Final Essay Guidelines, English 327-02

Final Essay Guidelines, English 327-02

Lisa M. Wilson, SUNY Potsdam

British Women Writers in the 1790s


  • Develop an essay that interprets a theme, historical trend, genre, or author's style and career by comparing several primary source works by authors we are reading in class. See topics below; choose one and develop a specific argument on the issue. Some of the topics allow you to compare several works by the same author; others allow you to compare works by all three authors (Wollstonecraft, Hays, Robinson) on a single issue. If you wish to write on a topic other than one of those below, please see me before beginning work.
  • To aid your interpretation, I expect you to include background research in at least one or two other sources in addition to those from class. These sources might include other literary works by the authors we're reading, historical texts from the time period, biographies, literary-critical essays and the like. Background readings are on reserve in the library.
  • Papers should be at least six pages long (around 1500-2000 words); most will be in the six to ten page range. Final drafts are due on 4/28.
  • Interim assignments: topic proposal (two pages) due 3/3 and first draft (at least four pages) due 4/14.
  • Use MLA format for heading, citations, bibliography. Please submit a print-out or copy of any additional sources used when you turn in your final draft.

Topics (W = Wollstonecraft; H = Hays, R = Robinson):

  • Ways the author's political beliefs are reflected in or contradict those in her fiction (W, H, OR R)
  • Ways elements of the author's personal life are woven into or transformed in her fiction (you might also consider ways such biographical details are commented on—accurately or not—by reviewers).
  • Compare the political beliefs found in writings by all three authors (W, H & R)
  • Compare the reception of their work by reviewers of all three writers (W, H & R)
  • Compare a single literary element in all three novels (Maria, Emma Courtney, Natural Daughter): such as character development, narrative methods, plot construction, settings.
  • Compare depictions of a particular social issue in all three novels (Maria, Emma Courtney, Natural Daughter) such as: women's education & reading; women's authorship; motherhood; female sexuality; same sex friendships (female-female or male-male); women's political and legal rights; effects of social expectations and stereotypes; love and marriage; imagination and sensibility.
  • Read an additional text by one of the writers and compare it to one of the texts we've read in class: Wollstonecraft's Mary or The Rights of Men; Hays's Victim of Prejudice; Robinson's Walsingham.