Lens Essay on two texts
Paper One is a lens essay, so-called to suggest how you analyze your main text through the “lens” (theory, ideas, etc.) provided by another text. In this case, the primary subject of your analysis will be one of the works of fiction we have studied thus far—The Prestige, “The Birthmark,” the Robert-Houdin excerpt, or any of the Millhauser stories. The lens will be a concept you take from one of the critical or theoretical texts we’ve read (Saler, Gell, Nardi, Schmidt, Barthes, or Nadis).
What does this entail? Your essay must do two things: 1) introduce and explain a theoretical concept form one of those secondary sources, and then 2) apply it to a primary text as you perform a close reading (i.e. a focused textual interpretation) of the primary text. For instance, you could use Schmidt’s discussion of enlightenment magic and superstition as a lens through which to examine “Eisenheim the Illusionist,” or Barthes’ theorization of objects in the modern city as a lens for “The Barnum Museum.” Possible permutations are myriad.
Formatting Requirements: 12 point font, TNR or Garamond, 1-inch margins, double spaced. Your name, the date, the course, all go on separate lines on the top left corner. Give your paper a descriptive and interesting title, centered. Indent each paragraph. Use parenthetical citations (MLA format) for quotes, and have a works cited page at the end. I won’t accept unstapled papers.
Content Requirements: In an introductory paragraph, you should briefly present the issue of your paper, the primary question you are investigating, and your main ideas (aka argument). A subsequent paragraph should be spent explaining the lens idea. Each body paragraph should contain one main idea, clearly developed. Textual evidence (both quotations and examples) is absolutely essential.
Your conclusion should give your reader a sense of what the “So what?” is—that is, why bother writing (or reading) this paper in the first place? What does it help us recognize, see, think, do, etc.
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