Thinking on “A Visitation of Spirits”


Option 1. For Billy Budd, To the Lighthouse, or Visitation of Spirits: Write about a line or passage that really confused you when you initially read it. This should not be a confusion that was easily resolved just by looking up words or re-reading the line again. If you choose this option, the thesis for your paper should lead to an argument about what your experience of confusion or difficulty helps you understand about the text you are discussing. For example, do you think it is deliberately confusing to the reader? Why would it be? Are there gaps or contradictions that are not easily resolvable—things that still don’t make sense? Was the moment of confusion a result of the poem, novel or story turning out differently from the expectations you brought to it (so that once you adjusted your expectations, it made more sense)? If the confusion got resolved in the process of thinking more about the text or writing the paper (it needn’t be), tell me how. Again, remember that the point of this option is to encourage you to try to learn something about the text from your experience of confusion or difficulty in reading. So, I’m not looking for a paper in which you just throw up your hands (“it’s all too confusing!”) or in which you report an easily solved confusion (“I was confused, but then I looked up x word, and then I wasn’t confused;” “I was confused, but then I came to class and all was explained”). PART OF THINKING THROUGH THE CONFUSION YOU ENCOUNTER SHOULD BE FINDING SECONDARY SOURCES ON THE NOVEL OR STORY TO HELP YOU. THIS COULD BE WORKS OF LITERARY CRITICISM AND/OR WORKS OF HISTORY OR BIOGRAPHY, DEPENDING ON WHAT KINDS OF INFORMATION YOU THINK WOULD BE USEFUL. THE SECONDARY SOURCES MAY NOT CLEAR EVERYTHING UP, OF COURSE, AND I DO NOT WANT YOU TO JUST LET THEM DO YOUR THINKING FOR YOU. YOUR PAPER SHOULD CITE AT LEAST TWO SECONDARY SOURCES.

Your paper should be six double-spaced pages. Like the second essay, this paper needs to be organized around an argument. Please choose one of the options below, each of which asks you to start by gathering evidence—or material—for a paper, and then come up with an argument based on what you have. For this essay, I also ask you to do some research in addition to your close reading of texts. The research will take slightly different forms depending on which option you choose below. However, your paper will need to have at least two research sources beyond texts on the syllabus and these sources must be peer-reviewed scholarly works. To find relevant secondary sources, use the MLA bibliography and the library catalog; you can also think about using the works cited in the secondary sources assigned on the syllabus if those are relevant (e.g., the Barbara Johnson article or the Alex Zwerdling article). Your paper will need a works cited list in MLA style.


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