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Short assignments

a. Abstracts of three readings, one from each of three different sections of the course syllabus. Due in Class #3 (section II), Class #6 (section III), Class #10 (section IV).

b. Full detailed outlines of three readings (other than the ones above), one from each of three different sections of the course syllabus. Due in Class #3 (section II), Class #6 (section III), Class #10 (section IV).

c. Short one paragraph responses to reading. In preparation for class lectures and discussion, you will periodically be asked to prepare a brief response to a question or reading assignment. These will be collected in class and used for purposes of recording attendance. You are required to hand in these assignments personally. Throughout semester.

Paper assignment #1

Due in Class #5

In preparation for a fuller analysis and interpretation of The Human Stain, I would like you to write a short paper (no more than 5-6 double spaced pages) summarizing the plot and themes of Philip Roth's novel, The Human Stain.

The purpose of this assignment is to get you to finish reading the book so you can begin to think about how the story of Coleman Silk might illustrate more general phenomenon in the construction of identity and difference that we are reading and discussing in this course. After finishing your reading of the book, I would like you to

(a) summarize the plot (how the characters and events progress temporally to resolve some struggle or conflict), and

(b) develop an interpretation or analysis of what you believe Roth is suggesting about American society, identity, and difference. What argument might Roth be making about the nature of human identity?

We will read these papers for evidence that you have read Roth's novel, understood its plot and have taken some time to see how the story might be about human identity and difference, and have tried to connect with the literature we have been reading and discussing in class.

Grading Criteria (PDF)

Paper assignment #2

Please write a 6-8 page paper (not more than 8 pages maximum) using the theoretical perspectives developed thus far in this course. Indicate how each theoretical paradigm (strategy of explanation) would interpret and analyze the data presented below on crime rate in the U.S. from 1997-2001. In other words, describe how a pathological, structural, functional, labeling, or post-modern (post-structural or deconstructivist) theorist would read the data; what fact(s) does the chart depict; how would each theoretical paradigm explain or account for the data (facts); what questions would be asked or additional information (data) be sought in order to substantiate (or test) the interpretation. In your paper, please try to demonstrate the variations between these perspectives, as well as the common ground.

These data are taken from the U.S. Government Uniform Crime Reporting summary, Crime in the United States,, pages 10 and 15.

Your paper should refer to and incorporate examples and insights from your readings. You have two parallel "texts" for this course: the lectures and the readings. You should integrate them in your paper.

You may share your paper with classmates, obtain comments, criticisms and suggestions. If you think your paper has been substantially revised because of another person's help, then put a footnote saying so, thanking that person for their help with the paper, or some part of the paper. Notice that many scholarly articles and books begin with "acknowledgements" and expressions of appreciation for the insights and suggestions of earlier readers and critics.

Citations should conform to the format described in Cuba, A Short Guide to Writing About Social Science. Grammar and syntax should emulate the illustrations in Strunk and White, The Elements of Style. No papers will be accepted without page numbers and proper citation.

I will use the grading sheet with the following criteria for substance: understood the graphical representation of the crime data; integrated readings and lectures; differentiated among the basic theoretical paradigms; appropriately or imaginatively interpreted data within each paradigm.

Papers will be due in Class #7. If you will be unable to make this deadline, please speak with me before than.

Empirical Data and Grading Criteria (PDF)

Paper assignment #3

Second draft of paper. Having read and discussed (I hope) several hundred pages of social scientific research on identities, differences, and stigmas, it is time to incorporate some of what you have learned into your paper on The Human Stain. I would like you to write a paper arguing that

(1) identity is a product of social interaction, highly contested, and subject to repeated construction over the life course, or

(2) that individual human identity is given to each individual and can be changed not at all or only with enormous effort.

You are to use the readings assigned for this course, plus the lecture materials to support your argument. You are to use the characters (one or more, not necessarily all) and the plot of The Human Stain by Philip Roth to demonstrate and elaborate the elements of your argument. In other words, I would like you to produce an interpretation of Roth's novel.

If you have a strong alternative interpretation that you wish to put forth in your paper, we will consider that, but in order to persuade us that you should write your paper with another theme other than the constitution of identity and difference, you will have to submit a paragraph with the argument laid out. Whichever approach you adopt--pursuing the questions in paragraph one above or another interpretation, please understand that not just any interpretation that could be sustained by a close reading of the book, or necessarily an interpretation that might be appropriate in class on literary criticism will be acceptable. I specifically want you to interpret Roth's novel from the perspective of the construction and contests concerning human identity and differences.

This second draft should be between 10 and 15 pages; the final paper will be no less than 15 pages. The final paper will be due in Class #13. This second draft should be submitted in Class #9.

I have selected these hints in response to problems we identified in earlier papers. I hope they are helpful.

Final paper

See assignment due in Class #9 for description of paper topics.

I have been asked by some students for the dimensions and requirements for the final paper. I expect the final paper to be another revision of the paper on The Human Stain. I expect you to respond to the individual and general comments we have provided on the previous drafts and to elaborate and extend the argument to provide detail and nuance to your argument. I do not expect a new paper but a better paper. All writing involves rewriting. Rewriting can be major reorganization to make a better presentation for the current theme, rethinking the argument entirely, or merely adding more elaboration and nuance to an already fine paper. What more could you say to persuade your reader?

These papers are due in Class #13.