CMLIT 102W Second Essay Instructions


Second Essay Instructions

Regardless of which option you choose, you will need to support your argument with textual evidence and engage with a literary critic who has written about the topic in Sula, by anticipating objections to your argument and defend them AND by critiquing the critic’s argument.  Your essay should be 4-6 pages, double-spaced, with a Works Cited page and in-text citations.


- Introduction to topic and text: 1-2 paragraphs.

I would suggest leading into your topic with a close reading of a block quote. Make the novel's setting, date of publication, author, and plot clear, in a few sentences. State your argument.

-Support of argument and literary engagement: 3-4 paragraphs

Support your argument through an analysis of at least 2 scenes, passages, or characters from the novel while anticipating objections that can be made to your argument and defending them. Agree or disagree with a critic who has written about the same topic. See Course Materials for relevant articles. If you have chosen to write about topic 1 (black men), you should engage with the Mayberry article; if you have chosen topic 2, engage with the Moore article; if you have chosen topic 3 (female sexuality), engage with “Sula as New World Woman;” topic 4, Barbara Smith’s “Towards a Black Feminist Criticism” (Pay close attention to Smith’s reading of Sula).

Counterargument (1-2 paragraphs): an argument against a view that runs counter to or conflicts with your own interpretation of the novel. Should include a concession (acknowledgement of the validity of some aspect of the opposing argument). You will want to consider what faulty assumptions have been made, what evidence has been overlooked, and if there have been any misreadings of the novel. In your counterargument, you could address the authors of the articles on Sula posted in Course Materials if you disagree with them. However, if you agree with the author of the article in Course Materials that addresses your topic, you then need to reference a critic mentioned in that article whom the author is positioning his or her argument against.

Example: Say you are arguing thesis statement 1 for topic 1. You would then need to consider why someone might read the novel this way:

"Sula is a feminist novel, in that it credits women with often unacknowledged strength and agency, but far from pointing a finger at the black men in the novel it actually elevates them as bearing the brunt of American racism." This argument corresponds to what Mayberry has written in "Something Other Than a Family Quarren: The Beautiful Black Boys in Sula/"

Sample counterargument: "While Morrison clearly has sympathy for PTSD survivors like Shadrack,making him Sula's male counterpart, her sympathy for black women is far greater. Mayberry overlooks how, in the three heterosexual couples in Sula, the women exhibit acts of strength and resistence while the men are either absent or behave in self-serving ways. Consider Eva Peace's decision cuts off her leg to support her family after BoyBoys' abandonment, Helene Wright's determination to leave behind the brothel in New Orleans in which she was raised, and her daughter Nel's survival of her husband's and best friend's betrayal. The reader has a hard time empathizing with their male partners, who are indifferent to their plight."

However, if you agree with Mayberry, then you would position your counterargument against Stephanie Demetrakopolos, who is referenced in Mayberry's article (519) as interpreting Morrison's writing of men as unheroic and cowardly.

Conclusion (1 paragraph)-

Here you will want to return to the symbolic image or quote with which you began your essay, restate your thesis, and consider the implications of your argument, not only for reading Morrison's novel but also for understanding the topic in our contemporary present.

Sample: Say you began your essay with a quote from Zora Neale Hurston's essay that black women are "da mules of the world."

By reminding us of the truth of Hurston's statement-- that black women bear a far greater burden than black men do, owing to systemic racism and sexism within and outside of their communities-- Sula can be considered a black feminist text. While acknowledging the toll of racism on black male psyche, it does not allow black men off the hook for their mistreatment of black women, or their expectation that black women exist only to soothe and prop up their wounded egos. By drawing attention to black women's double burden, Sula is relevant to discourses of racism in our contemporary present, which too often center on black male experiences.

GUIDELINES FOR ESSAYS- see sample literary essay in Course Materials

  1. All papers must include a proper heading and a title. The heading can be double spaced. The title of your essay should not be underlined, and the titles of the books you are writing about should be referenced.
  2. Titles of novels should be italicized, while titles of essays should be enclosed in quotation marks.
  3. Sources should be cited within the body of your paper with the author’s last name, if necessary, and the page number in parentheses (Lewis 56). If the author’s last name is already mentioned in the body of your paper, you do not need to include it in parentheses.
  4. The entire essay should be double spaced, without any extra spaces added in between paragraphs.
  5. Quotes that exceed three lines should be single-spaced and centered. If you want to omit words, you can use ellipses..... To indicate that you are omitting a sentence, use this: [...]
  6. Paragraphs should be indented.
  7. The last page of your essay should include a Works Cited page. It is not included as part of the page count.
  8. Entries on the Works Cited page should be alphabetized by the first letter of the last name. Entries should not need to be numbered or introduced by bullet points. The second line of each entry should be indented.
  9. All pages of your essay should be numbered, and your last name should be included in the heading.
  10. Use the present tense when describing the plot of the novel in your essay.