Mary Ragan entered higher education through Macomb Community College, but then took a detour through the worlds of factory labor and banking before becoming a financial planner. Unable to resist the lure of literature, she returned to school to complete her bachelor's degree at St. Mary's College and then her master's degree at Oakland University.  Her return to higher education came full circle as she began her teaching career as a Writing Mentor in Macomb's writing center.  She moved into an adjunct role and then served as temporary full time faculty before becoming full time faculty. Now, in addition to her teaching, she coordinates the hiring, evaluation, and training of some 50 adjunct faculty for the English Department.  Her formidable organizational power and a keen awareness of the class biases that can misdirect education are central to  In particular, she is responsible for transforming the worn notion of the modes by treating them as specific facets of a larger process: critical thinking.


Papers should posit some clear, restricted, and unified thesis about one or more of the works we have read and support that thesis with specific events, direct quotations from the texts, and concrete comments on the characters, action, tone, themes, or authorial meaning.  For instance, in writing a paper on The Great Gatsby, I might offer as a thesis the following:  "The excerpt from Gatsby’s diary, written when he was still a boy named Jimmy Gatz, delineates the evolution of the American Dream.  The page is filled with plans for improvement and stands in vivid and tragic contrast to Gatsby’s wasted life."  Such a thesis is sufficiently narrow since it addresses just one area of the text and focuses on only one character, yet it is sufficiently broad to include related issues that may be raised, such as the events and circumstances that brought the earnest boy to this life of wasted love, wasted power, and wasted potential, and the ways he represents the dark side of the American Dream as Fitzgerald sees it.

The thesis might focus on some of the themes, issues or problems these texts contain.  Your thesis should be fairly thoughtful and seek to reveal some deeper meaning of the work -- a meaning which would not be obvious to the average, casual reader of the text, but which comes from isolating an idea, word, or character trait and searching for its frequent appearance in the text.  Your thesis and supporting arguments should allow readers of the paper to see the text in some new light, with some deeper understanding of its meaning.

These themes, issues or problems might include:

     *the meaning of water images, both real and metaphorical, in O’Neill’s plays

     *the real source of Holden Caulfield’s alienation from society

     *how Holden’s sister works as both a character and a symbol

     *the ways Fitzgerald uses clothing or color to convey ideas about class, status or character

     *why Gatsby’s futile attempts to relive the past do not bring him closer to his dreams

     *religious imagery in Johnny Got His Gun

     *the reason Bromden is the narrator in Cuckoo’s Nest

     *the animal and nature images that pervade Fahrenheit 451

     *the roles and uses of women in Johnny Got His Gun

     *the larger meaning behind the titles of the three parts of Fahrenheit 451

     *the significance of automobiles in Gatsby

     *travel as a metaphor in Accidental Tourist

     *McMurphy or Joe Bonham as metaphoric Christ figures

     *Macon’s family relationships as a factor in his inability to connect with people

This is not a list of thesis statements or titles, nor is it inclusive; it is just a sampling.  Figure out what issues interest you, find it in the works you have chosen, and come to some unified conclusion about what you uncover there.  

All papers must be 6 to 8 pages long, typed, double spaced, titled, with page numbers.  MLA style requires a running header; that is, a line in the top right corner that displays your last name and the page number.  Adhere to the rules of grammar, spelling, punctuation and organization.  Always write in the present tense, and in the third person.

You must use at least three outside sources of quoted material for the paper such as books of secondary criticism or other scholarly sources that elucidate your thesis.  Scholarly sources do not include CliffsNotes, Masterpieces of Literature, Contemporary Literary Criticism, Masterplots, GradeSaver, StudyWorld, Classic Notes, Monarch Notes, SparkNotes, etc.  If you are not sure about the scholarly nature of a source, please ask me.

Any quotations from the texts should be referenced by giving the author and page number.

         But Gatsby is not the only one who feels anxious about this meeting.  Daisy

         telephones Nick and "seemed relieved that I was coming" (Fitzgerald 116).

Note that there is no punctuation in the parentheses, only the name and page number.  Also note that the period is outside the parentheses, effectively making the citation part of the preceding sentence.  If your quotation is longer than four lines of printing, eliminate the quotation marks and instead, offset your left margin by indenting 10 spaces, (or one inch on a word processor).

     It slowly dawns on Nick just what is in Myrtle's mind:                           

     Her expression was curiously familiar - it was an expression I had often seen on women's

     faces, but on Myrtle Wilson's face it seemed purposeless and inexplicable until I realized that      

     her eyes, wide with jealous terror, were fixed not on Tom, but on Jordan Baker, whom

     she took to be his wife. (Fitzgerald 127)       

Always offer some comment or interpretation of each passage you quote.  Make it clear to the reader why this passage is important to the point you are trying to make about the text.  Keep in mind that this is an argument paper.  Each quotation you cite is more evidence that your thesis is valid.  Imagine that you are arguing your thesis to a hostile or ignorant audience.  State your thesis and then keep piling on the textual evidence that supports your point.

Do not use footnotes or endnotes.  According to MLA style, you must have a Works Cited page that lists in alphabetical order by author all the texts you have cited; list the secondary sources as well as the primary text.  The Works Cited page is numbered; however, it is not counted as one of the 6 to 8 pages of text required.

Works Cited

Bewley, Marius.  “Scott Fitzgerald’s Criticism of America.”  The Sewanee Review 62.2

     (1954): 223-246. JSTOR. Web. 5 May 2017.

Bloom, Harold.  Fitzgerald: Modern Critical Views.  New York: Chelsea House, 1982.  

Fitzgerald, F. Scott.  The Great Gatsby.  New York: Scribner's, 1974.  

Fogle, Richard Harter.  Scott and Zelda.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.

Kazin, Alfred.  F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Man and His Work.  Cleveland: World


     Publishing Company, 1951.

Lewis, Roger. “Money, Love, and Aspiration in The Great Gatsby.”  New Essays on The

     Great Gatsby.  Ed. Andrew J. Bruccoli.  Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge

     University Press, 1985. 34 – 52.  

     Submit Final Paper as a file attached to an email: DUE  April 24

               a. subject line: YourLastName-2730-final [example: jones-2730-final ]

               b. file name: YourLastName-2730-final  [example: jones-2730-final ]

               c. submit to