English Students

Hello English 111 students! Happy July!

I’ve responded to your ideas, via e-mail, for the first essay. I won’t repeat here what I
stated to students individually. Instead, I’ll confine myself to just a few brief remarks.

Let me stress RIGHT AWAY that your essay will not “retell” the works in question. In
other words, this is not anything like a “book report” type assignment, in which the writer
merely retells what happened. That’s really a waste of time; if we want to know “what
happens” in a piece of work, we simply read it for ourselves. Therefore, your essay will
strive to shed actual light on the work…that is, your essay will provide a thoughtful, well
detailed discussion of the work that makes the work clearer, more powerful, and more
interesting than it might otherwise be.

Also: here’s a comment I made to one of the students, though as you can quickly see,
it’s an important point for all of you—not matter what your topic. In this particular case,
the topic is religion, but beyond that specific topic, my advice should be of some value to

“You're entirely correct. The topic of religion is important in both works, as you readily
see. Now we step back and ask: what ARGUMENT is each author (Voltaire and
Aristophanes) making about it? Spelling out each author's position is not the easiest thing
in the world, as the argument is made by implication rather than direct statement. But
that's how literature works: we must read between the lines, so to speak, to discern the
sometimes subtle points being made.

Just be sure to nail down what those sometimes subtle points are by fully defending your
explanation with well chosen details from both works. SHOW us, by examples and
explanation, precisely what you have in mind.”

And another comment that’s of some general interest, I believe:

“Very fine point. The use of comic irony--as you put it, walking into something with "open
arms", and assuming great things...