The critical essay, due the last week of class and submitted within the last lesson in the **CONTENT*** folder, will be your most important assignment for this course. It will be available for submission from the beginning of Monday until the end of Thursday during the final week of class. A lecture providing advice for writing critical essays in general is included here:


The critical essay, to be submitted as a double-spaced Word-compatible file through Blackboard via SAFEASSIGN, should be between 2000 and 4000 words in length. It should be in the form of a well-written essay, with a clearly stated thesis and a convincing argument in favor of that thesis. References to outside sources, supporting your argument and demonstrating your research, should be included. MLA style is recommended, but any style is acceptable as long as it is consistent throughout the essay and contains sufficient information to identify the outside source. Pay close attention to this rubric and make sure that your essay meets the criteria that are spelled out in the rubric.


In addition, note that the essay will be graded according to the following rubric:

Opening paragraph clearly states a thesis for the essay: 8 pts.

Essay shows signs of supporting research: 8 pts.

Essay is well-written and uses proper grammar: 8 pts.

Proper use of evidence in the argument: 8 pts.

Argument is rhetorically effective and convincing: 8 pts.


The following suggested topics are intended to give students an idea of the kinds of topics that are likely to make successful critical essays. These topics my be used directly, or they simply may be used as guidance for students who wish to develop their own topics. Regardless of your topic, be sure to develop a specific thesis that expresses your point of view on the topic. Also, be sure that the essay addresses a topic that is relevant to the material covered in this course. This focus might be best achieved by writing on texts that are covered in the syllabus, though it is acceptable to address relevant texts that are not on the syllabus.

  • Discuss the ways in which The Crying of Lot 49 and Vineland work together to present an historical view of the 1960s oppositional political movements.
  • Choose any of the novels we have studied this semester outside the course unit on postmodernism and discuss the ways in which this text can also be identified as an example of postmodernism.
  • Compare and contrast the ways in which Beloved and The Underground Railroad provide new insights into the phenomenon of American slavery.
  • Compare and contrast the representation of gender in at least two novels we have studied this semester.
  • Discuss the ways in which at least two novels we have studied this semester draw upon popular culture as material for their own construction.
  • Discuss the ways in which at least two novels we have studied this semester draw upon previous literary texts as material for their own construction.