Introduction: Your first major writing assignment is to interpret a work of satire—Voltaire’s Candide. Because this mode of interpretation is literary analysis, you will be engaging in close reading— the formal description and interpretation of carefully selected portions of a literary work. When classics or literature scholars close-read texts, they examine how the elements of language create meaning. These elements include (among others) theme, symbolism, diction, meter, imagery, irony, sarcasm, exaggeration, parody and innuendo. The reading is “close” because it examines selectively-chosen portions of a text (paragraphs, dialog, or even individual words) that are described, and given value from a specific point of view—from one “reading.” The exciting part about literary analysis is that the very process of writing often teaches you surprising, even paradoxical lessons about the text. The close reading happens as your writing takes place. You may begin your drafting process on Candide with a specific thesis in mind, but your close examination of the evidence may lead you to fresh realizations about the text’s meaning. The process of interpretation opens you up to the unexpected. Assignment: It seems that no aspect of culture or politics escapes Voltaire’s satirical skewering. Select a passage that you think exemplifies Voltaire’s treatment of one or more of the following subjects: institutionalized religion; Enlightenment philosophy; money’s corrupting effect; the nobility; sex and gender mores, or perhaps another social problem. Then analyze HOW Voltaire uses literary strategies to create satirical moments in that passage. Your paper might grow out of the Candide discussion, or you might select another section of the text; either way, since this is a close reading, you need to choose only one short passage to analyze. Your paper should be two pages, double spaced, in a standard 10-12pt. font with 1-inch margins. Cite your quoted textual evidence in MFA style, page numbers in parentheses. Your paper will be graded on: Your grasp of the particular rhetorical situation you are writing into (college-level class, literary argument and analysis) The quality of your thesis statement (specific, sophisticated, answers the prompt) The development and support of your thesis with specific quotations and logical connections between ideas (well-chosen examples, persuasive reasoning) The structure of your paragraphs, transitions and organizational elements (you should have an introduction, thesis, body paragraphs and conclusion) Your diction and syntax (English mechanics and style)
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