LIT 3015 Food in Film and Literature

Guidelines for Final Project

This project should be a brief analysis – minimum of five pages up to six.  You do not need to use outside sources but if you do, you must use MLA citation.  Failure to do so will result in withdrawal from course (see university policy on plagiarism).  The due date is Wednesday, May 12, 2010.  Here are some suggestions:

  1. A comparison/contrast of a film and a text version of a food related narrative.  Use our discussions of Babette’s Feast or Like Water for Chocolate as examples.
  2. An analysis of food used as symbol, metaphor etc in any one film or text (other than ones done in class).
  3. A comparison/contrast between two films or texts and their specific use of a similair theme or symbol.  For example, chocolate in both Like Water for Chocolate and Chocolat ( though you should pick topics different then one covered in class).

You should provide specific examples from the text or film to support your thesis.  You should also use specific terminology from either the film vocabulary list, the lit terminology list or the elements of poetry list.

Thesis statements should be focused.

You are encouraged to share rough drafts with me as you complete the project!

What is Literary Criticism and How Do I Write a Paper of This Nature?

At its very basic definition, literary criticism is a written evaluation of a work of literature that attempts to enlighten a reader about the underlying meaning of the text, whether it is a play, poem, short story, or novel.


In this type of paper a writer is forming an academic argument.  As the writer you are arguing that your interpretation of the text is a valid - not the only interpretation - in an attempt to aid the reader in “seeing” the text in a new light or from a different perspective that perhaps may be different from their own. 


Your audience is made up of academics, scholars, literary critics, professors, and students (who are academics, scholars, and literary critics).  You should assume that they have read the text and are familiar with its contents.  Because of this you would never merely retell the story because your audience is already familiar with it.  This would also conflict with the purpose of this type of paper.  You are to discuss underlying meaning, not retell the events of the story.

Because your audience is a scholarly one, your paper must be presented in a formal manner.  You should use high diction and avoid first person, personal pronouns, and contractions.


The focus of your paper should be what you feel is an important idea or theme found in the work.  Although there are multiple theories and methods that a writer may explore when examining a text, we will concern ourselves only with the methods of the Russian Formalist and New Critical approaches, which emphasize close readings of the text, elevating this practice far above generalizing discussion and speculation about either authorial intention (to say nothing of the author's psychology or biography, which became almost taboo subjects) or reader response.


In developing your ideas, you should concern yourself with three important steps.  First you must make a writerly assertion about the content of your text.  For instance, when considering Alice Walker’s short story, “Everyday Use”, one might assert that Dee’s plans to display her mother’s quilts on her wall illustrate a disconnectedness from her heritage, which is ironic when one conisiders that Dee views this as an act of embracing her culture.  As your second step, to “prove” this assertion as a valid one, a writer would then need to provide evidence from the text to support that assertion.  A writer could then quote Mama’s lines from the story explaining that she had attempted to give Dee these same quilts when she left for college, but Dee found them to be “old faishioned” and “out of style.”  Keep in mind, however, that you cannot stop here.  Providing a quote and then moving on to another idea is not acceptable.  As your last step, you must explain how the quote from the text illustrates the assertion that you are attempting to make.  For instance, one could explain that because Dee has recently embraced the Black Power Movement’s idea of returning to one’s African roots she is merely interested in these quilts because it is the fashionable and sylish thing to do among her peers.

Questions for Discovering Ideas:

•What ideas do you discover in the work? How do you discover them (through action, character depiction, scenes, language?)

•To what do the ideas pertain? To the individuals themselves? To individuals and society? To religion? To social, political, or economic justice?

•Are the ideas limited to members of any groups represented by the characters (age, race, nationality, or personal status)? Or are the ideas applicable to general conditions of life? Explain.

•Which characters in their own right represent or embody ideas? How do their actions and speeches bring these ideas out?

•What ideas seem particularly important in the work? Why? Is it asserted directly, indirectly, dramatically, ironically? Does any one method predominate? Why/

•How pervasive in the work is the idea (throughout or intermittent)? To what degree is it associated with a major character or action? How does the structure of the work affect or shape your understanding of the idea?

•What value or values are embodied in the idea? Of what importance are the values to the work’s meaning?

How compelling is the idea? How could the work be appreciated without reference to any idea at all?


•Your essay should have a title.  It should also be typed, double-spaced, with one inch margins all around, Times New Roman Font, & 12 pt.  Refer to your handbook:  Rules for Writers for other questions about format.  Your essay should be a minimum of 5 pages and no more than 6.  You must include a Works Cited Page in proper MLA style, including in-text citations.  Generally, an in-text citation looks like this -- (Bambara 5). Notice that the end punctuation, that is the period, generally goes after the end parenthesis. The number five indicates on what page the material is taken.

See for Modern Language Association variations on this style. You must include a copy of each source with all information used, paraphrased, or quoted highlighted.  Each copy of a source must be clearly identified as to author, publication, and clear page numbers. 

Please see Harmon's Hall of Fame for example student essays.

These techniques are the most important for your essay:

•Discovering and focusing on a single clearly defined interpretation.  Your thesis statement should not be a statement of fact, essentially your goal is to explain, evaluate, and argue your individual point of view.

Your interpretation must be supported with evidence from the text (quotes from the story).  You must show which specific characters, events, conflicts, images, or themes prompted your response.  Do not merely retell the major events of the story—your readers have already read it.

Remember that literary criticism is formal academic writing.  The first person, personal pronouns, and contractions should be avoided.

Your grade for this assignment will be determined as follows:

Total Possible Points:  70/

Final Draft, evaluated on the following criteria:

Focus (19 points):  Does essay have a clear purpose? Overall claim stated? Focus on a single idea or aspect of the literature? Does the writer explain the broader implications of this claim to the text as a whole? Are the subclaims clearly related to the claim? When read together, do the intro and conclusion form one idea?

Development (19 points):  Does writer support interpretation with evidence from text? Avoid giving a plot summary? Does writer explain for the reader how the evidence supports interpretation?  Does writer quote accurately from the source, including citing specific page numbers?

Organization (19 points):   Do first few sentences arouse the reader’s interest and focus their attention on the subject? Are readers expectations set and clearly met? Do paragraphs have clear focus, unity and coherence? Effective transitions? Does the writer guide the reader from beginning to end?

Style (7 points):  Is language clear direct and readable? Are sentences clear, concise, and easily read by intended audience? Is word choice appropriate for audience? Do sentences reveal and sustain appropriate voice and tone? Does writer use the literary present tense to describe events in the story?

Mechanics (6 points):  Are there obvious errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar? Are there patterns of error?


Grading scale:
A 63-70
B 56-62
C 49-55
D 42-47
F   0-41