Compare attitudes about spirituality in the works of Flannery O’Connor and another writer of American Literature since 1900.

Literary Interpretation Paper  



Write a paper in which you engage in a thorough interpretation of a theme, idea or key social issue as presented by one of the texts read in our course. Or you may choose to compare how two texts by the same author treat the same theme/issue.


Here are few possible examples of themes/issues you could investigate:




    • Compare attitudes about spirituality in the works of Flannery O’Connor and another writer of American Literature since 1900 (this other writer does not have to be one of those covered within our course).
    • Compare attitudes about the role of race in individual identity as discussed in the works of two writers we’ve read (such as Hughes, Cullen, Baldwin, etc).
    • Compare how sexuality influences identity/self-perception in at least 2 works that we’ve read (Baldwin, Ginsberg, possibly Cather, etc).
    • Interpret attitudes about sexuality, human nature, or relationship to the Divine in the works of Allen Ginsberg and/or another Beat poet.
    • Compare authorial methods for making explicit social commentary via at least 2 short stories by different authors we’ve read.
    • Interpret attitudes about death, mortality, and/or relationship to the Divine in at least 2 texts by an author we’ve read.
    • Interpret attitudes about religion and/or death in the works of Robert Frost.
    • Compare the poetic styles and major themes of 2 poets we’ve read whose styles/ideas can be seen as connected.
    • Compare the portrayal of war’s effects in at least 2 works by authors we’ve read.
    • Interpret The Zoo Story as intending to portray a specific social critique. You may connect/compare this to another text if so desired.
    • Develop an interpretation of Beloved as making a modern-day critique about the effects of historical trauma
    • Compare the ideas about family in at least 2 works by authors we’ve read.
    • Compare the discussion of “the minority experience” in at least 2 texts that we’ve read.
    • Compare how social identity affects self-perception in at least 2 texts we’ve read.
    • Compare views on human nature in at least 2 works by authors we’ve read.


You may choose to create your own thematic focus, but to do so you MUST submit your intended topic by the date indicated receive my approval of your topic.


In this paper, you must use at least 3 secondary research sources (beyond the literary text you’re analyzing) to help build the case for your interpretation. Your research sources need to be useful, intelligent sources that fully meet the requirements of “legitimate academic sources.” In addition to this, of course, you must engage in significant close textual analysis of your chosen text.


The key to this assignment is developing an original thesis statement regarding your interpretation of a text. Then use your own textual analysis as well as research (i.e. literary criticism) to investigate & ultimately “prove” your thesis.




Key Requirements:


  • The text of the essay itself must be at least 5 pages in length, double spaced, using a standard font size (Times New Roman 12), and 1 inch margins.
  • In addition to the minimum of 5 pages, a title page and a Works Cited page should be included.
  • The Interpretation Paper should be cited via MLA format, including in-text citations and a Works Cited Page (not included in the 5 page minimum). You will not earn a passing grade on this paper if your paper does not include research cited in MLA format.
  •  Proper grammar, spelling, punctuation, phrasing, paragraph structure, and essay structure are expected and weigh enormously in the grading of your paper. In other words, if your paper is not well-written, you should not expect a passing grade.
  • If ANY part of your paper is plagiarized, you will automatically fail the course. PLEASE do not make this mistake. There are no second chances or “do-overs” with this issue.
  • If you don’t earn a passing grade (60% or above) on this paper, you can’t earn a grade higher than a “D” in our course.


For more information on how to write a proper paper that uses research, please review the lessons on essay structure, thesis statements, use of research, incorporation of quotes, legitimacy of online sources, use of academic databases, and MLA format available on our course website.


The Writing Process:


For this paper, the writing process consists of 3 key steps:


1) You must submit a Paper Topic Paragraph in the “Assignments” section of the course by the date indicated in the syllabus. This simply consists of a paragraph in which you explain your intended focus for your paper. Your instructor will provide feedback on your proposed topic. This paragraph is not intended to be a part of your actual paper; it’s simply a paragraph explaining your intended topic so that your instructor can provide useful feedback.


2) You are encouraged to submit the Optional 1st Draft in the “Assignments” section of the courseby the date indicated in the syllabus. For this to be useful, it is necessary that you include research that is properly cited. Without such inclusion, it will be difficult for your instructor to provide meaningful feedback.


3) The final draft of the Literary Interpretation Paper must be submitted in the “Assignments” section of the course by the date indicated in the syllabus. NO LATE PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED.


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