Professor Jay Clayton
Fall, 1996 - MWF 9:10-10:00
Write on one of the following topics. Papers should be 4-5
pages in length and are due in class, Friday, September 20.
1. In Paul Auster's City of Glass, the narrator makes the following comment: "Since this story is based entirely on facts, the author feels it his duty not to overstep the bounds of the verifiable, to resist at all costs the perils of invention" (135). Write an essay on one of the four novels we have read discussing the status of factuality in the book. What thematic and formal benefits accrue from the novel's particular way of creating the illusion of actuality?
2. Another quote from Auster's City of Glass: "‘For
now, I am still Peter Stillman. That is not my real name. I cannot say
who I will be tomorrow. Each day is new, and each day I am born again'"
(26). Write an essay on one of the four novels we have read discussing
the question of identity in the book. Consider such issues as the
relationship between names and identity; the means of developing, changing,
or transforming identity; the social constraints on identity; the instability
or permanence of identity.
Write on one of the following topics. Please discuss books
from the second half of the semester (from Proulx to Ford). Papers
should be 5-6 pages in length and are due in class, Monday, December 9.
1. Discuss the use of style in two of the novels we have read. Does the use of language in these books reinforce explicit thematic issues? Or do some aspects of the style set up a counter perspective to the principal theme and thus create a second, alternative level of meaning in the text? In thinking about style, you may focus on imagery, rhythm, sentence structure, repetition, allusion, code-switching, or other forms of word play and language patterning.
2. Discuss the handling of time in two novels. Ask yourself the same kind of questions about the temporal scheme of the books as those about style in the first topic. In thinking about time, you may consider temporal gaps, flashbacks, flash forwards, decisions about pacing (does the narrative move slowly, minute-by-minute, or skim over long periods of time in a few sentences?), intermixing of different time periods, etc.
3. Discuss the cultural inscription of gender in two characters, one female, the other male. The characters may be in the same book or from two different books.
4. Discuss the relationship between racial identity and national
identity in two characters. The characters may be in the same book
or from two different books.
to Jay Clayton's Home Page Return
to English 234 - Syllabus
Return to Vanderbilt English Department Page Return to Vanderbilt University Main Page
last modified 9/22/96