Posted: December 20th, 2015
Pick a passage from “Pottermania” (I’ve included this text) that contains an interpretive problem (a tension, an ambiguity, a complicated idea, or a site of possible misunderstanding in the text) you wish to explore. The passage can be as short as a single paragraph and should not be longer than a single page. Make a claim about how the writer’s choices of language and form affect the argument. Your analysis should stay close to the text (and may draw upon the entire text to support your analysis of the passage). Your reader should then be able to understand the text in a deeper way.
Identify an interpretive problem that is worth addressing, using a passage that will reward close reading.
Formulate a claim that leads your reader compellingly to an understanding of your project and is not obvious.
Establish a motive for the essay in your introduction. Here you will answer the “so what”? question, suggesting why your essay is important and interesting to an intelligent reader. Draw out the implications of your project in your conclusion.
Structure the essay around your central claim, making sure that each paragraph is adding an essential piece to your project.
Use evidence persuasively, quoting from the text when necessary, summarizing or paraphrasing accurately and responsibly when appropriate. Do not provide evidence from other sources or make general assertions (e.g. claims about “human nature”).
In other words, just use “Pottermania”.
I’ve included a model essay – it attained the highest standard – as a point of reference. This essay encapsulated and adhered to all the requirements of this assignment. If you could look that through, it would give you a better idea of how to approach this assignment.
I’ve also included a handout to explain what an interpretive problem is. This term is coined by our writing department at Columbia and I think nobody ever uses this.
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