To support your ideas, your primary evidence for your points must be the texts themselves. You should quote frequently. I expect that virtually every body paragraph will contain at least one quotation, and sometimes more. Generally, however, quotations are less effective in the introduction and conclusion.
As important as your sources are, remember that they do not make your case for you. They are evidence that you can use to support your points, but you still need to articulate those points clearly and make thoughtful connections between the evidence and your claims. The ratio of commentary to quotation is always key: too little textual evidence and your argument can become nebulous and hard to follow; too little commentary on a quotation and your essay becomes a collage and you disappear from it. To be valuable in your essay, quotations must always be mediated through your consciousness. In other words, you need to give your readers a reason to be glad that they are reading those quotations in your essay, rather than on their own.
Do not try to write an essay in which you deal with both fictional works and more than one value. That is too much to handle in an essay of this length and will result in an unfocused essay.
Once again, you will need a strong thesis, rigorous argumentation, and carefully chosen support. The paper may be either open- or closed-form, which means the thesis may appear either at the end of the introduction or near the beginning of the conclusion; literary essays lend themselves to an open-form approach, but either form can be effective.
Once you have identified the passages you wish to quote for support, you need both to set them up and comment on them so that they support the thesis. Your general approach should be to establish the point you are trying to make in the paragraph or the issue about which you are making a point — a point that supports the thesis— then introduce a quotation (and introduce means setting it up in a meaningful way, not just starting a paragraph with Calvino says), quote accurately, and then explain how the quotation supports the statement. You must both introduce the quotations and comment on them; as a result, you absolutely cannot either begin or end a paragraph with a quotation. Remember: the quotations cannot make your argument for you; you need to comment on everything you quote.
Your goal in this essay will be to weave together your observations of and ruminations on Calvino’s works into a coherent essay. To do that, you must quote at least three of the works we have read: Invisible Cities, If on a winter’s night a traveler, and one or more of the memos from Six Memos for the Next Millennium, but you have two options for how you approach this task:
Option 1: Use at least two of Calvino’s values (Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, Multiplicity) to help you write an interpretive essay on either Invisible Cities or If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. Your thesis should not name the individual values (though you may mention them in your introduction); a thesis that does that will tend to be superficial and resemble the dull and generic thesis statements common to five-paragraph essays. Instead, the thesis should focus on some theme of the book you are analyzing. The bulk of your analysis should consist of close reading of passages from that book supplemented by quotations from the memos that explain the values. Your goal is to use the values to help you analyze these two highly unusual works.
Option 2: Use both Invisible Cities and If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler to make an argument about how one of Calvino’s values manifests itself in his work, and what that value contributes to his style. In this case, your essay’s focus should be the particular value. Your thesis should address the value and need not mention the other two works. You will most likely need to quote the memo in which he explains that value frequently in the essay, juxtaposing what he says about it with passages from the other two books that you think exemplify aspects of that value. Try to balance your use of the two books: quoting one five times and the other twice is not a good approach.
In this essay, I will focus on how conscious intertextuality as well as the semiotics involved in unconscious intertextuality both dispute the idea that the meaning of a text belongs exclusively to its author’s intentions.
The conclusion of your paper either states and develops the thesis while connecting it to the claims you have made so far (open-form), or it briefly re-connects the thesis to the points the essay has made without repeating them fully, and ideally makes one further point (closed-form) to make the reader glad you didn’t end one paragraph earlier. Just as you should not quote in your first paragraph, you should also not be quoting and analyzing quotations in your conclusion.
A draft of your essay is due on 17 November. Before class, e-mail the document to me, and then show up to class with three hard-copies. Note that this should not be a first, rough, or partial draft, but one that is complete and as persuasive as you can make it. It must have an appropriate thesis, an introduction, and a conclusion. You must quote and cite the texts frequently for support and cite the quotations properly. The writing should be clear and grammatical. You will submit this essay to a group of your peers (and cc me on the e-mail), who will then write up extensive responses to your essay so that you can all discuss them on 22 November.
After receiving your peers’feedback, you will revise this essay and submit it to me by e-mail by Sunday, 26 November at midnight. Along with the essay, you will submit a reflection in which you discusss the substantive changes you have made as a result of the peer response process, your sense of what the essay does particularly well, and what aspects of the essay you think still need improvement. This reflection should be a separate, properly formatted document that you attach to the same e-mail to which you attach the essay itself. It should be well-written and properly paragraphed, but the style may be informal. It does not need a title.