Essay Assignment for ENG 444/544: American Literature from WWII to the Present

As explained in our course policies, a five page paper [1500 word minimum] will be due in the 10th week of classes--no later than Friday, March 19. While this paper is not intended to be a research project, you might help to establish a clear focus for your analysis by providing biographical information, relying on information found in author interviews and/or critical articles, or incorporating historical information from various sources. In other words, while this assignment is not intended to be a major research project, you do need to incorporate a few sources and to follow standard MLA documentation procedures. I will continue to provide source materials for the assigned readings through handouts, PDF articles, and links on our website.

The aim of the paper is to enact a close reading of one or more of the assigned texts by exploring a theme, formal concerns, social criticism, or other issues defined through our readings and discussions or through your additional reading. Just a little preliminary research [reading author interviews, a critical article or two, or brief author biographies] can help you to focus your address to a literary work and to present your discussion in the context of what others have said about it. In other words, source material [other than the work[s] that you are discussing] should be used to establish a frame for your analysis; the bulk of the essay should be your own close reading of the work[s] in support of your established thesis. We tried to model this kind of approach in our discussions of Death of a Salesman when we incorporated comments by Fuller, Raymond Williams, Arthur Miller and others into our responses to the play, sometimes agreeing with their views and sometimes contradicting them.

If you develop an interest in writing about a particular work or author, please discuss your approach with me so that I can help you to establish a workable approach and thesis.

Papers will be double-spaced, using Times New Roman 12 font and 1" margins on all 4 sides of the page. Use format paragraph to set a first line indent and to set the spacing before and after each paragraph to 0. Submit your paper to me by e-mail attachment:


Below, I list a few possible topics for assigned readings covered to date. Please realize that these are broad topics designed to provoke thought about the readings. Any one of them would have to be narrowed to a focus coincident with your interests and manageable in a five page paper. Please also note that these are merey "suggested' topics. That is, I present them to assist those of you looking for some guidance. Feel free to devise your own topics and to discuss them with me before beginning your paper. I will add additional topics as we cover additional authors and their works, so please periodicaly return to this site.

Here are a few suggested topics for

Death of a Salesman

The Glass Menagerie

Death of a Salesman AND The Glass Menagerie

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow

The Beat Poets