Option #1 (Art/Ruins Interpretation): In Time-Thought Exercise #3 one of the options was to ponder your reaction to an old building/a ruin you have seen. Choose an old building (or old/ancient city, e

Option #1 (Art/Ruins Interpretation):

In Time-Thought Exercise #3 one of the options was to ponder your reaction to an old building/a ruin you have seen. Choose an old building (or old/ancient city, etc.) that you have seen or visited. Use an appropriate mix of specifics and abstraction to convey the “time” resonance of such. Don’t go overboard in lush/impressionistic description! The purpose is to be analytical—to convey “points” about the site, not be a camera, as it were. Try to avoid “I saw… I thought” phrasing; no need to even say when you were at the site. There is latitude here to stretch the topic—a landscape, such as the “timeless” Nevada desert; an abandoned block of a city that has become the depository of garbage for a number of years; or, say, your grandparent’s attic that houses odds-and-ends of years past.

Option #2 (Philosophical Argument):

It is possible to live in the “now.” It is impossible to live in the now. I could tease out several lines of thought here to help you get going, but I think best just to leave as is. You will be tempted to straddle-the-fence, perhaps in the effort to enfold complexity into your essay. But choose either the first or second sentence as your argument/thesis … nuance, reservations, complexity can still occur. If you cite our readings/my lectures on Newton or Augustine etc., no need for a formal citation, e.g., “Augustine seems enamoured of an eternal God always-in-the-present but yet always-transcending-the-present. Humans are not so lucky…”: you don’t need to tell me where you’re getting the Augustine idea from.

Option #3 (Literary Interpretation):

I provided two poems on time, one from Wordsworth and one from Keats. Construct an essay with a main point that compares and contrasts the two poems. Please, try to avoid searching the internet for help … trust me on this, it’s a waste of time, just read the two poems and come up with your own ideas. In comparison-type papers there are two basic organizational schemes: item a (points x, y, z …) and item b (points f, g, h …) or item a (point x)/item b (point f), item a (point y)/item b (point g) and etc.  For this paper option, likely the first works better: analyze Wordsworth in the first 1/2 of your essay, and then analyze Keats in the second 1/2, with comparative points made in the second 1/2 via loop backs (“Unlike Wordsworth, Keats …”).  This allows for a less mechanical development; we don’t get dizzy bouncing back-and-forth, and you keep from fracturing your analysis of each poet.

Option #4 (Psychology):

Sub-Option A In the first lecture/module, I reflected on dog/bug “psychology” about non-human species’ sense of time-duration; degree of memory; intensity of pain (or not) when such is shortly forgotten. Now turn to human emotion: love, rage/anger, resentment, longing, and etc. Construct an argument/main point around a particular emotion or emotions in general; how does that emotion wax-and-wane in time? Are emotions always, ultimately, really right now (I’m mad and am seeing red; but then hours or day later, the anger was just an emotional spell—here and gone). Or are they longer-living (presumably, we like to think “love” is!)? Again, don’t get impressionistic or personal (avoid “I” statements). What I am asking you to investigate is the psychological or philosophical aspects of our emotions in terms of time (overlaps with option two above).  If you have pertinent information from a psychology class you’re taking or have taken, that’s fine to include (cite properly) but don’t go overboard: make your ideas/main point fit the overall “time” theme of this course.  Please note: the topic for this sub-option will potentially lead to meandering and it will take you a bit to “step back” and see important macro-ideas/insights in your own writing.  So, avoid stream-of-thought: for example, a governing tension for your analysis might be that the “problem” with human emotions is indeed time-in-form-of-memory: emotions are here/now and visceral, and yet they rarely are not based on memory (anger “now,” but also anger from built-up resentment; affection “now,” but affection built up from memories of shared bonding moments and so on).

Sub-Option BGo back to Time-Thought Exercise, in which one option was to choose a species whose time sense is debatable/hard-to-fathom but maybe really important to ethically consider.  You can write freshly on, or substantially revise your previous TTE.  For this sub-option, it may be that you draw upon science-facts; if so, cite the sources.

Tips for analytical essay writing:

TITLE: Your title is the first chance to make an impression. A vague title (e.g., “St. Augustine’s Ideas”) that could fit any other paper written on the same author or text gives a vague impression, indicating that the essay to follow likely lacks a focused main point. 

AUDIENCE: Assume an audience much like your fellow students–familiar with the work/issue, but unfamiliar with your particular approach, and therefore requiring specific examples (textual evidence, i.e., quotes) to understand, appreciate, and accept your analysis and argument. Avoid “plot” summary or descriptive overload or tedious repetition of an author’s points without higher level analysis, however.

IDEAS: Good ideas come not from your abstract memory of a text/work/author, but from your close reading and paying attention to details that might radiate out into larger patterns of meaning. I do not expect you to come up with something “new” from my perspective, but something “new” from your perspective. If you don’t make a discovery in the process of drafting the paper, it probably will not be very satisfactory.

THESIS/DEVELOPMENT: Good essays unfold a major, focused idea or argument (your thesis) stage-by-stage, in a manner that will be compelling and convincing to the reader. This means that the old, boring high-school strategy of breaking down your basic idea into three (more or less disconnected) sub-points may not be the most suitable arrangement. Instead, for example, an essay (depending upon the thesis, of course) could in the first fourth highlight some intriguing contradiction or tension in a text/work/issue; the next fourth might frame the tension in terms of a larger moral, literary/artistic, philosophical, religious, or historical/cultural debate or issue; and the last two fourths would illustrate the ramifications of the tension for the text/work/issue that you’re exploring (tensions resolved? and if so, by what means? tensions not resolved? and if so, how does the author/narrator/you-as-person-interpreting cope with irresolution?). An essay can be thoughtful and well-organized, and yet still be confusing to the reader. Most often this occurs because the essay writer needs to provide clearer sign-posts to the overall argument. At crucial junctures (the topic sentence for a paragraph introducing a new stage of your argument), try to foreground analytical/complex points (“Oddly, a seemingly small contradiction in St. Augustine’s ideas actually can inflate to make us ponder his initial logic…”) rather than just sequence (“first, second, third; additionally, also” etc.).

There are two basic patterns of development for an essay (this gets a little abstruse!):

Deductive: here, you state the thesis of your argument (your main point) directly up front (i.e., by the end of your introduction) and proceed to provide evidence for your main point.  For example: you could make your main point “St. Augustine’s obsession with XXXX is not defensible” or “His obsession with XXXX is justified.”  And then the subsequent paragraphs would present aspects of your position and your evidence for those aspects.

Dialectical/inductive: here you proceed to make successive more complex discoveries through a thesis–antithesis–synthesis pattern.  For example: the first third of your paper would explore how “St. Augustine is obsessed with the difference between human-time and God’s-time; the second third would explore how “St. Augustine struggles to imagine God-time and approximate it in his own thinking”; and the last third would pull the two ideas together through a more complex observation, that “St. Augustine is simply limited by human expression—he tries to use metaphors for God’s time, and we sense he almost understands God’s-time, but ultimately he acknowledges God’s time is inexpressible.” Your introduction would still forecast your overall main point, but the act of reading for your reader becomes a journey through a) thesis, b) complicating point that even contradicts the thesis… thus called an anti-thesis, and c) synthesis, in which contradictions get resolved in the big picture. I know what I just wrote is new and sounds complicated; but if you get the hang of the thesis-antithesis-synthesis sequence for essays, you’ll end up writing more profound essays!

INTRODUCTIONS: Keep us focused on the text or author or main idea. Do not start off with weighty generalities about morality, the human condition, and so on. Avoid the “funnel” opening paragraph if possible (starting with the cosmos, and ending with your particular topic).  If your introduction is more than a single paragraph (it might be two paragraphs if, for instance, you were setting up an author/issue in terms of especially pertinent historical or cultural background), give an extra line space between the introduction and paper proper.

QUOTES: Depositing too many long quotes in a paper wastes space. Too few or no quotes, however, suggest inattention to the text or texts. You should probably have one or two longer, inset quotes, which you set up and analyze; the purpose here is to indicate that there are especially key or symptomatic passages that warrant lingering over because they are so revelatory.  Quotes, besides helping to anchor/prove your points, often lead to analytical discoveries as you ponder/unpack them. The previous, of course, only applies if you are analyzing a text that you are quoting from.

Grading (I’m giving traditional A, B, C, here… not 96+ 92+, etc.):

A = Focused, interesting main idea suggesting that you read, re-read, and probed around the text/work/issue at hand. Prose is not merely correct: it is compelling and sophisticated. Organization makes sense given the topic and argument of the paper. The paper is of sufficient quality that it could be put online as a sample paper.

B = Main idea and development are clear, but the organization is weak in a section or two, or there are a few sentence or punctuation glitches that suggest careless editing.

C = Paper has a main idea, but not thought through by attending to the text or author or issue actively. Organization falls apart at key moments. Sentence construction, although usually correct, is often imprecise or wordy. Nearly every page shows signs of careless editing.

D = The thesis is vague, and the organization is very chaotic.  The paper indicates little insight about or basic understanding of the author/text/issue. Or the prose/grammar suggests the need to go to the Writing Center.

F = The paper was not turned in.  Such will receive (on a 0-100 scale) a “0”.

Use the checklist–“Rubrics”– below to help you edit/revise your paper before you submit it:

Three tips for effective revising:

1. Revise with “fresh eyes”: revise at least a day after you’ve completed a substantial draft.2. Use a printed copy and revise at a different locale than your computer.3. Revise in four “loops,” using the revision checklist below. 


sharply focused: no extraneous material

complex aspects of issue thoughtfully examined

judicious use of supporting specifics/quotes


unified paragraphs, with clear topic sentences

transitions between ideas and sections of essay

essay unfolds stage-by-stage, no unnecessary “back-tracking” or repetition of sections


straightforward and precise phrasing, without sentence fragments or run-ons

few boring “is” verbs

appropriate use of transition words

varied sentence length and patterns


correct use of possessives and punctuation

correct match between verbs and subjects

no typos/misspellings

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