Based on exchanges I’ve had with a couple of you, I feel like there’s a point that needs to be clarified regarding your second composition.

You’ll remember from assignment sheet that this assignment requires you to write an analysis that “focus[es] on a theme or issue in the text that corresponds with an issue (philosophical, social, ethical, political, religious, etc.) in the ‘real’ world. What does the text make strange and why?”

I’m concerned that some of you may be approaching this like a comparison essay, in which you will compare your selected text to some specific scenario. But that isn’t the assignment–in fact, for this paper, your object isn’t to compare but to analyze. Of course, the two categories aren’t mutually exclusive, but this essay shouldn’t be a comparison.

So, for example, let’s imagine that I’ve decided to write my paper on reality tv and The Hunger Games. I will NOT be comparing The Hunger Games to Survivor. Instead, I’ll be analyzing how the novel explores the idea of reality tv. Suzanne Collins says that reality tv was one of the major influences on the novel, and that’s pretty obvious because of how much the text emphasizes cameras and audiences, and the Games as a highly produced spectacle. But it’s also obviously not a mirror image to reality tv as we know it; as far as I know, no shows are forcing children to fight to the death. My job as a writer, then, is to think about what the novel says about reality tv. Clearly, it’s not a positive message, and I would tentatively suggest that the negativity is geared toward the viewers of reality tv. So as I’m researching this topic, I’m hoping that I’ll find sources about reality tv in The Hunger Games and I’ll also be looking at sources about the phenomenon of reality tv, like this article, which (according the abstract) focuses on the emotional experience of viewers who watch reality shows with the aim of offering an answer for why people watch. Ultimately, this paper is going to answer the question, “What does The Hunger Games say about reality tv, and in particular, what does it say about viewers of reality tv?”

For the next paper, the rhetorical analysis, I’m going to find a non-literary, non-fiction source that engages the same issue. Again, my issue is NOT Survivor; it’s the phenomenon of reality tv. So maybe I’ll use this article from Slate.com about the unique vocabulary of reality tv, or maybe I’ll use this infographic that gives statistical data about reality shows. Or maybe I’ll choose a source about Survivor and analyze what it says about reality tv.

Another example: Imagine I’m writing about Ender’s Game and genocide. I will NOT write a paper in which I compare the genocide in Ender’s Game to, for example, the Rwandan genocide or the Holocaust. I will write about how the novel explores the concept of genocide. I will focus on answering the question, “What does Ender’s Game say about genocide?” I would expect that question to develop and become more nuanced as I worked, but that’s the basic question.

For the second paper, I would find a non-literary source about genocide, like this infographic or maybe this BBC News article about the Rwandan genocide. In either case, the question is still, “What does this text say about genocide?”

I hope this clears things up. We’ll talk about this in class tomorrow, but I wanted this to be available to you here so you can come back to it if you need to.