Junior Paper Guidelines
Comparative literature majors write two junior papers. We designed the two papers to help students analyze texts and develop their critical abilities. The first JP is aimed at assisting students to express themselves clearly in analyzing a specific literary text in a language other than English. The second JP is aimed at developing students’ abilities to address larger critical issues as these apply to literary texts. While these aims are not mutually exclusive, they do suggest something about the differing natures of the two Junior Papers. Although the word counts given below are not absolute, please be aware that going longer or shorter by several pages is not rewarded and can even be penalized.
Writing assistance. Please remember that additional guidance on writing can and should be obtained at the Writing Center. All students are strongly advised to read carefully Writing a JP: The Handbook, from the Princeton Writing Program. This guide offers helpful advice on some of the most important elements that advisers consider when evaluating a finished junior paper: the importance, interest, and appropriateness of the question or problem addressed, the reasoning and evidence presented in support of the thesis, and the writing style.
Advisors. Each student entering the Department should discuss his or her areas of interest with the Director of Undergraduate Studies no later than the end of the spring of sophomore year in order to form a preliminary judgment as to the suitability of a supervisor for the first and second junior papers. Please be aware that you may not have the same advisor for both the fall and spring junior papers, although one may again serve as your senior thesis advisor. Either in May of that year or early the following fall, the Director of Undergraduate Studies will assign to each student a supervisor. Once this decision as to an adviser becomes final, it is the responsibility of the student to see the supervisor as soon as practicable in order to discuss possible Junior Paper topics. The student and the supervisor have mutual responsibility, if not for regularly scheduled, then at least for fairly frequent consultation. This might be loosely defined as two or three consultations per paper, although any attempt at strict definition in this area is difficult. Because a Junior Paper is independent work, the function of the adviser is to guide research, not to control or to edit it. While an adviser may be relied upon for help in improving the presentation overall, or in identifying broad or recurrent problems of writing or composition, the adviser's function is not that of a line-by-line copy editor. just as it is the adviser's responsibility to be regularly available to students during office hours, it is the student's responsibility to respect the office hours posted by each faculty member and to keep appointments.
First Junior Paper. Approximately 3,000 words in length (about ten to twelve double-spaced pages), the first paper should concentrate on textual analysis, and should involve at least one text that is written in a language other than English. Exercises that would be appropriate include the following:
• An explication of a shorter text or of a portion of a longer text (e.g., a single lyric poem, an act or scene from a play, a passage from a novel or narrative poem).
• A study of two absolutely related works, where one is an imitation of another (e.g., a Wyatt version of a Petrarch sonnet, Yeats's version of Ronsard's sonnet to Hélène, Angela Carter's rewriting of a Grimm fairy tale, Maryse Condé’s revision of Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Mark Donford-May’s South African film of Bizet’s Carmen)
• Examination of the more general presence of an earlier work in a later one (e.g., the Vergilian resonances in Shakespeare's The Tempest, Christa Wolf's revisions of Homer or Aeschylus in Kassandra).
• Consideration of the relationship between a author’s description of his practice and that practice itself (e.g., Horace's Ars Poetica and one satire or epistle; Schiller's "On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry" and one of his poems; Corneille's "Of the Three Unities "and one of his plays; Soyinka’s “Drama and the African World View” and Death and the King’s Horsemen).
Second Junior Paper. Approximately 8,000 words in length (about thirty double-spaced pages), the second paper should concentrate on larger critical issues, and may well serve as an early examination of the student's eventual Senior Thesis topic, or at least of its area of interest. While the many possibilities for this paper defy description, the sort of endeavor that seems appropriate may be gleaned from the following:
• Thematics, not merely the tracing of a literary idea or trope through several works, but the analysis of differences that distinguish varying uses of similar literary materials (such as Classical catalogues [e.g., Iliad II] and Romantic collections of junk [e.g., Balzac's Maison Vauquer, the contents of Félicité's room in "Un coeur simple"] or Pilgrim’s Progress and journeys in Igbo and Yoruba novels).
• Genre, addressing a problem or issue regarding a particular genre (e.g., the pastoral tradition in the European renaissance as reflected in Spenser or Sidney).
• Poetics, addressing the relationship between generic and structural principles of criticism as these may be applied to one or two authors (e.g., Samuel Beckett's response to Romantic theories of inspiration).
• Critical: an extended exercise in which the student chooses a critic and analyzes a text using his/her methodology (e.g., Wolfgang Iser's description of the act of reading applied to a prose poem of Baudelaire; eco-criticism of Zakes Mda’s novels).
• Theoretical: examining a text through the lens of a particular theory, such as psychoanalytic, feminist, postcolonial, formalist, queer (e.g., a cultural studies critique of El otoño del patriarca]).
• Periodization, addressing a problem or issue in a particular period (e.g., the definition of medieval and renaissance attitudes as these are found to be reflected in a major work of the fourteenth century, such as the Decameron).
Calendar of Junior Independent Work
All work is due by no later than 3:00 pm of the specified date by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org as Word documents. Do NOT submit completed independent work directly to your adviser(s).
Penalties and Extensions. Any independent work received after the deadline will be subject to a grade reduction of 3 points per day on a scale of 100 (approximately one step on the letter-grade scale, e.g. from B+ to B). Papers cannot be failed for being late, however, so the grade reducation will stop right before a failing grade. If a junior paper is not submitted, the student will receive a failing grade for the paper and for the junior year independent work, regardless of the grade on the other junior paper. Petitions for extensions for medical reasons must include letters from a doctor or dean and be received by the Director of Undergraduate Studies at least seven days prior to the deadline in question. As independent work must be paced over the course of the entire academic year, petitions for extensions will normally not be deemed admissible in the final week before a deadline. The reasons for these rules are simple:(1) lateness is unfair to other students who, perhaps at the risk of a less-than-perfect job, hand their work in on time, and (2) extensions ultimately handicap the individuals involved since they hamper preparations for comprehensives and final examinations. One of the requirements of the Princeton degree is that students develop critical study and life skills, such as working independently, managing competing obligations, and completing work in a timely fashion.