Sample History Paper on The Painter of Modern Life


The subject for each essay is as follows:

Charles Baudelaire, Paris Spleen, and Parts I, III, IV, and IX of The Painter of Modern Life

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, and the Preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus

                       Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis, and Kafka’s “Letter to His Father”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

My assumption in choosing those four (from among numerous other possibilities) was that each of these texts exemplifies the themes of this course: modernism, modernity, and the complex relationship between them.  For the essays on these texts, your assignment is to show precisely how each of them reflects those themes.  Where is modernism “in” Paris Spleen? Where is modernity “in” that text? What’s the relationship between them that is developed in Baudelaire’s book?  Similarly with the other three assigned readings.

It’s important to keep in mind that it is the themes OF THE COURSE that I am interested in seeing each of you trace out.  In that sense each essay is also a “test” of the material we will have encountered in the course up until the time that each essay is due.  Or, to say it differently, these essays are NOT meant to be research projects.  As I am sure you can all surmise, these four authors are the subject of an immense amount of reflection by literary critics, historians, etc., etc., etc. I am not interested in your consulting that readily available material.  Rather, I am interested in how each of you reads these texts through the lens of the material of our course.

Your essays do NOT need a bibliography, because I am not requiring that you consult any materials OTHER THAN those of the course itself.  If you quote directly from the text(s) about which you are writing, it will be sufficient to put the page number of the quoted material in parentheses behind the quotation itself. Thus: “……………………………..” (Paris Spleen, 49).  HOWEVER, if you give in to the temptation to consult an outside source, THEN you must include it in a bibliography.  [N.B. the bibliography is not a requirement, UNLESS you consult and use an outside source(s).]  ALSO: IF you quote directly OR paraphrase from any outside source, you MUST footnote that source appropriately.   Use PMLA protocols for both footnotes and bibliographies.


Each essay should be @5 double-spaced pages, 12-point font.