Workshop Sample: John Boyd

John Boyd | English 101

Third Writing Project

The Assignment:

In her “Foreword” to The Bluest Eye, Morrison poses some questions that motivated her in writing the novel, and she also expresses concern about how successful she was in portraying the devastating events that occur in Pecola’s life. For our third writing project, I’d like you to use Morrison’s reflection as a framework for understanding and coming to terms with the novel. Here’s the task:


Choose one of the passages below from Morrison’s Foreword (or another passage that seems important to you), and use that as a starting place for an essay about the novel. In the passage you choose, what problem or question does Morrison raise for herself as an author, and how does she work through that problem or question in the characters and events of the novel?


Some passages you might consider:


When I began writing The Bluest Eye, I was interested in something else. Not resistance to the contempt of others, ways to deflect it, but the far more tragic and disabling consequences of accepting rejection as legitimate, as self-evident. (ix)


The reclamation of racial beauty in the sixties stirred [my] thoughts, made me think about the necessity for the claim. Why, although reviled by others, could this beauty not be taken for granted within the community? Why did it need wide public articulation to exist? (xi)


One problem was centering the weight of the novel’s inquiry on so delicate and vulnerable a character could smash her and lead readers into the comfort of pitying her rather than into an interrogation of themselves for the smashing. (xii)


In your approach to this assignment, keep in mind the conventions of literary analysis that we’ve discussed in class. Your own argument should be driven by an observation about Morrison’s project in writing the novel, and you should draw carefully and explicitly from the text of the novel to develop your perspective.


The completed essay should be 4-5 pages in length, double-spaced, and written in a standard font (Iike Times New Roman or Cambria, 12 point), with standard page margins (1 inch or 1.25 inch). Please use MLA style documentation for this essay. Although you will only be making use of two sources – the Foreword and the novel itself – you should still include a Works Cited page with entries for each source. For a guide to MLA format, you can refer to any good writing handbook (like Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference) or you can use the free resources at the following web site:


The Process:

* One effective way to begin work on this assignment would be to reflect on our class discussions and blog entries concerning the novel so far. As you choose the passage you’d like to work with, you might also consider how some of the key words and concepts from Rewriting might apply to Morrison’s perspective on her own novel.

* An initial rough draft (at least 2 pages) is DUE and should be posted to your blog by Wednesday, November 14, at 5:00pm.

* For class on Thursday, November 15, please bring three printed copies of your draft. We’ll spend the class session reviewing the drafts together.

* The final draft of the essay will be DUE to me on Monday, November 19th, by 5:00pm. Final drafts should be emailed to me at Attach your draft as a Word document titled Yourlastname_Essay 3.doc.




You’ll receive detailed feedback from me on your completed essay, and by the end of the semester, you may choose to return to this assignment for further revision as part of your final portfolio. In evaluating your essay, I’ll consider four factors:


Development of thesis: Your third essay should be driven by an observation or perspective that adds something to what Morrison offers in her Foreword. How is your understanding of the novel changed by the concerns she brings up there?


Careful, close reading of the novel and use of the text: Your essay should focus on specific details and passages from the novel as a means of supporting your thesis. This will require that you quote from the novel and that you follow up on quotations with interpretation and discussion of your own.


Sophistication of thinking: Above all, your essay should show that you are working with Morrison’s text in a thoughtful and critical way. Your own discussion should move beyond a summary of the novel to a discussion of how the novel addresses the problems Morrison raises in the Foreword.


Effective presentation: Your final draft should demonstrate a purposeful and deliberate use of language, a logical organizational plan, and an understanding of the standard conventions of English grammar, usage, and mechanics.




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