On the last day of our class, you’ll have a chance to:
- Share your idea for your thesis with the rest of us;
- Invite questions about it; and then
- Ask questions you have about your plan at this point.
The first goal is to sharpen your thesis and your motive. Then, you can find out how they spark the curiosity and interest in your peers.
You’ll have ten minutes, total. You’ll present your idea in the first five minutes, where you will:
- Identify the central question that motivates your thesis (what do you want to figure out?);
- Describe the answer, as well as you know it (indicate the parts you don’t know, too, as you tell us what you want to figure out)
- Name the literary and theoretical textsthat seem most important to you now;
- Describe the critical conversation you hope to enter, and the research you think you’ll need to do.
It’s up to you how you spend your five minutes, but here’s what I’d do if I were you: Write an informal 1-2 pp. paper to read aloud in class. (When writing a paper to read aloud, assume that each page will take you two minutes to read.)
There is a standard form for conveying this kind of information about an argument. You may deviate from it, too, as you like.
- Begin with a sentence that names the interpretive question you ask in your final paper. You might do that with a rhetorical question (e.g., “What standards of value make Paul Beatty’s The Sellout legibleas black literature, and what standards make it legible as world literature—and how do those two standards fit together, or not?”). Alternatively, you might name a gap in existing knowledge, or a puzzle that you intend to solve (e.g., “There is a substantial body of literary criticism about the rhetorical logic of the second person, and that logic structures a wide variety of video games, but literary critics have yet to use those theories to read video games as texts.”)
- Then provide some context for the question, showing why readers beyond this class would find it interesting. Put it in the context of a wider debate among professional scholars. Name the ballroom you’re entering, and predict what you might say. (You may not know entirely what you want to say or even which room you’ll enter; that’s ok. Just tell us as much as you know, so we can help you think about it.)
- Cite a very brief example that illustrates how you analyze the textual evidence you have to support your thesis. This will have to be brief indeed, and you may need to work hard to keep your essay concise enough to keep your audience’s attention. The example will have to be well chosen as well, and your analysis will have to be to the point.
- Conclude by leaving your reader with the most intriguing idea you’ve discovered in your writing process so far. This might be a question that remains for you about the text—a question that you can’t answer, but that you think somebody should answer. Alternatively, it might be an observation that you think is genuinely revealing, or a quotation from the one of the texts that recasts your thesis in an interesting way. The goal of the conclusion is to engage with your audience in a moment of shared curiosity and intellectual work.
Also, think about what you want to know at this point. Try to use the class as a focus group for your thesis, to test what works and what doesn’t for your audience. We will be glad to help you.