Essay 1 Assignment
In Weeks 2 and 3 of our course, we are looking at Postcolonial theory as an approach for literary analysis, reading The Epic of Gilgamesh in its entirety, and reading Acts I and II of The Tempest. The Essay 1 assignment will combine each of these three things. As this is an academic essay, your writing is expected to follow academic writing conventions: scholarly language; MLA or APA citation style; and clear organization (an identifiable introduction and conclusion with several separate body paragraphs in between).
In this essay, you are expected to do the following:
- Select one of the themes of Postcolonial theory that you would like to explore. This will be the lens through which you look at the literature. You’ll find a list in the Postcolonial theory PPT, as well as some ideas in your assigned reading from the Innes textbook. As I mentioned in the PPT, there are many more options available than just what is included in the list. If you would like to focus on a theme outside of that list, that shouldn’t be a problem, but you must double-check with me first.
- Describe how the lens fits into Postcolonial theory and explain why it’s a good choice for the literature. What ideas can be included in that lens? Why is it a worthwhile lens for discussing these particular stories?
- Apply that lens to The Epic of Gilgamesh and Acts I and II of The Tempest. How does the theme function within these stories? What tensions and insights arise? Are there valuable similarities and differences between how the theme is represented in these two works? Remember that the ultimate goal of a Postcolonial literary analysis is to use the literature as a means to make a broader point about the theme, a point that goes beyond the pages of the stories. Ultimately, the analysis should answer this question: What does the literature teach us about how (your chosen theme) works?
|Assessment Rubric||(100 pts)|
|Description of theory||10|
|Rationale for selection||10|
|Application of lens||30|
|Organization and structure||10|
Additional advice from your instructor:
As you can see in the rubric, a specific length is not part of the grading criteria, but successful essays are generally between 1,000 and 1,500 words in length, not including the Works Cited page. If it’s shorter, your analysis may not be deep enough or include enough specific examples from the text. If it’s longer, you may have included too much plot summary or other padding. Use the rubric as a guide.
In my experience, the most common mistake in writing about literature is to include too much plot summary. While you will obviously be referring to plot points in your analysis, your focus needs to be on analysis, not on re-telling the story. Write as though your audience is already familiar with the story: they may need a few brief reminders here and there, but they do not need you to rehash the entire plot.
You are welcome to bring outside sources into your essay, but do not over-rely on the ideas of others. Your sources should support your ideas, not stand in for your ideas. I highly recommend that you list your own ideas and insights before looking to outside sources, and that outside sources represent no more than 20% of the writing. For help with MLA or APA conventions, I highly recommend Purdue OWL, Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab. I provided a link in the Links section of our course page.
As much as your schedule allows, write this essay slowly and in a few different sessions. Write a first draft, leave it alone for a while, and then come back to it. Your brain will be working on it in the meantime even when you aren’t aware, and a little separation often brings clarity. Very, very few people can write an effective essay in one sitting. Consider submitting drafts to the UIW Online Writing Center, and be sure to give yourself enough time to do so.
This essay must adhere to academic writing standards. This means avoiding “I” language and “you” language, as well as including scholarly language without conversational flourishes. I’ve included some advice on academic style in the Guide to Literary Analysis PPT, but if you have any questions about these style conventions, please ask!
Your essay should be a Postcolonial analysis, not just a character study or a general discussion of symbols in the literature. If you need any help working through those ideas, please ask. It’s part of my job, and I enjoy doing it. Also, please be sure to check out the Postcolonial Themes Cheat Sheet I posted in case you aren’t sure how to go about applying your chosen lens to the writing.
The postcolonial literary theory: The Epic of Gilgamesh
The postcolonial literary theory is a theory broadly associated to the struggle and effects of the colonial rule by European countries. In many cases, people view the theory as a way of using literature to tell of the effects of colonialism and the struggle to achieve independence. However, the concepts of this theory are not limited to the fight for independence and the sufferings during colonialism. Stories from European countries also express the ideologies of the postcolonial literary theory. The main ideas embodied in the postcolonial theory are, the psychological awareness of the inferiority of a society compared to another society, the struggle for cultural and political autonomy and an awareness of increased hybridity in the cultures (Gandhi ,27). These ideologies were well presented in literary pieces way before the colonial and postcolonial periods. The Epic of Gilgamesh and Shakespeare’s the Tempest are examples of literary pieces that have strong ideas of postcolonial literary theory although they are not of the theory.
In the book ‘Epic
of Gilgamesh’, we see the idea of oppression and cruelty of a society.
Gilgamesh, who is third god and two-thirds human, establishes a cruel rule in
the world. He rules with oppression and enormous cruelty. His subjects realize
their inferiority and initially accept their position as inferior. Gilgamesh
rapes all the females he has an eye on, whether they are the daughters of his
generals or wives of his closest friends (George, 19). Despite his cruelty, he
has enjoys great peace with no one brave enough to fight him. In Shakespeare’s
‘The Tempest’, we see the same concept of people accepting their inferiority
depicted. Prospero, a powerful prince is rescued from a potential attack that
could have claimed his position to the throne. He lives in an island with
Miranda and a few people. Despite the fact that Prospero is a refugee in the island,
and the role Ariel played in his rescue, he constantly threatens and keeps him
in submission. Ariel accepts his place as inferior and follows the orders of
Gandhi, L. Postcolonial theory: A critical introduction. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. Print.
George, Andrew R., trans. & edit. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Books, 1999,