Writing About Drama

Overview We have closely studied two plays, Fences by August Wilson and Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. These plays, as you have noticed, are completely different from each other. One grows out of the American tradition of serious, tragic drama, which stretches back to the theatre of Eugene O’Neil, whereas the other springs from the British tradition of intellectual comedy that includes such playwrights as Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and William Congreve.    Despite their differences, both plays are fascinated (even obsessed) by the ways in which the past impinges on the present. Instructions Write a four-page critical essay that examines some of the ways in which each play juxtaposes past and present: How are Wilson and Stoppard different in this regard? What also makes them similar? Base your ideas on specific features of each text. Although this is a speculative essay, try to give roughly equal attention to each play. Incorporate something “relevant” (a piece of information, a critical statement or opinion) from each of the following sources: Understanding August Wilson Actions  by Mary l. Bogumil and Science in Hapgood and Arcadia Actions  by Paul Edwards (The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard). Make sure that these two references fit your argument.  Follow the same guidelines as you did for Paper 1: Include a strong thesis statement articulating your point of view about the stories you are analyzing.  Include specific discussion of genre conventions (figurative language, dialogue, plot, description, humor, characterization, setting, narrative devices, etc.) that help convey the particular theme that you have chosen to write about. Cite specific examples and details in your discussion of each play to support your thesis/point of view. Quote effectively (not too much and not too little). Three to four apt quotations should suffice for this purpose. Introduce the quoted passages and explain their significance for you and for the reader’s sake as well.  Clearly organize, present, and develop your points in well-constructed paragraphs. A paragraph is a unit of composition that develops a stage in your analysis, exposition, or argument. Ideally, each paragraph should begin with a clear topic sentence and relate to every other paragraph in order to form a coherent whole. Make effective transitions between the various stages and ideas in your essay. Keep your introductory and concluding paragraphs concise and succinct.  Be direct and to the point in your writing—try to avoid wordiness. Use the “present” tense, whenever possible when writing about a story or any work of fiction. Use the first-person voice (“I” or “me”) only to help convey your own writerly voice. Include a Works Cited page. Even though you are just citing a few sources for this assignment, you need to cite them accurately and correctly.  For this task and other matters of style, formatting, and documentation, you should consult the most recent edition of The MLA Handbook.  It is an indispensable resource for students of literature.  Rewrite. Good writing, as every professional writer will tell you, requires rewriting. Don’t be content with a rough first draft. Go over your essay several times to make sure it is the best piece of writing you can produce. That means starting early and not waiting until the night before the paper is due. Assume that your audience is comprised of your fellow classmates and your instructor. Since they are already familiar with the stories (and poems and plays), you do not need to provide excessive plot summary.  Instead, your emphasis should be on analysis, interpretation, and argument. Length and Format: This is a four-page, double-spaced, except for “block” quotations, which should be single-spaced.

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