Monday, February 5, 2007

Mid-Term Essay Topics

Choose any one of the following four topics for your Mid-Term Essay.
  1. "Poetry?? Poetry!!! What kind of total moron puts #$!@&ing Poetry in an "Introduction to Fiction" course?? Poetry is crap, with Zero connection to Fiction! Take the chapter "The Buried Life" from Innocent Traveller: it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the poem "Hid Life" from Always Now. Hey: loser Prof: Get a clue." Agree or Disagree supported by quotation from the two texts.
  2. The position of lecture is that reading and studying fiction is both a source of artistic delight and a unique means of acquiring practical skills and information that promote real-world success. ('Unique' in that these skills cannot be better obtained anywhere else.) From your own life experience, and using quotations from any of the course texts, write an essay that either supports this position, or argues that, in the cold reality of today's wired world, stories and poems are irrelevant: nothing more than nostalgia, a cute hobby for some. Update: "real word" corrected to "real-world." (Hat-tip "anonymous" in comments.)
  3. While the majority of the short stories, and Innocent Traveller, are expressions of a specifically European conception of "Vancouver," four of the short stories are by authors who identify themselves as being, in their individual ways, non-European: Pauline Johnson, Wayson Choy and Sky Lee. Selecting any or all of the stories, explain how specific literary features that these authors employ give a fictional representation of "Vancouver" that is non-European....even though it has been argued that the short story form is itself European.
  4. DIY: the open topic option. If you have your own strong interest or opinion on any of the course texts or the material presented in lecture, draught your own thesis statement and obtain written approval from your TA.


Anonymous said...

For topic 3 you state: " explain how specific literary features that these authors employ give a fictional representation of "Vancouver" that is non-European"

What do you mean by specific Literary features? Just evidence from the text that show a non european side to Vancouver i.e Joe Forte or pauline johnsons images of First Nation life?

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

No, I mean "specific Literary features," such as presented in lecture.

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

(con't) [Sorry - cut off before the end] What you offer here would be "elements of the text."

Anonymous said...

i'm still a little confused by what you mean with "specific literary features." Could you please elaborate more.

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

Uhmm....No! I'd like to, but I'm constrained by the fact that this is, you know, like, an Exam!

I can hint, though: what were some of the aspects of fiction given in lecture?

Anonymous said...

For topic #2, what type of life experiences could fall into the category of "studying fiction is both a source of artistic delight and a unique means of caquiring practical skills and information that promote real-word success" ?

As well, if you were to argue, are we suppose to argue why stories and poems are not as good as it is made out to be?

Anonymous said...

for essay topic #2, do u mean "promote real-WORLD success", or real-word?

Anonymous said...

wat does DIY stand for ... ?

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

"DIY" = Do It Yourself.

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

"Real-World" -- correction made & update noted. Thanks a million!

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

Regarding #2, any life experience -- any situation in your life where fiction has helped you see something differently or add a skill....
Regarding "arguing"....Yes!

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

Dear "First Anonymous":
what I'm saying is, I can't give that degree of answer, but if you come up with some elements of fiction from lecture on your own, I can say "cold," "hot," & "warm"!

(Also, classfellows can post their help here.)

Anonymous said...

SO for example a literary feature like setting, theme, characters,??

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...


Akshay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Akshay said...

#$!@&ing - When you mention these symbols.. Dont you think that the ideal number of symbols should be 4 and not 5.. like so #$@&ing.. because that would be the most frequently thought of word.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to bother you,

I was just wondering if we could use outside sources (outside the books read in class) in our mid term... And if so is there a limit on how much we can use the outside sources?

Thank you

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

Absolutely no bother. A research paper, with secondary sources, is very suitable, and for the length of the mid-term paper three sources would be a reasonable maximum.
On the other hand, an analytical paper would require no secondary sources --m but would, of course, have a greater burden of inventiveness and argument (i.e. dialectic.)

Anonymous said...

Regarding 2
Can the referrent be "I" ?

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...


Anonymous said...

Hi, I don't want to bring up technicalities or be a pain, but this paper is important to me and I require clarification. For topic 2 when you specifically state:

('Unique' in that these skills cannot be better obtained anywhere else.)

Is the claim literally saying that the best way of learning a new skill or acquiring information is to, if possible, read and study fiction? Because I'm pretty sure that if one were to read and study a magnificently detailed, fictional story about a brain surgeon, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to jump into the operating room.

I suppose that sounds like I would take the position that real life experience is more valuable and fiction/ poetry doesn't have a place in today's world, but I don't agree with that either.

I believe there is a great deal which one can learn from fiction, but it seems ignorant to make a claim as absolute as ('Unique' in that these skills cannot be better obtained anywhere else.)

(Not to mention when you say "these" skills, you're referring to the "practical" skills and practical really requires a frame of referrence, less it fall to ambiguity.)

so when I read this position, it really starts to sound like('Unique' in that practical skills cannot be better obtained anywhere else.) and something so ambiguous doesn't seem like it should be so certain.

Furthermore, I feel the same regarding the the information one gains from fiction. Fictional information is fictional. The characters and ideas can definately represent something deeper, but wouldn't that be more of a lesson or moral?

Thanks for reading,and sorry if it's a bother, but I hope you can tell me something that will clarify the opening position in this topic so I can write the best paper I can.

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

Well, technicalities is what academics do, so never apologise for being technical: apologise rather for not being technical enough.

Now, the pertinent sentences are as follows:
....a unique means of acquiring practical skills and information that promote real-world success. ('Unique' in that these skills cannot be better obtained anywhere else.)

You have read "acquiring practical skills" to mean "acquiring all known and available practical skills in the entire world." This, however, is, as you say yourself, highly implausible. Moreover, it is exactly not what was taught in lecture; where very specific skills related to the study of literature were listed, detailed, & explained.

As has been frequently repeated, attendance at lecture is one of the two keys to success (the other being reading of the texts) on the two course examinations.

So, the sentences here must be read in light of (a.) lecture and (b.) attribute of reasonableness, which then limits "practical skills & information" to precise & specific points.


samantha said...

I'm slightly confused... I'm getting conflicting answers from you and my TA. For essay topic #2, my TA advised that we shouldn't use many personal accounts or other examples from the "real-world", but rather that we should focus on how the topic specifically relates to our various course texts. However, you stated above that "any life experience" could be used in our essay.

This is just out of curiousity... I suppose since our TAs will be the ones marking our papers that we should follow any suggestions they give, but it still has me a bit lost...

I really appreciate the help!

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

Dear Samantha:

Good question. I think that the apparent confusion comes from the difference between the general criterion and the particular case. Specifically, your TA was giving a general guideline for how to approach the topic (i.e. it is important to build your argument from the literary texts) while I was answering here in the comments a particular student who was crafting a paper based on a personal experience.

The salient section of the topic reads, "From your own life experience, and using quotations from any of the course texts.... So use an experience from your life as a starting point, then use quotations to advance your argument.

I hope that makes it clearer: let me know if I can be of additional help.

samantha said...

I guess I should rephrase that last comment a little more bluntly: Whose advice in writing the essay should I follow - yours, or my TA's?

Sorry I didn't really say it outright to begin with, I didn't want to phrase it so tactlessly.

But the clarification between the general and particular instructions was really helpful!

Thanks again for your help, and sorry for the bother!

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

Dear Samantha: perhaps it was I who could have been more direct. I could have said explicitly that your TA and I are saying the same thing, so you can take our advice as mutually reinforcing.

In brief, following the language of the Topic in question, use (a.) personal experience as a point of departure and (b.) use textual quotation to develop the body of your argument.

Anonymous said...

When i analyze the poem "hid life" and compare it to the chapter from Innocent traveller, am i allowed to use how i personally feel about the poem and a literary analysis (something like what we've done in lecture)? When i look at the poem i have certain feelings about it based on my life experiences, which may be different than others. So would i be able to encorporate that into my comparison or stick strictly to the analytic part?

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

Dear Anonymous:
Good question. In point of fact all literary analysis (ehere it not a mere exercise) expresses personal feeling, of a type. It is just that the scholarly convention encourages the expression of one's feeling to be written into the third or second person and placed into the form of a thesis statement.

Use your feelings as a point of departure but make your argument universal by adopting this convention to form the body of the argument.