SPAN 3340: Composition 1

SPAN 3340: Composition 1

SPAN 3340: Composition 1 (Instructions)

For the first composition, you are going to analyze one of the Approximations stories . You can choose one of the stories we have studied or another story, as long as it comes from our textbook. Your analysis should be four pages (minimum 4: maximum 6), typed and leaving two lines between lines ( double-spaced ). Read the rubric below carefully to see what criteria will be used to grade the paper.

Step One : What story?

Choose a story that you understand very well and that lends itself to literary analysis. When choosing a story, remember the Focus Questions from Week One, which help us analyze the literary elements of a narrative text (a story or a novel):

  1. What is the relationship between the title of the text and its content ? (Usually the title functions as the first introduction to the story and theme of the text and should be taken into account when analyzing a text, especially a story where brevity makes it necessary for each element to be important.)
  2. Who is the narrator of the story ? Does it affect the objectivity of the story told ? (That is, who is telling this story? Is it a character who appears in the events narrated in the first person, or is it a more objective voice, telling in the third person?
  3. How are the events of the told story organized ? (Does it start at the chronological beginning of the narrated events, in the middle ( in medias res ), or is it a flashback that recalls the story from after the end of the narrated events?)
  4. Is there a central problem that is presented and resolved as the organizing theme of the story? What is that central theme ?
  5. Literary texts are generally characterized by their artistic unity . In other words, the literary text presents a very high level of coherence between its theme and its form, between what happens and the way it is told. If there is a recognizable central theme , how do the different characters in the story, its narrator, or the way the story is told relate to it? That is, do the main characters or other textual elements symbolize or represent a specific aspect of the central theme? Are there important thematic oppositions ? Are there leitmotifs ?
  6. What is the denouement (the ending) of the story and how does it relate to the central theme? Is it an ironic ending (unexpected), or is it an ending that reflects the concept of poetic justice (when the bad guys are punished and the good guys are rewarded)?

Step Two: What does the story mean? Message?

Invent a preliminary topic sentence about a literary element that you will focus on in your analysis of the meaning of the text. In its composition, it will explain how the narrative element studied is related to the global theme/message of the analyzed story. For example, why isn’t there a traditional ‘story’ in ‘The Night Face Up’? o Why does Pardo Bazán use two discourses as markedly different as that of the narrator and that of the dialogue between his characters? Or why does Rulfo decide to use such an uncommunicative narrator, one that doesn’t help us understand the story? What do the two men who hinder the wedding of Margarita and Luis symbolize in “La camisa de Margarita”? Etc. Sometimes it is a good idea to start with this type of rhetorical question to focus our analysis; the answers to the questions guide us towards a more solid and deeper interpretation of the text.

Step Three: Does the extratextual information we have learned about this story agree with my interpretation?

Support your thesis with extratextual information . Read the Introductions (in Approaches and on Blackboard), noting any historical or cultural information that supports your interpretation of the text. For the first composition, you only need to cite an academic source (book or article published in an academic journal); you can use books about their author to find information about their worldview in general, for example. Or you can find articles in databases, such as JSTOR, MLA, ACADEMIC SEARCH PREMIER, etc. (on the UHD library site, check with the librarians if you don’t know how to do this). When reading books or academic articles about your story, take careful notes and write the bibliographic information necessary to cite the sources in an MLA-style bibliography (title of the cited text, edition, place and year of publication, and page):

See our library website ( ) and the guide to the MLA Handbook in “ Citing Sources ” ( ) to see how to cite according to MLA style.

If there is a very noticeable contradiction between your interpretation of the text and the extratextual information in the Introductions or other sources consulted, it is likely that there is a problem in your interpretation. Meditate on the text again.

Step four: Organization of ideas in paragraphs

Organize your arguments so that each paragraph of the composition supports the central thesis of the written work. You can use an outline or idea web to organize your ideas in a coherent and logical way. Your essay needs to be divided into several paragraphs, with each paragraph focusing on one aspect of your central argument. Do not include an analysis of ALL the literary elements we have studied if they are irrelevant, and if they do not support what you want to show as the message of the story. Only textual and extratextual information that directly relates to your thesis is used.

CAUTION : Do not include a detailed plot summary in your essay. You only have to tell the aspects of the story that you are analyzing, not the entire plot. It can be assumed that the reader has read the story and has a literal understanding of its content. It is up to you in your interpretation to deepen that understanding of the text, through textual and extra-textual analysis.

Step Five : The thesis, the introduction, the other paragraphs

Write a draft of the composition with close attention to the structure of your argument, beginning with an introduction that contains the following:

  • The title and full name of the author of the story being analyzed (usually in the first or second sentence, or in the topic sentence at the end of the paragraph): EXAMPLES: “In the story “La noche boca arriba”, Julio Cortázar…”; “Juan Rulfo explores….in his story “You don’t hear dogs barking”.
  • Introductory information about the author, his time, his style or his worldview (whatever is most appropriate to introduce your thesis about the meaning of the story: it is not a good idea to include TOO MUCH introductory information: only what is directly related to your thesis )
  • A topic sentence (or thesis , underlined in your text) that announces your thesis about the meaning of the story and focuses on the literary element(s) you are going to analyze to prove it. Remember that it is important to point out the meaning of the text, using your literary analysis to support your interpretation of the theme.

A consistent way of organizing introductions is demonstrated in the following, where one starts with an overview and works its way down to expressing the thesis in the last sentence:

Presentation of the topic in more general terms

Focus that is a bit more precise

Even more precise focus

Specific approach


In a literary essay on magical realism in One Hundred Years of Solitude , an introduction might be arranged as follows:

Magical realism has become a very characteristic feature of the so-called Latin American ‘Boom’ even though it was invented several decades before the start of that mid-20th century literary movement. [ GENERAL PRESENTATION ]

Today magical realism is associated above all with the narrative works of García Márquez and with a fantastic vision of Latin America in which the exotic and the magical come to symbolize the uniqueness of the region. [ FOCUS A LITTLE MORE PRECISE ]

However, Márquez’s magical realism is characterized by his political commitment to communism and his depiction of Latin America is always rooted in his analysis of socioeconomic conditions. Several scholars of Márquez’s writing have already pointed out a number of Marxist overtones that are expressed through different literary aspects of his take on the magical-realistic genre, especially in One Hundred Years of Solitude , his masterpiece. [ SPECIFIC APPROACH ]

In what follows, the economic and social structure of the fictional town of Macondo will be studied to demonstrate how García Márquez uses Marxism to analyze the history and social current affairs of Latin America . [ THESIS, underlined ]

We are going to try to use this organization of the introductions in this first short work: from the general to the more specific and ending with the thesis .

All paragraphs after the introduction should also have a central theme, which focuses on a main aspect of your overall argument. Sometimes it is necessary to repeat the central thesis again (using different words) in several paragraphs, so that the reader (your teacher) understands why you have included that information in the composition: what aspect of your central argument is elaborated? in that paragraph? This produces logical coherence in your composition. Transition sentences that link one paragraph to the next also produce more coherence in your composition. Transition or linking phrases are as follows: ‘That’s why’ or “In conclusion” (conclusion links), ‘However’ (contrast link), ‘On the other hand’ (compare or contrast link), “Also”, “This way (form)” or “It also looks the same” (assertion, summary and repetition links), etc. There is a long list of these types of transition phrases in this very folder that you should refer to in order to improve transitions in your writing. You must include at least five of these transition or introductory phrases .

Include an appropriate conclusion at the end of the paper, in which you repeat again (using different words) the main idea of your interpretation: the overall meaning of the story and why the author has used the literary elements you have analyzed to communicate it to us.

Step Six : Finishing Touches: Title and Bibliography

Include a title that reflects your thesis and serves as a ‘first introduction’ to your central argument about the story. A title like ‘The Red Stockings’ is not appropriate because it does not indicate your thesis about that story. A title like ‘El narrador’ is also not good because it does not indicate the text that it analyzes or its thesis on that literary aspect. You should mention the title of the story, the author’s name, or both in your title to indicate which text you are analyzing.


Include a bibliography organized according to the rules of the MLA, including the page number in your text. If an electronic source does not have an author, or if it does not have pagination, it is probably not an appropriate scholarly source. Try to find sources (such as published books) that present the credentials and identity of the author of them. For this first short paper, you only need to find a single source (outside of our Approximations introductions , which you can also cite: use library databases to find your information: don’t use Wikipedia or other similar websites because They have neither author nor pages.


Step Seven : Preliminary Review


Check the spelling and grammar of your composition, using a Spanish checker to correct errors (like the one in Word). Take another look at the rubric below and think about how your composition meets the requirements of the job.


Step Eight : Deliver on time


Post the essay on using the link found in this same Course Units folder. It is not necessary to access the website to do this: it is done via Blackboard, before the due date and time.


Assessment Rubric for SPAN 3340 ( Narrative )

0 1 2 3 4 Demonstrates a literal understanding of the text (ie, content, plot, vocabulary, allusions, etc.): should not include a full summary of the plot, only what is relevant
0 1 2 3 4 Uses a formalist approach to the text (ie, explains the literary form of the text, not just the content, such as the role of the narrator, or the ending or symbolic speech [etc.] to communicate the message/feeling of the story.)
0 1 2 3 4 It includes an interpretation of the message, meaning or theme of the text as the central thesis of the work (What does this story want to communicate to us? What does it mean?)
0 1 2 3 4 Use extratextual evidence appropriate to support your argument (from Approaches or Blackboard Introductions, or approved scholarly articles, found through a UHD Virtual Library Scholar Finder): at least one citation from a literary scholarly article.
Points x 4
0 1 2 3 4 Appropriate Introduction: An appropriate title for the essay is included. The title and the author of the story are mentioned and a topic sentence is included that presents the central thesis of the analysis in the first paragraph; the introduction is organized starting with the general and focusing the material until finishing with the thesis; the thesis is underlined
0 1 2 3 4 Logical and coherent presentation of the arguments, with information that really contributes to the argument
0 1 2 3 4 Ideas are organized into appropriate paragraphs
0 1 2 3 4 Appropriate conclusion , based on the thesis announced in the introduction: the discussion anticipates the comments of the conclusion in a clear and coherent way
Points x 1
0 1 2 3 4 Varied language is used (does not repeat ‘easy verbs’ in every sentence—ie, give, say, be, have, be, and have) and appropriate literary vocabulary
0 1 2 3 4 An academic style is used (objective tone, in the third person, with standard vocabulary, without subjective expressions such as ‘it seems to me ‘ or ‘I think …’ or ‘in my opinion’, etc.): Do not use the first person in its composition
0 1 2 3 4 grammar : verb forms, use of relative pronouns, use of the gender of nouns, etc.
0 1 2 3 4 Spelling (stress) and punctuation (use the Spanish spell checker)
0 1 2 3 4 are indicated between quotation marks (“like this”) and the titles or with quotation marks (if it is a short book, such as a “story”) or italics (if it is a longer book, such as a novel)
Minus 20%, minimum A minimum of 4 full pages (without the title on the first page, leaving two lines between lines, in Times New Roman #12)
Points x 1


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