ENGL 383.001/002
Exploratory Research Paper Assignment

The Exploratory Research Paper is an opportunity for you to explore, on your own, connections in any of the literature we've read this semester. Be sure that you keep your paper focused on your topic, and that you refer to, quote, and cite the literature often -- but no bloc quotations! Also, do not give me plot summary (where you retell the story you're discussing); assume that we've all read the literature, and get right in to your discussion.

Pick one of the options below, and compose an 6-7 page paper (I will accept up to 10 pages) in response to that topic. The paper should be typed/computer printed, font no bigger than 12-point Times or Palatino font, with 1" margins all around, double-spaced, on one side of the page, with pages numbered at upper-right after the first page. Citation of the literature should appear in MLA style. You may use outside sources, but I do not require you to -- if you do use outside sources, cite them in MLA style and include a works cited page in MLA format. Please use a cover sheet, including your name, paper title, and the course # and setion #.


  • OPTION 1: pick a theme from the list below and explore that theme through any one or two works we've read this semester. (How do you see this theme in the literature, and where in the literature do you see it?):
    reality of Black life vs. White representations of it (how the literature shows that White views of Blacks and Black life don't synch up with the reality of Blackness or Black life, but still dictate popular notions of Blackness and Black life)

    the intersection of race, class, and sex (people often over-simply think "oh, it's a race thing," "it's a class thing," or "it's a male/female thing" without realizing that each of these elements influences the other; you'll expand on this idea as it's shown in the literature)

    African-American creativity that subverts dominant White modes of thought (ways in which Black characters or individuals think and act around the blocks that White thought and society put up, as shown in the literature)

  • OPTION 2: compare/contrast any one writer's work that we read this semester to any one current but "non-literary" form of African-American expression. (What work of literature we've read and what current "non-literary" work deal with similar subjects or themes? In what ways do they deal with that subject similarly, and how differently? Here, you're linking the past to the present.) Example works to compare/contrast the literature to:
    Aaron McGruder's Boondocks or other African American-written comic/graphic with social themes

    African-American rap or hip-hop lyrics or album with social themes (Tupac Shakur, Sugar Hill Gang, Black Eyed Peas, etc.) -- but pick and stay with one artist

    an African-American comedian's performance with a social message (Richard Pryor, Wanda Sykes, Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock, etc.)

    one work by a black visual artist, painter, sculptor (Betye Saar, Jeff Donaldson, Henry Osawa Tanner, Aaron Douglas, Edmonia Lewis, etc.) -- I will soon launch a webpage with example artwork from these and other artists.

    Paper Due in class Monday, May 9. Do not e-mail me your paper; I accept only hard copies turned in on time. I will accept early drafts of this paper during the week of April 18-22. If you want to discuss your paper or topics with me, please make an appointment for an office visit (344 Holloway). Remember that failure to turn in the research paper will fail you from the course.

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