“The elephant in the room” (phrase) – an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed; an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss (Wikipedia)
During this unit, we will use the fiction genre to consider the problem of omission, or rather, “the elephant in the room” – an obvious problem that no one wants to talk about because it is uncomfortable, offensive, or difficult to articulate. We will relate these elephants in the room of the story to the elephants in the nation: communication vs. “need-to-know,” sexual identity vs. the institution of marriage, race, gender, religion/faith, drug use/abuse, suicide/homicide, grief, adoption vs. biological children, failure/realization of the American Dream, personal prejudice, etc. For this unit, you will explore how the characters sidestep a serious problem, how this problem comes to light, is either solved or completely avoided, and what consequences those decisions produce. You will use the texts we study as support to explain a larger problem in our society, including outside research. Alongside this, you will create a group concept map comparing and contrasting the texts we use to better analyze, interpret, and understand how these texts relate to one another.
Overview of the Essay: For this essay, you will write an in-depth literary analysis that discusses how an “elephant” in the short stories studied in class leads to greater problems when not handled. Using this analysis, you will glean a larger issue that we deal with in our society and discuss its relevance to the text at hand. The issue should act as a vehicle with which you defend your analysis, not the central part of your essay. Build on what you know about character personalities. You must use at least one short story from our class text (Tell Everyone I Said Hi by Chad Simpson) and one short story from the Norton anthology, the extra texts I provide, or any other short stories you’ve read outside of class. Essays must include a strong thesis statement (argument), well-thought out main points, a counterargument, a stable conclusion, and at least five outside research sources (articles, blog posts, books, etc.), incorporating proper parenthetical (in-text) citations and a properly formatted works cited page.
You must quote each base text you use at least four times (ex. If you use “Miracle” and “Peloma,” you must have at least eight total quotations, four from each story) and the outside sources you use at least once per source. All outside sources must be relevant to the argument. You must also cite all these sources, including the short stories, in your works cited page.
Strategies in Progress for Every Unit:
o Writing organized, clear, correct, and purposeful prose
o Analyzing writing within the genre you are reading
o Reading literature within the genre in varying forms
o Analyzing dialogue and monologue for the purpose of understanding characters
o Researching relevant material to synthesize into essay
Specific Strategies in Progress for Unit 2:
o Using writing as a means of understanding what consequences can arise from avoiding handling issues within a text
o Presenting various instances in a short story that displays the avoidance and confrontation of a problem and how those instances relate to a greater issue in society (ex. Peloma never talking about her mother’s death and how it has decreased her value of her own life since she hit puberty, and how this survivor’s guilt manifests itself in the murder-suicides of families who lose small children to horrendous circumstances) and supporting it with specifics (names, dates, any other specifics offered in the fiction or personal stories) and sense impressions (colors, textures, smells, sounds, tastes, etc. given in the text or personal story)
o Creating organized prose by using a clear thesis that leads reader in the right direction while also highlighting your main points, unified paragraphs that guide the argument and support the thesis, and a conclusion that demonstrates you fully understand the prompt
o Choose at least one short story from Tell Everyone I Said Hi by Chad Simpson and one short story from the Norton anthology, the others I give you, or one you’ve read outside of class. Explore why you liked that text and what about the “elephant” struck you as relevant to your own life.
o Analyze how that issue is revealed, handled or avoided, and what the consequences of those decisions do to the characters. Relate that trajectory to your own experiences. Consider how the issues involved relate to problems in our society such as rape culture, gun control, racism, sexism, homophobia, the bystander effect, voter rights, civil rights, drug use/abuse, suicide/homicide, etc.
o Include, at minimum, 4 quotations for each short story referenced in your essay and cite them within the text and in your works cited.
o Write a detailed thesis statement that includes an argument for the essay (this is the “elephant” and this is why we should care), main points you will hit within the essay, and the vehicle with which you will prove your point (the larger issue you’re relating the “elephant” to from the texts).
o Include, at minimum, 5 outside research sources that relate to the short stories or the national issue you’re discussing. Cite them properly. These sources should be relevant, credible, and considerate of your topic.
Conventions and Mechanics:
Format: (see syllabus for example format of first page)
– 7-8 pages
– 1-inch margins all around
– Times New Roman 12pt. font
– Page numbers in upper right-hand corner of the header with last name (ex. Prince 1)
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