Context Essay and Presentation

What it is: A Two-Part Assignment


I. A 5+ page essay (include Works Cited) that must address the following areas:


a. Biographical information and relevant context (Roughly 2 pages; can be attained, at least partially,          from non-academic sources.)

(In other words, what contributed to the author’s development, the author’s ideas/views, the author’s voice?)

            (Also, Charters’ text should offer leads for many authors.)

            -Where is the author from?

            -During what time period was/is the author working?

            -What was happening, politically, socially, or otherwise during this time period?

            -What are the author’s views on culture, politics, religion, etc.?

            -How/Why did author begin to write, and what are his/her/their influences?

            -How have writers been influenced by this writer?

-When members of the literary community discuss this writer, what are important topics/themes/classifications/techniques that arise?

            -How has the author been critically received? Has the author attained a footing/been          represented in the mainstream?


b. The writer’s views on writing in their own words (Roughly 1 page)

            Writers often leave traces of their views on their craft. Check the following:

            -Books they have written on creative writing or literature

            -Diaries they have kept and that have since been published

            -Interviews they have completed with The Paris Review, The New Yorker, or another top-tier publication

            -Interviews they have completed with smaller journals or other writers

            -Essays they have published


c. Close reading, incorporating research (Roughly 2-3 pages)

            Offer an interpretation of one of the author’s stories

            -Utilize close reading techniques acquired earlier in term (see assignment sheet)

            -Utilize 2 academic sources in supporting your thesis



II. A 20+ minute presentation of what you learned while composing your Context Essay that should be considered roughly 2/3 presentation of the material and 1/3 discussion leading—ideally one interspersed with the other. (In other words, resist the urge to clump.) You will be providing a handout of 3-4 pages to your classmates with short excerpts from your paper and from your sources. The presentation will consist of 1) what you’ve learned/read; 2) interpretation of what you’ve learned; 3) general response; 4) discussion; 5) engaging activity (something relevant and useful: perhaps in-class writing, a game, an activity that gets peers digging into text).


Goal: To practice presenting complex material in a professional way, with a professional sensibility. No need to dress up, but a time to practice the skills of discussion leading and of interpreting information (both orally and on paper) in a way that makes it accessible to others, and that is engaging. You should have a strong grasp on the material you’re presenting, and should not simply be reading from a sheet of paper. While we will be in a classroom, this is your opportunity to practice moving your thoughts on writing and literature “out of the classroom environment.” You are the expert for these 20+ minutes.


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