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ENG1120 PA Research Essay Assignment

Due Date: May 28, 2015

Weight: 20% of final grade

Using at least three (3) peer-reviewed, scholarly sources,  write an essay of 1500-2000 words (or 6-8 pages) on one of the following subjects. Please note that websites such as wikipedia, sparknotes, schmoop.com, blogs, and general university websites do not count as scholarly sources. If you have any questions about what constitutes a scholarly source, you are encouraged to check with me before using them.


  • 12pt Times New Roman font; double-spacing throughout; one-inch margins on all sides; pages numbered (last name and page number on the top right-hand corner of each page); pages stapled together
  • Please do not add a cover page to your essay. Instead, include on the top left-hand corner of the first page you name, student number, course code and section, the instructor’s name, and the date of submission. The title should be centered, but with no special formatting (no boldface, no underlining, no italics except for book titles, 12-point Times New Roman Font); See http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/ for examples.
  • You must cite all of your sources both in the body of your paper and in a separate Works Cited page. Follow the MLA (Modern Languages Association) style of documentation (see http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/05/).


Essay prompts:

  1. The natural environment figures heavily in both Frankenstein. Identify the elements of one aesthetic theory (the sublime, the beautiful, the uncanny, or the abject) and, using examples from the novels, compare their treatments of nature. Remember to include an expository paragraph that defines and lays out the aspects of the theory that you will be discussing. NOTE: dictionary definitions of the uncanny, sublime, and abject reflect common usage and definitions of the words, not the theories themselves. For this prompt, you are to use the aesthetic theory.
  2. Both Alice Munro’s “Open Secrets,” and Shelley Jackson’s Skin: Ineradicable Stain address the ways in which people are created both by the language we use to tell our stories, and the ways in which our stories are imposed on us from outside. Find a common argument between each text and use it to guide your exploration of the following:

    Begin with an episode from “Open Secrets”. Discuss how language is used to impose an identity on one of the characters. Is it possible for that character to change his or her identity within the town? Then, discuss the significance of Shelley Jackson’s taking this idea to the extreme by having volunteers actually tattoo words on their skin. How does the actual material fact of the tattoo support or change this idea? What does it mean to actually turn people into words?

  3. So far in the course we have discussed how literary forms and genres carry with them assumptions and ideas about what stories should be, and what they reflect about the world. Choose one genre we discussed in this course (the gothic, the romance, Romanticism, Science Fiction, the Pastoral, Utopia, or Dystopia). Does Shelley Jackson’s Skin: Ineradicable Stain project reflect or undermine the elements of those genres? Remember to begin with an expository paragraph that defines the genre you will explore and the elements of that genre you will discuss in your essay.
  4. Compare the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the replicant in “Rachel”. For these authors, are there limits to the human, and, if so, what are they and how does each author describe them?
  5. In what ways to race and gender affect Rachel in “Rachel,” even after her status as replicant is revealed?
  6. Absurdism and Existentialism are both responses to the threat of nothingness and meaninglessness posed by the random nature of existence. In The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa shuffles into the living room in spite of the isolation imposed on him by his consideration for his family. In “The Nose,” Major Kovaloff must endure a structure of seemingly meaningless conventions associated with rank in the civil service to convince his own nose return to its place on his face. In “The Second Bakery Attack,” the main character and his wife navigate a Tokyo that has been overtaken by American corporatism. Compare the small gestures of empowerment each main character attempts to make within their relatively powerless positions. Do these small acts of rebellion offer the characters any relief from their helplessness?
  7. Overall, this course has been asking what happens to narrative when it encounters monstrosity: monsters, the unacceptable, the massive, the unconscionable. Choose one (1) text from each major literary period of the course (the Romantic Period, Modernism, and Postmodernism), and, using what you know about form and genre, write an essay explaining what you think happens to narrative cohesion in its encounter with the monstrous.

*Things to keep in mind when writing your essay:


* Quote directly from the text to support the main points of your argument. Close textual analysis involves incorporating pertinent quotations from the story or novel into your argument, and explaining in detail what you understand the significance of the passage you have cited to be. Be attentive to such textual features as language/diction, imagery/symbolism, setting, narrative structure, and perspective of narration.

* Avoid plot summaries or lengthy repetitions of “what happens” in the story or novel; assume that your reader is familiar with the text. I am interested in your analysis – that is, the argument you are going to make about your concept, based on the specific textual evidence you are going to draw on. An insightful analysis depends on your familiarity with the text, but that familiarity in itself is not what the essay should be concerned to demonstrate. Bear in mind that providing a description or summary of what happens in the text does not constitute an analysis of how those textual events and situations are significant. You must offer your own reading, or interpretation, of the significance of the passages, quotes, and textual features you draw upon in your essay.


* Note about plagiarism:


Failing to adequately document your sources, presenting someone else’s work as your own, and handing in the same assignment for more than one class all constitute academic fraud. Anyone found guilty of this serious offense will be subject to severe sanctions; these may range from receiving a failing grade in the assignment or course in question, to losing all course credits for the academic year, to being expelled from the University. It is your responsibility as a student to familiarize yourself with the University’s policy on academic fraud. For further information, consult the Faculty of Arts website at: http://www.arts.uottawa.ca/eng/students/fraud.html.






Subject Essay Writing Pages 9 Style APA


Absurdism and Existentialism

Existentialism is a philosophical movement holding the view of human beings as responsible for creating the meaning within their individual lives and that around them. The freedom to create develops ones identity and to create a framework that provides a meaning in uncaring world often leads to feelings of absurdity, alienation, emptiness, and loneliness (Anderson, n.p). Metamorphosis can be considered as a work of existentialist literature. In The Metamorphosis, Gregor experiences an existential crisis whereby he is overcome by the possibility of a free choice in his life. He has to align his life with the expectations of others (Yaron & Herzog, 1094). Grogor’s routine and the rigorous work schedule of salesmanship and the many sacrifices he has to make for his family coupled with their disregard for his personal needs elevate his feelings of emptiness, confusion, and inadequacy and result in his metaphorical.

From the morning of the disappearance of the nose, the world seemed to operate upside down for with the impossible becoming possible. For instance, the nose is portrayed as achieving a more eminent position than its owner achieves. Kovaloff is now constantly in doubt of everything around him since nothing seems to be operating according to his expectation. He even distrusts the mirror and has to pass by the pastry shop for a second opinion hoping the mirror there would tell a different reality.

In the same manner, the main character in the novel “The Second Bakery Attack” is faced with a sense of hopelessness. The newly wedded couple are experiencing a type of hunger that the wife has not felt before their marriage and which the main character only experienced before his first bakery attack. The man believes that the first bakery attack must put him and his friend under a course. They cannot find anything in their kitchen to eat in the middle of the night. The only thing that they find in the fridge are cans of bear. They decide to take the beer just to pass time. The wife insists that the course must still be active and the only explanation for their current situation. They have to rob a second bakery in order to get rid of the curse (Gogolʹ, Field, & Merimee, n.p). These instances illustrate the misery that the couple is in. They know little about each other as a new couple. The marriage life confronts them with several realities that they have to deal with. Things that happened in their past lives cause most of the uncertainties in their lives.

In order to go back to what they can consider normal they have to confront these events and the way to achieve this is equally risky. This presents yet another set of hopelessness and distress for the main protagonist in the story. The many police on patrol could catch them. Another problem is that there are hardly any bakeries open at that time of the night (‘The Second Bakery Attack’, 31). This seems to aggravate their problem making the entire seem meaningless. However, in order to continue existing normally they must do this. The main character is helpless but has to follow his wife’s idea in order to save their very young marriage. Indeed, he has few options out of the situation and the solution presented by the wife seems the only way out for them.

The idea of existentialism is very closely linked with that of absurdism. Absurdism holds that human beings are faced with a world that lacks order and meaning and as such makes it almost impossible for them to make any substantial progress in life (Plant, 111). In Metamorphosis, Gregor’s life has been turned into an inconvenience by situations in life. His family no longer consider him as useful member of the family but rather, as a liability and burden. They feel that the new form that Gregor is now in has only acted to cause them misery and suffering. First, Gregor cannot contribute to the wellbeing of the family any longer due to his new form and because of this, they are suffering financially. Secondly, they have the burden of having to look after him since he can no longer eat the normal food or live a normal life as he used before. Thirdly, any efforts to recover their bruised financial status are ruined by Gregor. His mere appearance scares away people. Life is unbearable for Gregor and his family to an extent that they wish for his disappearance. Gregor has also lost the meaning for life and wishes his own death. The family is relived on learning of his death such that they take it as a fresh start in their lives.

The fear that bestows Kovaloff following the disappearance of the nose is enormous. The loss of one of his organs that in turn assumes a different and superior rank than him depicts a complete loss of self. Without the nose, Kovaloff believes that he is nothing; it is as if his own life or soul has been taken away from him making him and the life that he will live thereafter meaningless (Bernasconi and Jonathan, n.p). He cannot imagine meeting his distinguished lady-friends without a nose. His social status in the society; which is more important to him than his own reputation, is also badly compromised. The loss of the nose seems to have taken life away from Kovaloff by taking away what made him respectable and the status that matters to him most.

Despite the absurd situation, that Gregor in The Metamorphosis finds himself in, he is still eager to find ways in which he can exist in this difficult situation. For instance, Gregor struggles to open the door just to explain to the manager that he is still focused on attending to his work duty; which he finally does with the mouth. He also tries to catch up with the fleeing manager but is turned back by his father (Bermejo-Rubio, 254). In another instance, Gregor strives to make himself comfortable in his new body and even starts climbing the walls (Cornwell, 2). These are some of the many gestures that Gregor strives to achieve in overcoming his challenges. He is sympathetic of his condition and the fact that he can no longer help his family.

In seeking to gain some control over the situation; on what he hopes might remedy the problem of the disappearance of his nose, Kovaloff has to do the unimaginable. Prior to the loss of the nose, Kovaloff held himself high among the society calling himself Major. He had high regard for his position as a committee-member, which he sought to protect under whatever circumstances. He was willing to face humiliation of all kinds just to ensure that the nose was restored in its place. He went to a point of enduring a series of seemingly meaningless conventions associated with rank in the civil service in an attempt to convince his own nose to return to its place on his face (Bermejo-Rubio, 254). This illustrates the desperateness in his life at the time and his commitment to use any means available to recover his normal condition. The few opportunities that were available for him were thoroughly sought after. Kovaloff tried effortlessly to convenience the nose to return to its rightful place without success. He also tries to place an advertisement and to report to the police of the missing nose. Once the nose was found he was eager to have it returned to his face and even sought the services of the best physician in town again without success. These situations made life so meaningless and left Kovaloff with many questions concerning the misfortune.

Gregor attempts in many instances to overcome the challenges in his life. He is keen on turning his life from that is meaningless to a better life not just for him but also for his family. He tries to get up in the new form in order to attend work. He also tries to link and connect with his family that has deserted him in this new form. Gregor is also focused on making himself comfortable in his new body and can be seen climbing the wall just like an insect (Ryan, 133). However, his attempts do not offer him any relief from his current situation. Instead, it only makes things worse for him by getting him into trouble with his family. Nothing seems to be working for Gregor and his very existence is at risk. Nobody wants anything to do with him in his new form. As a result, he becomes extremely disillusioned, alienated, and depressed. There is a dire feeling of emptiness and nothingness that characterises his new life. In this situation, things can only get worse. Gregor tries to sleep and see if when he wakes up he will have turned back to his normal body. This implies a sense of meaningless and desperateness. The situation makes him very depressed and bitter with life and those around him. In some instance, he becomes a threat to those around him, even though this is not his actual nature.

As such, it can be deduced that the many efforts that Gregor attempts to address the situation in his life do not yield any good. Instead, they make things worse for him and in the end; he feels that death is the only solution to his problem. The problem in his life is too much for him to handle. The level of meaningless and nothingness overcomes him and he decides to end his own existence.

In the case of Kovaloff, the situation in his life is equally depressing and agonizing. It also makes his life meaningless and absurd. He is no longer free to interact with the other people but instead is shy to face them without a nose. He cannot imagine how life has turned and is rather angry and bitter. The numerous efforts he makes to solve the problem are not fruitful. They instead add more pain in his life through humiliation and absurdism (Bermejo-Rubio, 254). His position in the civil service is badly compromised; his reputation within the social sphere is also ruined. In the end, even after the nose is found it cannot be returned to his face and he has to remain without it. This signifies the permanency of his problem. There numerous efforts to remedy the problem do not offer any relief but instead cause more pain and humiliation. His life is changed for good by this new situation and he becomes the laughing stock in his society. Kovaloff has to endure his new life of meaningless and absurdity.

The main character in the novel The Second Bakery Attack and his wife are eager to get away the curse. They are willing to go undertake the dangerous mission to remove the spell including breaking the law. The main character is particularly helpless and desperate in the situation. However, in the end they are able to attack a MacDonald’s store and are able to get some bread; what they needed to remove the curse. Once they have the bread, they ate to their full and are able to solve the extreme hunger they were experiencing (Landau, 1). The solution to their problem seems to have ended since after eating the bread, the wife falls into a deep sleep unlike before when she was unable to sleep due to extreme hunger. The main character looks into the sea and the waters are now clear. This implies a sense of calmness and sanity now with the curse gone. It can thus be argued that their small gestures of rebellion in this case offered them some relief from their perceived problem. They much relieved that after stealing and eating the bread, the curse is gone.

In the three novels, the characters discussed are faced with situations of absurdism and existentialism. Life presents situations that change their lives for good making it meaningless and stressful. However, the characters are keen on remedying the undesirable and hopeless situations in their lives. This illustrates some form of empowerment and rebellion from the norm bestowed to them with success in some cases.






‘The Second Bakery Attack’.” Back Stage West 2004: 31. 

Anderson, Robert. Existentialism. London: Hodder Education, 2011. 

 Bermejo-Rubio, Fernando. “Does Gregor Samsa Crawl Over The Ceiling And Walls?: Intra-Narrative Fiction In Kafka’s Die Verwandlung.” Monatshefte 2 (2013): 254

Bernasconi, Robert, and Jonathan Judaken. Situating Existentialism : Key Texts In Context. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. Discovery eBooks. Web. 23 May 2015.

Cornwell, Neil. “Chapter 1: The Theoretical Absurd: An Introduction.” Absurd In Literature (2006): 2. 

Gogolʹ, Nikolaĭ Vasilʹevich. The Mantle And Other Stories. [Place of publication not identified]: Start Publishing, 2012. 

Landau, Iddo. “Foundationless Freedom And Meaninglessness Of Life In Sartre’s Being And Nothingness.” Sartre Studies International 1 (2012): 1. 

Plant, Bob. “Absurdity, Incongruity and Laughter.” Philosophy 2009: 111.

Ryan, Michael P. “Samsa and Samsara: Suffering, Death, and Rebirth in ‘The Metamorphosis’.” The German Quarterly 1999: 133.

Yaron, Idan, and Omri Herzog. “Kafka’s Ruins In Popular Culture: A Story Of Metamorphosis.” Journal Of Popular Culture46.5 (2013): 1092-1105. 





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