You’ll learn more about some approaches to generating topics on page 1912-1914

You’ll learn more about some approaches to generating topics on page 1912-1914

You'll learn more about some approaches to generating topics on page 1912-1914

From your reading, you’ll learn more about some approaches to generating topics on page 1912-1914.

Here is a summation of several approaches:

1. Write one of three character-focused approaches:

  • An exploration of a character’s worldview and its consequences.
  • An exploration of a character’s development from beginning to end.
  • An exploration of the nature and significance of a conflict between two or more characters.

2. Analyze your initial response (which you did in a response discussion) think through the elements, (which you did in your analysis prewriting), and finally, pose motive questions, like

  • What element(s) or aspect(s) of this work might a casual reader misinterpret?
  • What interesting paradox(es), contradiction(s), or tension(s) do you see in the text?
  • What seemingly minor, insignificant, easily ignored elements or aspect(s) of this text might in fact have major significance?

3. Use research to generate, refine, or test a thesis (described in your text on 1892-1897). Remember, you are not writing a full research essay! Instead, use research to refine or test a thesis or to develop a thesis from biographical material or a topic of a critical essay (which you credit in your paper).

4. Another approach (not found in your text) is to begin with a topic raised by the story—love, growing up, loneliness, or gender roles, for example. Sometimes these topics can come directly from critical theory—race, class, historical, or environmental issues, for example. Then consider what the story says about the topic (which can be considered a theme or sub-theme). In this approach, you next identify subtopics that have to do with the theme you’ve discovered.

For example, a theme like “Difficult war experiences isolate soldiers upon homecoming might have subtopics like war’s effect on intimate relationships, effect on friend/family relationships, effect on a soldier’s physical health, effect on psychological health (this might have subtopics within it). Ideas like these can become the paragraph topics, just as, in your prewriting discussion, ideas like symbolism, setting, or characters became topics. In fact, the two approaches are often blended. For example, a paragraph describing the psychological effects of war might use evidence explaining the story’s symbols pertinent to war.


The assertions you develop as answers to any of the above approaches are your working thesis.

Examples from some the topic areas above (more found in your text):

  • The consequences of X’s miserly behavior are extreme to reinforce a simplistic moral.
  • X’s development in the story is so minimal that he may be characterized as a flat character.
  • Overcoming the strained communication between X & Y is the true resolution in this story, not the characters’ homecoming.
  • Not understanding the full nature of a maid in Elizabethan English could cause readers to misunderstand the conflict in X.

More discussion of arguable thesis statements and their supporting claims and paragraph development is found in your text reading.

To meet the learning objectives for this topic, you will complete these activities. Print this page and use it as a checklist.

  • Review the Introduction and Objectives page.
  • Read the Assignment: Fiction Essay page.
  • Read selections from the textbook, Chapters 27-30, in the Writing About Literature section, pages 1890-1906.
  • Research using the Lib Guide found in the file Research using the Sinclair Library & MLA Guidelines found in the Course Directions folder.
  • Complete all activities on the Learning Activities page.
  • Submit your Fiction Essay to the dropbox.
Read in your textbook

Read from text chapters, in the Writing About Literature section, pages 1890-1906.

All of chapters 27-32 may be useful to your writing process. From the above assigned reading of chapters 28-30, read selectively based on your prior knowledge of headings covered. All students should closely read ideas related to topics, thesis statements, and claims, found on pages 1892 and beyond. This section contains most of the things teachers write on finished essays as critiques while grading.

Because you will incorporate some sources into your essay (though it will not be a full research-based essay), consider how sources can help you with your essay development on pages 1923-1933.


Now you’ve learned a bit about critical theory and explored what critical tools you like to bring to bear on literature, you’re ready to develop an essay. The distinction between essay and paper hinges on thesis development. Your thesis is interpretive argument you’re applying to your chosen text.

While your response discussion may have had an idea that ran through several paragraphs or perhaps nothing resembling a thesis, response discussions are primarily analysis, breaking a work down into all the elements of fiction to look at your story systematically and thoroughly. Whether your response was just prewriting (which really means pre-thinking) or a basis for portions of your essay depends on the thesis you chose to write about at its end (or the new thesis idea you choose now).
Now, you’ll consider your paper prewriting and source materials to discover or refine what you want to say about the work overall, supporting your thoughts with evidence from the story and sources.


After completing the learning activities for this topic, you will be able to:

  • develop an arguable thesis over a chosen work of fiction.
  • choose relevant sources.
  • document an essay using MLA format, in-texts, and Works Cited page.

Here is the a sample of a final essay on “Good Country People”–the earlier prewriting revised into a thesis-driven essay with source use. You can see in the text that several sentences from the prewriting were used. Your own prewriting, depending on the thesis you develop, may be a good draft for your essay or only prewriting/pre-thinking for a very different paper. See MLA manuscript format guidelines in the Course Directions folder.

Your text has fiction essay sample based on Raymond Carver’s Cathedral beginning on page 49. This sample does not have source use, but has junctures where source use would have been possible, perhaps theory related to depression or alcoholism, biographical criticism related to Carver’s own alcoholism, or using literary criticism related to Raymond Carver’s depressive, alcoholic characters generally.

Notes about Research:

All of the approaches above can be augmented with source material (you are not writing a full source-based essay). Approaches 1-3 could use literary scholarship and theoretical (from elements of critical theory), historical, or biographical sources. Approach 4 is also particularly suited to applied non-literary theory, like looking up the psychological stages of grief to apply to a character. You must use at least one source per essay and at least four sources overall for your finished anthology project, so it’s good to try to incorporate at least two sources per essay as you go.

Even if you wrote in your Weebly introduction that you appreciate a feminist approach to works, you might not find a feminist criticism for the work you’ve selected, which is fine. You can take a feminist approach to discovering your thesis while incorporating available biographical or other research, or through applying a feminist critic’s theory (researching and applying the theory itself as one of your sources). Your literary theory preferences do not have to relate to the essay, however.



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