Writing Assignment: The Changing Genre of Romance

Background: After an introduction to writing, literature and poetry, we turned to the genre of romance, whose definition has morphed from chivalric romance (such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) through Gothic romance (as in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte) to modern romance (as represented by the short stories we have read). In “The History of Genre,” Ralph Cohen explains that genres are open categories, which change over time as new texts are added to the set. Genre set up expectations, which individual texts may satisfy or alter. Knowing the conventions of a genre aids readers in understanding and interpreting the work.

Goal: The purpose of the paper is to explore the relationships between individual works of literature and the changing genre of romance.

Your Task: Write a 4-6 page double-spaced essay in MLA format, exploring one or two pieces of romance, which may be works we have read in this unit or your own selections (as long I approve your choices). You may take one of these three approaches and your thesis should answer the following questions:

Genre as a Means of Interpretation: How does knowledge of genre aid readers in the interpretation of a work of literature? In other words, how does familiarity with the conventions of romance help readers understand the individual work that you have chosen? Make sure to address significant narrative elements, such as setting, characterization, plot, point of view, tone, symbolism, and so on. A thesis that fits this approach might go something like this: “Traditions of chivalric romance help readers understand the conflict of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight between the code of chivalry and the desire for self-preservation.”

How a Specific Text Altered Romance: How did a particular work, while continuing in the tradition of romance, alter the genre? To put it another way, how did that author change the conventions of romance? Be sure to discuss narrative elements, such as setting, characterization, plot, point of view, tone, symbolism, and so on. For example, you could write in your thesis, “Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote inverts the traditional hero tale by making the hero a fallible human, whose idealism is shipwrecked against the rocks of reality.”

The Changing Genre of Romance: How do the two works you have selected demonstrate continuity and change in the definition of romance? By which, I mean to say, how do the writers alter traditional conventions of romance to renovate the genre and surprise the reader? If you take this approach, you should analyse narrative elements, such as setting, characterization, plot, point of view, tone, symbolism, themes, and so on, to show what aspects connect the two texts and what elements have changed. For example, a thesis, which answers this task might present this argument: “Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Raymond Carver’s ‘What We Talk about When We Talk about Love’ share certain attributes which unite them in an ongoing tradition, but significant alterations in characterization and plot demonstrate the striking differences between Gothic romance and modern treatments of love.”

Introduction: Grab the reader’s attention with a catchy hook, then give some background to the themes you will be addressing, or give a brief narrative explaining your interest in a particular poem or lyrics. Then, introduce the author and the piece you have chosen, and present the thesis, which answers the central question in one of the approaches above and clearly states your central argument.

Body: In the body of the paper, open paragraphs with topic sentences that announce the topic and controlling idea (what you want to say about the topic) or present the topic and central question of the paragraph in a rhetorical question. A topic sentence could be “Bronte’s descriptions of Wuthering Heights give the estate the air of a haunted castle.” Paragraphs should explore narrative elements, like setting, characterization, plot, point of view, tone, symbolism, and should include historical facts, specific examples, summaries, paraphrases, and quotes to support the claim.

Conclusion: In the conclusion, summarize your main points, discuss how your reading of the work is different than typical readings, tell us who should care about your analysis and why, relate your reading of the poem to a broader cultural and literary context, suggest approaches to further study, or present thought-provoking questions that grow out of your argument.

Generation of Ideas (Freewriting and Discussion): Consider the following questions to produce ideas. Why did you choose this story or novel? What was your experience reading the work? How did it make you feel? What characteristics of the author’s use of language caught your attention? What narrative elements, such as setting, characterization, plot, point of view, tone, symbolism, stood out? What is the purpose or meaning of the story or novel?

What period of romance does the work come from? What other genres does the piece engage? (Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain” for instance, uses drama, western, adventure, and gay literature.) What expectations do the genres invoke? What conventions do you expect to find: settings, characters, plot, point of view, tone, symbolism, and so on? How does the work meet, frustrate, or alter a readers’ expectations?

What is the primary conflict? What themes does the author discuss? What social issues are invoked? How does the author use genre to discuss important social questions? How does the work help the reader to experience these issues from a new perspective? What can a reader learn by reading the work? How should the reader change her or his attitudes after reading the work? How does the genre create a unique perspective on the subject of love? What effect does the genre have on the readers’ perception and understanding of romance? What can we learn from this work about this particular genre that we could not gain from any other?

Basic requirements: The paper must

be 4-6 pages typed and double-spaced in MLA format (as described on the OWL at Purdue website).
get attention with a catchy title and introduction.
focus on a debatable thesis statement which answers the central question presented in the approaches above..
be organized by topic.
have topic sentences, giving topic and controlling idea (what you want to say about the topic).
draw attention to narrative elements, such as setting, characterization, plot, point of view, tone, symbolism, and so on.
include summaries, paraphrases and quotes from the text.
integrate research from scholarly sources (books from the library or an article from library databases).
help readers experience the work more richly.
include in-text citations and a works cited page in MLA format.
be clear, specific and detailed.
build sentences on concrete nouns (sentence focus) and employ active verbs.
be relatively free of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors
(Extra credit points) An exceptional paper will

encourage the reader to change attitudes or opinions.
give entirely new insights into the story or novel.
include extra research.
Due Dates:

First draft: Tuesday, March 26th
Revised paper: Thursday, March 28th

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