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Lefferts - April 2021: Writing Prompt and Resources

Book Reviews

Formal Out-of-class Essay 4 Prompt
Deadline for approval of topic of choice (Prompt 4): Thurs., Apr. 8
Exploratory Draft due: Tues., Apr. 20 | Full draft due: Tues., Apr. 27 Final draft due: Thurs., Apr. 29
Word count: 1,500 to 2,000 words


Write a research essay in which you engage Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus as well as 3 to 5 sources of your choosing. Two (2) of those sources should be scholarly articles (we will discuss what counts as a “scholarly article”). You should also include 1 to 3 popular press sources (we will define this term as well, but an easy example is a New York Times article) in addition to those. As ever, your essay should present a clear, contestable argument that you support with evidence both from Roth’s novel and your outside texts.

1) Goodbye, Columbus is in many ways a story about a specific community finding its place in American society. Roth focuses on Jewish Americans—the history they share, the challenges they face, and the conflicts that arise when some members of the community achieve more success (and assimilate into mainstream society more effectively) than others. Write an essay in which you answer the following question: What is something that Roth’s novel reveals about the Jewish American experience? To answer this question, you should look to the novel as well as scholarship and popular-press writing on the Jewish American experience. Your research should focus at least in part on the Jewish American experience in the mid-20th century (the time when the novel is set), but you can also talk about earlier or more recent phases in the experience of this community.

2) Alternately, write about the experience of another community in American society (a group of people connected by race, ethnicity, religion, geographic origin, sexuality, or some other specific trait). Write an essay in which you answer the following question: How does Roth’s novel help us understand the experience of this community? To answer this question, you should look to the novel, drawing comparisons between the community in the book and the community you’ve chosen, as well as scholarship and popular-press writing on your community of choice.

3) Much is made in Goodbye, Columbus of the difference between Newark and New Jersey’s more prosperous suburbs. Write an essay in which you help your reader better understand the novel’s historical context by drawing on research about Newark and/or New Jersey’s suburbs. You might think about the history of Newark, the “flight to the suburbs” that began after World War II (and its causes and effects), and how these demographic patterns have changed in the time since the novel was published. Your essay should answer the question: How can we, by learning about Newark and/or New Jersey’s suburbs at this time and since, better understand Roth’s novel?

  There's more.  Keep going!

* Just in time for this class, writer Blake Bailey has written a new biography of Philip Roth.  Click here to learn about it from The New York Times *

Philip Roth Biography - CBS Sunday Morning

"Philip Roth Unleashed" - Part 1 - BBC

"Philip Roth Unmasked" - PBS American Masters

"Philip Roth Unleashed" - Part 2 - BBC

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