The short essay should be approximately three typed, double-spaced pages in 12 pt. font with one-inch margins. The essay should offer a close reading of a character, theme or topic from the primary source materials. Alternatively, students may choose to create a genre adaptation of one of the primary sources as a creative close reading.

Your essay should focus on a particular question or angle of interpretation. For instance, you might gather all the information available within “A Madman’s Diary” on the narrator to sketch who he is based on what little evidence we are given. What is his position? What does this mean? How does it affect our understanding of the madman, of the story, and of the story as commentary on Chinese culture.

Or, as another example, you might focus on the two women characters in “The Night of the Midautumn Festival.” What affect does the fact that the story was written by a woman have on her portrayal of these two characters. Is the wife’s conservatism to blame for her husband’s downfall? Is the foster sister a “modern” woman? What is the reason for her death? Does the narrator place more responsibility on the women in the story as “vessels of tradition? What about the narrator? Is the narrator telling the story from a woman’s perspective?

These are just two of an infinite number of possibilities. Keep in mind that if you were writing on either of these topics, your job would not be to systematically answer the series of questions that I’ve written above. Instead, let your inquiry be guided by your evidence and interpretation of the material. The examples above can serve as a guide in terms of being focused on the interpretation of internal evidence from within the stories.

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