English 558: Final Paper


Due Dates:

Tues. 7/8 Project Proposal Due (one paragraph--should include the text you will use, possible subject for analysis, research that will need to be done.)

Fri. 7/18 Abstract and Annotated Bibliography Due (5 sources)

Fri. 7/25 Rough Draft Due

Fri. 8/1 Final Paper Due


Recommended Length of Final Paper: 5-7 pages


Suggested Topic: Analysis of Literary Text Within a Cultural Context

Using either a text we have read this semester or one of your own choosing, analyze a limited aspect of that text using cultural information about the writer's community. (For example, you may want to use information about the tribe's oral tradition, traditional artwork, architecture, religion, social structures, etc. to aid your analysis.)



This assignments has three primary objectives. First, the assignment allows you to practice your skills in closely reading a text. Second, it asks you to employ the tools you have developed so far in this class for reading and understanding a literary text within its cultural context. Finally, it engages you in the act of research as a means of preparing you for your degree paper. The initial stages of the final project are designed to help you determine which secondary sources are most useful and focus your own argument through the use of an annotated bibliography.


What is Culture? (A Variety of perspectives)

A. HIGH CULTURE: Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (1869)

"The disparagers of culture make its motive curiosity; sometimes, indeed, they make its motive mere exclusiveness and vanity. The culture which is supposed to plume itself on a smattering of Greek and Latin is a culture which is begotten by nothing so intellectual as curiosity; it is valued either out of sheer vanity and ignorance or else as an engine of social and class distinction, separating its holder, like a badge or title, from the other people who have not got it. No serious man would call this culture, or attach any value to it, as culture, at all. To find the real ground for the very different estimate which serious people set upon culture, we must find some motive for culture in terms of which may lie a real ambiguity, and such a motive the word curiosity gives us" ("Sweetness and Light," p. 1)


B. LIVED CULTURE: Edward Tylor ("the father of British Anthropology"), Primitive Culture (1871)

"Culture or Civilization, taken in its wide ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. The condition of culture among the various societies of mankind, in so far as it is capable of being investigated on general principles, is a subject apt for the study of the laws of human thought and action. On the one hand, the uniformity which so largely pervades civilization may be ascribed, in great measure, to the uniform action of uniform causes while on the other hand its various grades may be regarded as stages of development or evolution, each the outcome e of previous history, and about to do its proper part in shaping the history of the future." (p. 1)


C. SIGNIFYING PRACTICES: Raymond Williams, Keywords (1976)

Culture is "the works and practices of intellectual and especially artistic activity" (90). As John Storey notes in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, by this Williams means those "texts and practices whose principle function is to signify, to produce or to be the occasion for the production of meaning" (2). This means that pop music and the work of Beethoven are both cultural texts --they both signify meaning and reflect artistic and intellectual activity.