how does the text make its meaning? What evidence from that text–in lines, phrases, structure, form, sound, imagery,

Drama Paper Guidelines

          To put it simply, in writing your short drama papers, follow the same format guidelines which I outlined for you for poetry and fiction papers:  3-5 typed pages minimum, 1″ margins, double-spaced.  Drama papers should focus on, but are not limited to, the works on the syllabus:  Trifles, A Doll’s House, A Raisin in the Sun or any other drama of your choice.  Already I’ve seen many of you be very creative in your thinking about accomplishing the task of a paper; remember, the more satisfied you are with your writing and topic, the more interesting it is for you to write and for readers to read.

          The papers I’ve seen so far are very strong in terms of offering an interpretation of a text’s meaning and in providing a sense of your critical thinking and response to poems and fiction.  What still needs work, however, is to deal directly with the literary text in advancing your interpretation of its meaning.  In other words, show your audience how the author writes the text to create the meaning/response you’re getting.  Simply put, how does the text make its meaning?  What evidence from that text–in lines, phrases, structure, form, sound, imagery, etc.–can you provide for your reader to demonstrate what you’re telling that reader?  This is what I mean by explication, by analysis.

          As in the poetry and fiction papers, drama papers should still be explication of text.  Unlike poetry and fiction, though, you can’t take on the whole text:  it’s too big a project, and the task is too demanding for a short paper.  Instead, your aim should be to focus on an aspect or related aspects of the text–plot, conflict, theme, character, setting and stage directions, dialogue, etc.–or interpretation of its meaning–and show how the playwright appears to be creating those aspects through the language of the text.  Then, don’t just leave it there; go on to draw some conclusions about the analysis you’ve just done.  Think of your reader as responding at the end of your explication with “so what is the significance of what you’ve shown and told me here?” 

More specifically, in terms of topics to write about:  for Trifles, you can find any number of ideas from: the background information on the play and short story version in your text or in the questions that follow the play.  Or, you might go to the library (either here or Hillman Library at Pitt), or the Web, and check out what other writers (critics) have had to say about the play.  This might lead you to historical, cultural, social and other kinds of background on the play’s content or issues, or it might lead you to examine what others have found meaningful about Glaspell’s writing. 

          For both A Doll’s House and A Raisin In The Sun, you might look to the Web Links on Blackboard which will give several ideas on approaches and topics.  Your textbook will also have discussion questions at the end of each play, and then, of course, there is always searching for topics in the Library databases or searching the Internet through Google for literary analysis.  Also, you might want to view some of the film versions of the plays (look to Amazon, Netflix and other sites for performances of the two plays).  You can do a discussion/comparison of how the film version does or does not compare to the written plays.   Again, I encourage you to choose a focus and narrow it, rather than try to write about the whole play.  For drama in general, no matter what you choose, you can compare aspects of the play:  themes, scenes, characters, plot, etc. You might look up reviews of these plays on the Net, or in the library databases, or you may think about aspects of filming, staging and acting.  In any case, if after coming up with an idea of what you intend to focus on you would like some further direction/help from me, please don’t hesitate to ask for help.   

          You are also free to choose other dramas to write about as well.  In the past, I’ve had students write essays about LAW & ORDER (in its various versions), THE GODFATHER movies, GOODFELLAS, THE SOPRANOS, SIX FEET UNDER, FARENHEIT 911 and others too numerous to list.  You can choose comedy, tragedy, tragi-comedy, melodrama, one acts, scenes, etc…  The only real “no-no” here is to write about reality television:  yes, there is drama there, but it’s not literary; it’s social, psychological or emotional like therapy or talk shows.  But think about films you’ve seen, television dramas, sitcoms, etc..

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