Essay Two: Writing about a Work in its Historical, Intellectual,
and Cultural Context
The purpose of this assignment is to closely read the writing for the historical, intellectual, and
cultural significance and come to a conclusion about said work that would not be possible
without the contextual research and understanding. Explore these lenses in one or two works off
our reading schedule for this unit.
Students will need to cultivate a working relationship with a librarian who can help with
conducting research and evaluating sources.
Possible Topics to Consider:
To be used or merely considered as guidelines as you devise your own essay topic. (You get to
choose your own subject and topic – however, please check with me before you start writing.)
● Explore the similarities and differences in the way war is dealt with or managed by the
many male characters in O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” This prompt suggests a
● Papers must be 5-6 pages. Papers that are not at least 5 FULL pages will not receive a
grade higher than a “C.” Do not write more than 6 pages because I won’t read it.
● MLA guidelines strictly followed – including a Works Cited page and an academic title.
● Essays should be written in 3rd person.
● The student must use at least two outside sources in the essay (book, magazine,
newspaper, journal article, scholarly article, documentary, etc.). No more than four total
outside sources allowed. The outside sources must come from our library or library
database (that’s right – no Googling).
● The student must use at least 2 direct quotations and at least 2 paraphrases in the essay.
There is no maximum for source integration.
● Grammatical errors and typos will adversely affect the student’s grade (please proofread
carefully and go to the Writing Center!).
● Underline your thesis statement in the final essay draft.
Things I will be looking for:
● Clear organizational pattern followed
● Argumentative thesis statement
● Expert integration of outside source(s) and short stories or poems
● Perfect Works Cited page
● Consistent 3rd person point of view
● Critical thinking exemplified in context used to analyze the work
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