ENGL 1301-016 Fall 2008 OneBook Paper Assignment

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OneBook Essay Contest Prompt
Fall 2008

Choose an important theme or issue from The History of Love. Possibilities include connections, love, identity, authenticity, authorship, assimilation, discovery, language, memory, mapping, and so on. Develop a thesis that takes a position upon that issue or theme. Your thesis should go beyond "This is a theme in The History of Love" to assert a substantial claim about the text. A substantial claim is arguable, specific, and significant: "arguable" means that the claim is not obviously true; "specific" means that the claim uses precise and clear language, avoiding overgeneralizations; "significant" means that the claim passes the "so what" test by making the importance of the argument clear.

Your essay should support your thesis through references to specific passages from the text. Pay special attention to passages that will help you identify contradictions, tensions, and multiple perspectives in the novel. In addition to evidence from The History of Love, you should also use at least two outside sources to develop your theme. You are encouraged to attend campus-wide OneBook programming and to incorporate information from those events into your essays.

As an option, you may also build upon what you have learned from this work by considering your topic and its complexities in another context. For instance, you may consider one or more of the following:

  1. Does that topic clarify an experience you had in a group or social setting (religious, political, social, athletic, work-related, etc.)?
  2. Does that topic speak to a contemporary issue (political, social, ethical; local, national, or international)?
  3. Is it related to other readings or outside research you've conducted?
  4. Does it shed light on a family dynamic or a relationship that you have with a friend or family member?

For this assignment you must:

Sample thesis (topic: authorship):
When Leo Gursky finds Alma, his long-lost love, after more than five years of separation, she says to him, "You stopped writing. I thought you were dead" (13). Throughout the novel, writing plays a central role in the main characters' lives and identities. The act of writing and having their work read by others is key to the survival of these characters because it makes them "real" to themselves and to those they love.

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