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Assignment 4 Topic Invention and Development

Choose a tentative or potential topic for Assignment 4 by selecting any example of the subject or genre about which you feel you have a critical opinion.

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Part One: Free-writing

In ten minutes, free-write on the topic you've selected. For instance, if you were to write about the series, Fear the Walking Dead, both, as a spin-off and as a representation of the genre of zombie literature and film, maybe you'd want to free-write about how and why it's good or bad, or better or worse than The Walking Dead.

Regardless of what you write on, don't control where your free-writing goes; just let it happen. However, if you happen to identify a critical factor, then run with it and write about that. (For example, if you were writing about Fear the Walking Dead, you might find yourself reacting to its intelligent or unintelligent use of the zombie metaphor, its representation of cultural diversity, its true-to-life portrait of American family, its scientific accuracy, its fairness or its literal-mindedness, its similarity to other literary forms, such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, etc.)

Part Two: Interview

Pair off with another class member and talk about your topic and anything of interest that may have come out of your free-writing (whether actually written down or not). Answer your partner's questions about your topic, and try to appeal to their interest in it. Talk about why YOU are interested in your topic intellectually or aesthetically. Then, listen to your partner's description of topic and pose your own questions.

Invite a friendly and "nerdy" conversation about each other's topics. What are the major criteria on which a critical discussion of your topic would depend? How do these criteria relate to a critical discussion, and not just a "review"?

Part Three: Intro and Thesis

On a separate sheet of paper, divide up the page into thirds, and label each in the left margin: 1) context, 2) topic, and 3) thesis. (Note: This exercise does not commit you to a topic or thesis, but it's an extension of your exploration of one.)

  1. Context: Say something general about the subject of interest in 1 - 3 sentences.

  2. Topic: In a sentence or two, state what your topic is critically (i.e., as something worth examining in an intellectual way). Introduce a prime example of it worth critically assessing.

  3. Thesis: In 1-3 sentences, make an evaluative judgment about your selected example. Then, list at least three factors (three criteria) important to that judgment. Your selected factors should be those of a critique, and not of a product reviewer.

Part Four: Developmental Strategy

Consult once again with your partner (the same one from earlier) by reading your rough draft of your three-stage introduction. Ask your partner where he or she thinks the essay will go, should go, can go after your thesis. Discuss how your thesis might be refined, how your choice of topic or example might be revised, and what strategies you might use to develop the topic further in the body of the essay. 

Note: You are permitted to revise or change your topic after today.

Last Updated: 05/08/2017


Karl J Sherlock
English / Creative Writing
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