A COMPARATIVE ESSAY: Your goal for essay two is to compare the work of two
or three different writers, attempting to synthesize an argument based on what you observe reading them
side by side. This is not a “compare-and-contrast” assignment; which is to say that your work should go
well beyond merely seeking out and listing similarities and differences. Instead, aim for a new insight that is
the result of analysis and synthesis. We will discuss and practice developing comparative arguments in
class. Below are some suggested approaches, but you are not limited to just these. Let me know if you’ve
got another idea
Your essay must engage with at least one work from after the midterm (Lu Xun, Proust, Joyce, Kafka,
Faulkner). The other work(s) may be from earlier in the semester, if you choose.
A. Different Genres. Choose works from two or three different genres that seem to engage in
conversation about similar or overlapping ideas, issues, problems, or concerns. (We will have read:
comedy of manners, mock epic, lyric poetry, novella, and short story.) How does the genre affect
your reading of the work? Do the particular features or conventions of that genre contribute to the
ways in which the writer engages that issue or idea? Make sure to draw a broad conclusion about
the significance of the claims you are making.
B. Different Perspectives. Choose any two or three works that, side by side, present different
perspectives on a similar issue. Attempt to discover how reading one text may illuminate,
complicate, challenge, or enrich your reading of the other. Make sure to draw a broad conclusion
about the significance of the claims you are making.
C. Different Styles/Techniques. Choose any two or three works that you feel represent interesting
stylistic or technical choices on the part of their authors. For example, you might look at the use of
narrative voice in Proust and Joyce, or plot structure in Kafka and Tolstoy, or syntax in Flaubert and
Faulkner. How do the writers’ choices shape the stories they tell? How does style/technique affect
your reading and interpretation of the texts? Make sure to draw a broad conclusion about the
significance of the claims you are making.
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