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Writing Strong Thesis Statements

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Presentation on theme: "Writing Strong Thesis Statements"— Presentation transcript:

1 Writing Strong Thesis Statements
How to move from descriptive claims to analytical claims

2 A weak thesis statement…
…has no argument “This paper will perform an in-depth examination of the character of Daisy Miller.” Solution: Raise specific issues for the essay to explore.

3 A weak thesis statement…
…is obviously true or a statement of fact “Daisy Miller is Henry James’s study of an American girl in Old World Europe.” Solution: Find an avenue of inquiry—a question about the fact or an issue raised by them. Make an assertion that the reader could disagree with.

4 A weak thesis statement…
…restates conventional wisdom or a cliché “This story shows us that there really is no place like home.” Solution: Seek to “complicate” your thesis. See more than one point of view on your subject. Offer something new to the “cliché.”

5 A weak thesis statement…
…offers personal conviction as the basis for the claim “I feel that Daisy is not a sympathetic character because is manipulative.” Solution: Treat your ideas as hypotheses to be tested, rather than obvious truths. Maintain some distance from your subject.

6 A weak thesis statement…
…makes an overly broad claim “Daisy Miller deals with issues of gender in an interesting way.” Solution: Convert broad, generic categories into more specific, complex assertions. Find ways to bring out the complexity of your subject.

7 What is wrong with these statements?
“Daisy dies in the end of Roman fever, which is symbolic.” “This story raises interesting questions about class and gender.” “This paper will show the tensions between New America and Old Europe.” “Daisy is a fish out of water in the story, which is way she cannot acclimate to high society.” “I find Daisy to be an engaging and liberating heroin in the story”

8 Revision… Using the “solutions” for these problems, rewrite an improved version of 3 of the above theses—be ready to read them and explain the changes you’ve made.

9 Complicating your thesis
Original Thesis: James’s Daisy Miller highlights the challenges of a young woman facing a judgmental society. Suggestions: The thesis is too general. What “challenges” must Daisy face? What has caused them? Which section of “society” is being judgmental and to what extent? Revised Thesis: In Daisy Miller, Daisy faces the judgment of Europe’s genteel class because she is considered flirtatious, uncouth, and manipulative.

10 Complication your thesis
Suggestions: Is she “considered” flirtatious, uncouth, and manipulative, or IS she? Is there a difference? By what standard is she considered these things? Revised Thesis: In Daisy Miller, the European elite consider Daisy flirtatious, uncouth, and manipulative because she is American and, as such, she chooses to ignore rules of decorum.

11 Complicating your thesis
Suggestions: Does she act this way because she is American and thus not accustomed to these “rules,” or is she willfully disregarding the rules of decorum simply because she is rebellious? Or both? Revised Thesis: In Daisy Miller, Daisy is considered flirtatious, uncouth, and manipulative by the European elite, who represent traditional rules of decorum that Daisy stands in both ignorance of and opposition to.

12 Introduction: Henry James
Henry James is one of America’s first truly great novelists; seems to have “perfected” the realist novel and made it popular, yet maintained its sophistication and complexity. Known for psychological realism Point of view, unreliable narrators, etc. Cosmopolitanism: Loved European history and culture and thought it was a shame that America didn’t share that depth of history/culture. American innocence is juxtaposed with European sophistication (New World & Old World) Some consider him to be detached and fatalistic (we can’t control what happens because certain things are inevitable) Was an expatriate—lived in England and became a naturalized citizen there. When Daisy Miller was published, he found that people divided themselves into “Millerites” and “Anti-Millerites”

13 Some considerations of Daisy Miller
“The way [Daisy] is perceived by the elite society that establishes her as a young woman belonging to a relatively lower, more ‘common’ class […] In the same way that the expatriate author views his native land—especially the characteristically American ‘world down-town’—with a mingled sense of curiosity and trepidation, Winterbourne observes in Daisy a spectacle both captivating and disturbing” Dennis Pahl “Daisy Miller: A Study” figures forth in Daisy the androgynous body constructed in popular nineteenth-century accounts of adolescence. If, as Frederick Winterbourne sees it, Daisy Miller oscillates between masculine and feminine identifications, she also oscillates between American and alien, savage and citizen, parvenu and natural aristocrat” Lynn Wardley

14 Some considerations of Daisy Miller
“The contrast between what Daisy wants and what other women in the novella have, and between the amount of freedom allowed by society to Daisy and to Winterbourne, constitutes James’s clearest indictment of the restrictions society imposes specifically on women. […] The odyssey of experience which Daisy, ‘the child of nature and of freedom,’ undergoes reveals society’s desire to confine women within a narrow and rigidly defined sphere.” Louise K. Barnett “[Daisy Miller] will continue to attract young Americans, and now especially young women, to Daisy’s cause; yet that very enthusiasm will, I believe, continue to be fed by a subterranean romance for the past, a kind of dimly understood nostalgia for a social context in which the high drama of such outmoded manners is still possible.” Richard A. Hocks

15 In Groups of 3-4: Write your own thesis statement concerning the character, Daisy Miller. Your statement should represent your argument, should you be writing a paper on Daisy Miller. The argument should reflect your analysis of Daisy as a character: Is she sympathetic? Is she manipulative? Is she misunderstood? Is she a victim? Is she representative of the plight of women? Is she representative of Americans? Is she a brat? Once you decide on your argument, construct a clear, coherent thesis statement and then type it out on the PowerPoint.

16 Group Thesis Statements
In Daisy Miller, Daisy’s failure to assimilate to high society is the result of her inability to understand the expectations of an unfamiliar and foreign society. Daisy Miller is shown as a victim of the expatriate community’s gender based standards of behavior and prejudices towards those with ideas that clash with their own. In Daisy Miller, James portrays the image of American women through Daisy who manipulates men through flirtation while European women impress men with their sophistication.

17 While cultural differences between Old World etiquette and New American liberalism played into how European “high society” viewed Daisy Miller, it was her outright refusal to assimilate into the culture that ultimately shaped her fate. Daisy’s character is represented as a victim through Winterbourne’s remorse over her death, her ignorance of European culture has an impact on the views of her American behavior.

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