literary texts represents of a key theme

5-7 Pages (Double-Spaced) Please use either APA or MLA citation style. No external sources are necessary (just citations of your chosen literary text).


The purpose of this paper is to reflect on the way one of our literary texts represents one of our key themes: hysteria, paranoia or conspiracy theory. The paper should be focused upon the way your chosen theme—say paranoia—works within the literary text. In other words, the paper will propose an interpretation of the literature rather than talking more broadly about paranoia in history or culture (as some of our other readings have done).


Steps for Building the Paper:


1. Pick the literary text that you liked best (from The Crucible, A Scanner Darkly, or Bodily Harm)

and then select a representation of hysteria, paranoia or conspiracy theory from that text.

For example, you could choose the image of “the man with the rope” who haunts Rennie in Bodily Harm. Of course Rennie is entirely justified in fearing the man with the rope, yet at some point in the novel, most readers come to feel that he is also an image of a generalized fear of men that might be thought of as paranoid.


2. Briefly put this representation in the context of the larger action of the text by writing 2-3 paragraphs of summary and framing—no more; don’t let yourself get tangled up in long summaries of the text.

For example, you would spend a few paragraphs explaining the importance of the man with the rope to the action of the novel (the break in happens early and motivates her travel, but she keeps reflecting on this man and comparing him to other men she knows, etc.)


3. Then build an interpretation of this representation in which you try to say what you think the text is suggesting about your chosen theme (hysteria, paranoia, or conspiracy theory). To develop this interpretation, you will very likely have to cite other passages from your text that shed light on the key passage. Just try to stay as focused as you can (so your paper doesn’t get too long and complicated).

Returning to our example, you would select a few key passages where you see the novel doing key things with the image of the man with the rope. Since this is a short paper, you’d want to select a few crucial passages (that you would quote and then discuss). These should be passages that let you focus on important aspects of this image and interpret the way the novel uses the image.


There are many possible ways to interpret “the man with the rope” as a symbol or figure that informs the novel. Your paper would just develop one (or possibly two) of them. You might begin by thinking about the ways your chosen representation relates to larger patterns in the text. For instance, we can ask: Why does the man with the rope haunt Rennie even when she is far from her native country? What does the image come to signify toward the end of her adventures? How does that image relate to other images of men in the novel? Etc.


When your paper is finished, it should present a clear interpretation of an interesting literary representation of hysteria, paranoia or conspiracy theory in one of our literary texts. For instance, if it should turn out that the terrifying image of the man with the rope—a malevolent stalker—is similar to many other men in the novel, that would be quite fascinating and disturbing.