English 232 Research Project Proposals
Proposal due: March
Proposals must be typed. Minimum length is one page.
Proposals should address the following questions:
1. What research question or questions are you going to explore?
2. What interests you about this question? Why do you think it is a valuable question to explore?
3. How do you propose to explore it? What critical approaches and other resources do you think you will be drawing upon?
4. What problems, if any, do you anticipate at this point?
Completed papers must be at least 10-12 typed pages in length (not including cover page or "Works Cited" pages).
You should draw upon at least 8 outside sources. Typically, most of these will be books and articles. [Outside sources include primary AND secondary sources. Primary sources are works by the author(s) you are researching. Secondary sources are works about them, their writings, their times, etc. You should have a good range of secondary sources in your "Works Cited."]
Use the MLA style of documentation (in-text citation + "Works Cited" page).
Introduce all quoted material with clear signal phrases.
Plagiarism is a serious offense; if you're not exactly sure about what plagiarism is, ask me. If work for this course turns out to be plagiarized, you will automatically fail the course, in addition to whatever penalties the Student Judicial Committee imposes. (Note: You may not submit for credit in this class work that you have already submitted or plan to submit for credit in another class. To do so without the express permission of the instructors involved constitutes a form of plagiarism.)
Thoughts about Experimental Critical Writing
I consider it the writer's responsibility, and no one else's, to come up with her own topic or question.
In my experience, it works better if you come up with a research question, rather than a topic. And the clearer and more focused your question, the better off you will be as you begin to do your research.
Whether you do a more traditional or a more experimental essay or project, both will require you to do considerable research, to integrate the results into your own argument or 'meditations', and to document them properly, using the MLA style of documentation.
The primary differences between traditional and experimental critical writing are in how you develop your argument and in the range of materials you can draw upon as outside sources. The argument in a traditional critical essay develops in a more or less straightforward (linear) fashion. You start with a thesis, present one main point after another to advance the thesis, provide support for your main points, create smooth transitions from point to point, and march us steadily towards your conclusion (which essentially extends your thesis or reflects upon its larger implications). There should be a logical (sometimes chronological) progression from point to point or a dramatic progression (from your least compelling point to the real clincher, also known as the strategy of saving-your-best-for-last).
In experimental critical writing, this linear organization of the argument is disrupted. Instead, the argument is more seemingly digressive. The techniques and effects of collage and montage may provide the best analogy for this kind of writing. Implicit relations between juxtaposed elements provide a thread of connection that wends its way through the essay.
The 'logic' behind the succession of paragraphs in an experimental critical piece tends to be associative or poetic (or oneiric, that is, 'dreamlike'). The structure or logic of the usual straightforward argument yields to one that often seems more meditative than argumentive, one that may keep circling around certain questions, approaching them from different angles, with different means, and resisting closure. (As Gertrude Stein says, "Shuttters shut." She herself is definitely not a "shutter.") This kind of writing has a more exploratory or open-ended and improvisational feel to it.
Sometimes if you are doing experimental critical writing you can draw upon various "voices" you have developed, your 'academic' voice, yes, but also perhaps your poet's voice, your reporter's voice, your street-smart voice, your down-home voice, your 'womanly' voice (?), your 'personal' voice, and so on. (Gloria Anzaldua's essays mentioned below are a good example of critical writing that allows the writer to use several 'voices.')
Also, in experimental critical writing the materials drawn upon and introduced as 'evidence' or support often are not exclusively textual (or verbal). They can be, for example, photos, drawings, graphs, and pictures (or audiofiles and videoclips), prints and other cultural artifacts. Even the materials that are textual often are not limited to critical, discursive prose. They can be interviews, anecdotes, accounts of personal experiences, newspaper clippings, political speeches, poems, ads, songs, folktales, letters, diary extracts, etc.
Though it is not like traditional critical writing that explicitly announces its thesis and flows smoothly and logically from introduction to conclusion, experimental critical writing is careful, thoughtful, and controlled. There has to be a thread of connection as we move through the various sections or juxtaposed 'fragments', though again, the connection may be more associative or poetic in nature.
Despite the difference in method, the primary focus still has to be on illuminating the work(s) from class that you have chosen to consider. You may focus on works that are not on the syllabus, but you need my permission.
As examples of experimental critical writing, I would suggest the pieces by Gloria Anzaldua, Paul Auster, and Susan Griffin in the Ways of Reading anthology. I haven't decided whether to put this anthology on reserve in the Library or to keep it in my office. It depends on how many people want to consider doing this kind of research paper. I will provide one other example in class, Susan Howe's "Incloser." This is not necessarily the best example, but it is the shortest.
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