some important topic addressed during the term. They should base the essay on two major scholarly books (exclusive of those on the required list) offering either contrasting or
complementary interpretations. A scholarly book means one based on original sources; neither textbooks nor popular treatments that simply recapitulate other books will qualify. (Caution:
information on world-wide-web sites such as Wikipedia rarely prove reliable.) Keep in mind further that a review essay is not a book review. Students must not only evaluate the books (in roughly one-third of the assigned space); they must also propose an original synthesis of their own. Students should find models by examining recent issues of the New York Review of Books or the Times Literary Supplement, both available in the periodicals room at Alderman Library. (Popular reviews in mass-circulation organs such as the New York Times Book Review show what not to emulate.)
The attached list of optional and substitute readings may get students started, but they remain entirely free to base their papers on other books dealing with subjects broadly relevant to the course. Check with the instructor if you have doubts about your topic. Students should start by choosing a broad topic that interests them. They should then peruse the relevant section of the Alderman Library stacks in order to narrow down the topic and settle on specific books. Little classroom reading is assigned in Weeks VI/VII so that students can focus on their papers. The paper is due in class on Tuesday, 12 November. For help in polishing their prose, paper-writers are urged –indeed implored-- to consult Wilson Follett, ed., Modern American Usage (Hill & Wang pb.), which will be made available at the bookstores, or a similar book on style. Those who feel that they require some review of basic principles can begin with Blanche Ellsworth and John A. Higgins, English Simplified (Addison Wesley Longman pb.), or William Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of Style (Penguin pb.). Both of the latter are also at the bookstore. Although substantive analysis is the most important consideration, the instructor will grade the paper for prose style as well as content. Remember the adage that there is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting. Students are best advised to complete the first draft well ahead of time—ideally a week or so ahead--and to let the paper sit before putting it into final form. Those who have not yet polished their English prose style may seek help at the University Writing Center before the paper’s due date. The Writing Center offers excellent support, but it can take a number of days to obtain an appointment there.)
Students who have a particular interest in film may wish to substitute a review essay interpreting four or five related films relevant to the course for the essay based on books. You may use the optional videos listed on pages 6-8, among others, but not the assigned videos that the whole class will watch listed on page 5. Books on the history of motion pictures, listed above in this handout, will lead you to additional appropriate films. Students especially interested in literature may substitute two or more historical novels for oneof the scholarly monographs; the novels should relate to the other scholarly monograph. A representative list of novels appears on the course website and may help guide your choice. Students choosing either the film or the literary option should beware of presenting mere plot summaries: they must draw on the films or novels for the purpose of historical analysis. Those contemplating either of those options should make a brief written proposal to the instructor or the course assistant ahead of time.