find that your selected story has more than one theme (and this is fine). 

The answer statement above is only half of your thesis. Week 3 teaches you that the thesis governs your paper’s analysis and development. The thesis is constructed with two main parts: a claim and warrants. For this paper, your thesis will have three warrants.


Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is an excellent example of a literary work because it provides insight into the hypocrisy of religious morality through character, setting, and theme.  

Week 3 shows you how the outline is a straightforward way to list and organize your ideas to support your claim with three warrants. Your task in drafting this paper is to expand the levels of your outline in more detail. Next, you will convert the bulleted items from your outline into well-crafted sentences, and then combine the sentences into well-organized, logical paragraphs.

Your three warrants will use the literary elements you explored and applied in Week 2. You may choose any literary elements, and you do not have to use three different ones. However, the body of your paper needs to have at least three paragraphs (or more). For instance, if you choose to only characterization, then you must have enough information to develop at least three paragraphs about how character/character development elucidates your thesis claim. In Week 4, you’ll learn more about the development of body paragraphs. In the example above, each of the warrants exemplifying the hypocrisy of religious morality—through the story’s character(s), setting, and theme—will have its own paragraph.

Quoting Format: You will need to extract relevant and effective quotes from your selected story to help support some of the main points you are making. In other words, they act as additional evidence. Any direct quotes should, of course, be indicated by enclosing the material in quotation marks. Since the medium presentation for your story is in PDF format, you will notice that your literature does not have stable page numbers or clearly numbered paragraphs, as is the case with many web sources. MLA states that you do not need to include a page number for your in-text citation as long as the quote is smoothly integrated and quotation marks are used. Since your only source for this assignment is your primary source (which is your selected story), it will be clear to your audience where the material is coming from.

However, you will need to include a Works Cited entry for your story. This Works Cited should occur after your essay. If you need assistance with formatting this entry, please contact me.

There are two ways you can integrate direct quotes. It is suggested that you explore both ways within your essay to demonstrate variety. One way is to introduce the quote with a full signal sentence. A second way is to have the quote be a fluid part of your sentence by using a signal phrase. See the examples below:

Baldwin’s opening passage is woven with light and dark imagery as the narrator rides the subway to work: “I stared at in the swinging lights of the subway car, and in the faces and the bodies of the people, and in my own face, trapped in the darkness which roared outside.”

NOTE the following: See the clear signal sentence(that supplies the point you are making and indicates that a quote will ensue), the colon that comes after the full sentence, and the quotation marks.

Another way to integrate a quote is by having the quote be a fluid part of your sentence using a signal phrase–see the following (note that the colon is only used after signal sentences, not phrases)

As the narrator rides the subway to work, he “stared at it in the swinging lights of the subway car, and in the faces and the bodies of the people, and in [his] own face, trapped in the darkness which roared outside.”

Hints: Remember that your reader has read the story and is familiar with it; extensive summary is not useful. Rather, explain and analyze how meaning is derived from the story by the author’s implementation of literary elements. Note that the focus should be on the story, not the author, so repeated references to the author are unnecessary.  

Summary vs. analysis: Be aware that a paper analyzing a piece of literature is not a plot summary. Summary should be brief, with only the details necessary to identify the parts of the story required to develop your paper.  

Length and Format:

  • 750-1,000 words (approximately three pages, double-spaced). If you go over the recommended maximum length, this is fine as long as the additional words enrich the analysis.  
  • MLA style for document format and Works Cited. See this MLA Style Demo video for how to set up your document.  
  • See the Sample Paper for format and organization.
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