The Essay

Richard E. Miller
The Essay: 353:491

Second Assignment: Opening a Door

One could say that our discussion of Montaigne's essay, "How the Mind Tangles Itself Up," demonstrated that it is possible to see an essay as a long hallway lined with doors one might open. Rebecca opened the door that said, "Pliny's Natural History," and found a treasure trove of information that helped to enrich our understanding of the essay's curious ending; Christiane opened the door that said "Buridan's Ass" and in so doing assisted us in understanding the philosophical debate that Montaigne invites his readers to join in his first paragraph. These are just two examples of the kind of exploratory reading that occurred in class on Monday; there were others as well–"indubitable," "parallel," "Stoic."

For your next essay in this course, I would like for you to "open one of the doors" in Scarry's On Beauty and Being Just and see where your explorations take you. Your goal in this assignment is to use your writing to reveal something striking and memorable about your reading of Scarry's argument. Thus, you will want to choose to explore a reference or term that is unfamiliar to you and then write an essay that shows where your research has taken you and what it has helped you to see, understand, or question further about Scarry's argument. You will need to do outside research and you will want to ask yourself the following question throughout: what has my research helped me to see that would otherwise have escaped my attention?

Your essay will be assessed on the basis of the quality of your research, the significance of the insight/insights you deliver, and the elegance of your prose: the best papers will excel in all three areas. Your essay, which must be at least five pages long, is due no later than the beginning of class on October 16th.

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