Sample Assignment: Final Paper 

Due May 13, 2001 at 12:00 P.M. in Jennifer’s Office, Skinner 307

Length:  15 pages (you must have at least one-full paragraph on page 15)

The purpose of this final paper is to allow you to explore, in writing, the themes that we have discussed in class related to each text/film and related to the overall topic of this course: coming-of-age. You, yourselves, have already been writing about these topics in your response papers—use them as springboards for your final paper topics. Therefore, using at least two but no more than three texts (by texts I mean short stories, essays, films, or novels that we have read and discussed in-class) please construct a thesis or argument for how the two or three works you are comparing address the protagonist’s coming-of-age according to one of the four below themes. I’ve constructed a few questions to get you thinking about how you would want to compare and contrast certain works, as framed by an argument that can encompass the theme and topic of the class. (Note:  there are many more works that fit under each topic/category than I have listed—feel free to explore all the possibilities as certainly almost every text fits all four topics)

*History:  How does history impact the coming-of-age of a protagonist? Mai’s coming-of-age seems to be directly impacted by the Vietnam war whereas Cyndy Fujikawa and Becccah Bradley are indirectly affected by history through the wars that their respective parents experience. Mona grows up with the Vietnam War as a backdrop for her coming-of-age but she is not as directly affected by the circumstances of the war but in The English Patient, all the characters are affected and forced to grow up because of the war. History impacts these protagonists in different ways—think about how their maturation process is affected by historical events, especially ones as traumatic as war.

*Inter-racial/inter-ethnic alliances: AKA Don Bonus brings up the tensions between Asian American and African American communities, Mona in the Promised Land attempts to find a vision of inter-racial harmony that cannot be sustained but may be resuscitated, and Mississippi Masala introduces complex questions of identity and alliances according to skin color, nationality, and ancestry. Think about the ways protagonists come-of-age as they attempt to understand themselves against the backdrop of racial difference with others.

*Family:  Family exerts one of the most profound pressures on children as they are discovering their identities and coming-of-age. How does family not only impact the coming-of-age but the ethnic identity of the young protagonist in any of the works we have read? In particular, many of the works we have read feature mother-daughter pairings that have had an immediate and lasting impact on the daughter’s coming-of-age. Why is this trope so prevalent in Asian American literature?  What does this bond suggest about the daughters’ coming—of-age and their racial or ethnic identity development? 

*Gender/Sexual identity: A number of these works show the young protagonists’ coming-of-age and coming to an understanding of sexuality—either their first exploration of sexuality or their acceptance of their sexual identity or gender identity, which may or may not be accepted by their family and friends. Think about how coming-of-age and coming-out or coming-into sexual awareness coincides in two to three of these texts, such as The Wedding Banquet, Eating Chinese Food Naked, “Seventeen Syllables,” and Mississippi Masala. In all four of these works, the sexuality of the protagonists occurs with a partner of a different racial/ethnic background; is this coincidental or what does this inter-racial pairing suggest?

Abstract:  Due April 24, 2001 (see below for abstract description)

An abstract is a one-page, 250 word description/outline of your research paper. It shows your audience the blueprint for your paper, including (most importantly) your thesis/argument. Abstract writing is a skill in brevity; you want to convey all your main points while still providing enough interesting details to make this future paper interesting. Regardless of your future profession, abstract writing is a good skill for all of you to develop. For the purposes of this course, it will allow me to see what your argument is and where you are headed in your paper. For your peers, it will give them a set of interesting paper topics and questions for them to think about. Your abstracts will be due on April 24, and after I comment on them, you will revise them and make one copy per seminar member to be distributed on the last day of class, May 8, during which time you will not only read your abstract aloud, you will also briefly talk in-depth about your research paper topic.  For examples of abstracts, see the samples on reserve.

Reminders about Final Papers:

In addition to the guidelines for writing papers that I listed in your midterm papers, please be aware of the following:

PLAN EARLY:  See me during office hours with help in planning your paper. The best thing you can do is come to see me at least twice—once to brainstorm ideas and the second time to present me with the first page of your paper, which has your introduction and thesis, and an outline of where your paper is headed.

GET HELP:  Besides seeing me, you can always get help from a Writing Tutor in the Weissman center. Their phone number is 538-3028. There is also a writing center in the library; their phone number is 538-2651. If you need help with grammar, any of these people can help you, or I am available for help during office hours.

PROOFREAD:  Make sure that you proofread your paper—this is painful to do at the end when all you want to do is hand in the paper and not see it again, but it’s critical for you to re-read the paper, preferably reading it aloud to check for grammar errors like sentence fragments of things like their vs. there problems that spell-check is not going to catch. Have a friend proofread your paper or pair up with someone in this class to work together on proofreading your papers.

FREE WRITE GENEROUSLY:  The best thing you can do when you are getting started, especially when you are feeling like you have writer’s block, is to free write. Tell yourself that you will write two pages in which you just put down any and all ideas that you have about one of these paper topics. Then re-read these two pages and see if you have an argument emerging from the mess of free writing. Don’t be afraid to be messy—don’t be afraid to cut your writing.  Free writing will lead to more focused and clear writing. Keep doing this exercise even while you are writing—you should plan to write at least 2-3 drafts of your paper before handing in a final copy.  The more you write, the better you will write.

ORGANIZE:  This is to repeat the plan ahead portion; don’t leave this paper until the night before. Get help and free-write immediately! Before April 24 certainly.  The more work you do NOW, the less panicked you will be as the paper deadline approaches. And you should also make sure that you have a plan of attack, a paper outline that will help you to find the clear and focused writing that you need and which will also help you to produce a well-organized and clearly structured paper at the end.