HUM/COM 205: Assignment #2, due on Thursday
The challenge of the second paper (5 pp.) is to discuss a single work as whole but without losing the close attention to particular passages and details that you demonstrated in the first paper. In other words, the first essay was to show how a whole is made out of parts (passages, episodes); this essay is to show that several parts (passages, episodes) of a work may go together to make a thematic whole--a series of variations on an important theme in the work. It is worth looking to see if your series of passages can "add up" to a more complex idea than is present in any single one of these elements.
You may write on the Iliad or Odyssey or a play by Sophocles. (You may take up the "saga" of Samuel, Saul, and David if you did not write about it for the first paper.) What we are looking for is a statement of a major theme of the work that at the same time shows how this theme is produced by a series of specific textual effects.
Defining the theme is the first task: it should not be obvious or banal: i.e. not "gift exchange" in the Iliad, but women, weapons, or words as things significantly exchanged in the poem. Again, not "return" or "hopsitality" in the Odyssey, but Telemachus' (or someone other than Odysseus') "return," or the suitors as "hosts" in the epic.
Once again, a good place to begin is to define what in a text struck you initially as puzzling, as epitomizing the goals of the work, as being a turning point, etc.) Re-read (or at least review) the whole work with your eye out for variations of your theme. To find the thesis of your paper you should make clear to yourself what the book you choose does that no other book you have read quite does, and set about defining that something as clearly as possible and pointing out how it is created through actual words and apssages in the work. Your finished essay then should be along the lines of "The theme of X in Y," though it is hoped that as you flesh out your ideas you need not be mechanical about it.