Motifs in Donna Tartt’s novel


For the first 2 sections explain any 2 of the following 3 concepts: negation, anguish, or bad faith (2 pages each). In the middle 2 sections elaborate 2 motifs in Donna Tartt’s novel (1.5 pages each).

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And in the last section write an opinion piece on which of this semester’s 4 authors you believe provided the most insightful ideas to you (1-2 pages). The essay adds up to 8-9 pages.

List of Authors:

1. Antonio Damasio: The Strange Order of Things, Pantheon

2. Chuang Tzu: The Book of Chuang Tzu, Penguin

3. Jean-Paul Sartre: Being and Nothingness, Washington Square Press

4. Donna Tartt: The Secret History, Vintage

What should you be doing for these questions?

1st: Make sure your answers are clear. It’s always vital to reread your own writing as if you were an outside reader, as if you didn’t know exactly what to expect from the author. In this way you can check to see if each thought clearly follows from the previous ones. In those cases where it is not obvious from an outside perspective, you all too likely wrote your material assuming that a particular step was obvious to you as the writer and thus saw no need to include it, when in fact from an outside view it needs to be stated. In short, proofread your papers for clarity of ideas and grammar in order to communicate effectively with your readership.

2nd: As you write, you should continually revisit the texts and movies (or your notes on the movies). This will ensure accuracy. Your grade drops significantly when you ascribe an argument or claim to an author which is in fact false. This is even more important than clarity! Another benefit of doing this is that it stimulates more writing. Sometimes students feel as though they have nothing to elaborate. This is because they’re not engaged with the text. If you repeatedly revisit the text, you will discover plenty of ideas and thoughts.

3rd: The first two criteria will help you to receive a passing grade. Those who receive A’s and B’s make inroads on the level of concepts and argumentation. Let’s take a look at argumentation. Be absolutely sure, for example, that you can describe the main reasons for the views presented by Sartre. When he argues that freedom presupposes anguish, for instance, you should be able to say why this is valid for him. If you can recognize his reasons for this, and elaborate them in your answers, that would prove quite helpful.

4th: What then of concepts? An excellent set of essay answers will elucidate how the major concepts of these writers are interrelated. In The Secret History, for instance, we find the motif of guilt elaborated. To truly comprehend what this implies, however, it is most helpful to think of it in its proper context, as opposed to isolating it apart from the other main ideas. In discussing it, then, show how its meaning is related to, say, the fatal flaw, repression, idealization, separation, tragedy, hypocrisy, group identity, the id, the ego ideal, the Dionysian, aggressive instincts, the desire to live forever, and so forth.

Mechanical features of the assignment:

Do not provide your personal opinions unless a particular exam section explicitly asks for you to do so.

The entire exam should be 8-9 pages. There is a decent chance, if your paper is closer to 7.5 or 9.5 pages, that your grade will suffer as a result.

MLA Format, Use double space, size Times New Roman 12 font, and one inch margins.

Extra spacing beyond the actual writing of your paper does not contribute to the required 8-9 pages. This includes spaces between paragraphs (some programs insert an extra space) as well as the space which often comes before or after the essay (e.g., the space taken up by your name, the course title, the date, etc.).

Quoting is a good idea, especially when you explain how the quotes are integrated within their respective contexts. But try not to quote too extensively: there should be less than 1.5 pages of total quoting.

Remember to cite your quotes. Simply put the author’s name and page reference in parentheses after the quote. If you are using electronic sources, be sure that they are of the type that you are able to cite pages.


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