Try It: Supportable Claims

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Exercise 1: Is the claim supportable?

Your introductory literature seminar is reading Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic in which Bechdel reflects on her upbringing given new knowledge she has gleaned about her family. Imagine you are writing a 5-6 page paper on this text and are not to use outside sources. For each claim below, determine whether it is supportable<within the scope of this assignment.

1. Fun Home’s numerous literary allusions draw attention to the artifice involved in all literary writing, even forms like autobiography and memoir that we might take to be transparent representations of past events.

  • Yes, this claim is supportable<

  • No, this claim is not supportable<

  • Correct This claim sets up an argument that can be supported with evidence from the text. The argument will focus on the literary device of Bechdel’s frequent allusions and suggest the ways in which this device illuminates broader themes important to the work as a whole.

  • Incorrect This claim does use evidence drawn from the text, which means that it is supportable<. The argument will focus on the literary device of Bechdel’s frequent allusions and suggest the ways in which this device illuminates broader themes important to the work as a whole.

Exercise 1: Is the claim supportable?

Your introductory literature seminar is reading Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic in which Bechdel reflects on her upbringing given new knowledge she has gleaned about her family. Imagine you are writing a 5-6 page paper on this text and are not to use outside sources. For each claim below, determine whether it is supportable<within the scope of this assignment.

2. Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, by combining literary allusions with the comic book form, represents a new moment in the history of American memoir.

  • Yes, this claim is supportable<

  • No, this claim is not supportable<

  • Incorrect This claim would have to use evidence drawn from outside of the text which means that it is not supportable according to the terms of this assignment. While this claim does point to a specific literary technique, it ultimately focuses on the history of memoir more broadly. To support this claim fully, you would need to utilize evidence from a long history of American memoir, putting Bechdel’s work in conversation with many others. Such an essay would sacrifice close attention to the literary text in favor of outside research and would thus go beyond the scope of the assignment in an introductory literature class.

  • Correct While this claim does point to a specific literary technique, it ultimately focuses on the history of memoir more broadly. To support this claim fully, you would need to utilize evidence from a long history of American memoir, putting Bechdel’s work in conversation with many others. Such an essay would sacrifice close attention to the literary text in favor of outside research and would thus go beyond the scope of the assignment in an introductory literature class.

Exercise 1: Is the claim supportable?

Your introductory literature seminar is reading Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic in which Bechdel reflects on her upbringing given new knowledge she has gleaned about her family. Imagine you are writing a 5-6 page paper on this text and are not to use outside sources. For each claim below, determine whether it is supportable<within the scope of this assignment.

3. Combining extensive literary allusions with carefully crafted illustrations, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is a masterpiece of the graphic memoir genre.

  • Yes, this claim is supportable<

  • No, this claim is not supportable<

  • Incorrect This claim uses a personal opinion as its basis which means that it is not supportable according to the terms of the assignment. While it is easy to imagine another reader who would disagree with this claim, it is difficult to see how you might persuade such a reader with textual evidence. Claims like this one, even though they point to literary devices, ultimately describe a reader’s opinion about the value of the text. If another reader does not find literary allusions and impressive drawings the most important aspects of a work of literature, no amount of description of these devices will convince that reader that this text is a masterpiece.

  • Correct This claim is not supportable. While it is easy to imagine another reader who would disagree with this claim, it is difficult to see how you might persuade such a reader with textual evidence. Claims like this one, even though they point to literary devices, ultimately describe a reader’s opinion about the value of the text. If another reader does not find literary allusions and impressive drawings the most important aspects of a work of literature, no amount of description of these devices will convince that reader that this text is a masterpiece.

Exercise 1: Is the claim supportable?

Your introductory literature seminar is reading Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic in which Bechdel reflects on her upbringing given new knowledge she has gleaned about her family. Imagine you are writing a 5-6 page paper on this text and are not to use outside sources. For each claim below, determine whether it is supportable<within the scope of this assignment.

4. The frequent and extended literary allusions in Bechdel’s Fun Home reveal the author’s inability to deal directly with the troubling events of her family life.

  • Yes, this claim is supportable<

  • No, this claim is not supportable<

  • Incorrect This claim makes a biographical argument and so it is not supportable according to the terms of the assignment.

    Like the prior claim, this sentence points to a specific literary aspect of Bechdel’s memoir but goes on to make a claim about something beyond the text. This claim focuses on Bechdel’s life rather than on how she represents her life in her literary work. A biographical claim like this one is not just unsupportable for this kind of assignment but also for literature papers more generally.

  • Correct Like the prior claim, this sentence points to a specific literary aspect of Bechdel’s memoir but goes on to make a claim about something beyond the text. This claim focuses on Bechdel’s life rather than on how she represents her life in her literary work. A biographical claim like this one is not just unsupportable for this kind of assignment but also for literature papers more generally.

Exercise 1: Is the claim supportable?

Your introductory literature seminar is reading Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic in which Bechdel reflects on her upbringing given new knowledge she has gleaned about her family. Imagine you are writing a 5-6 page paper on this text and are not to use outside sources. For each claim below, determine whether it is supportable<within the scope of this assignment.

5. While the illustrations in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home initially seem to support the meaning of the written text, the combination of comic book drawings with literary language actually allows Bechdel to provide multiple and sometimes competing versions of her past.

  • Yes, this claim is supportable<

  • No, this claim is not supportable<

  • Correct This claim sets up an argument that can be supported with evidence from the text. A paper based on this claim would focus on specific moments in Fun Home in which the text and the images work at cross-purposes to complicate Bechdel’s narrative. Like claim three, this claim addresses Bechdel’s past, but it focuses on how she represents her past instead of looking to the literary text as a transparent window into Bechdel’s real life.

  • Incorrect This claim is supportable because it uses the text as a basis to make its argument. A paper based on this claim would focus on specific moments in Fun Home in which the text and the images work at cross-purposes to complicate Bechdel’s narrative. Like claim three, this claim addresses Bechdel’s past, but it focuses on how she represents her past instead of looking to the literary text as a transparent window into Bechdel’s real life.

Exercise 2: Select the content that could be used to support the claim.

Think back to the opening exercise for this lesson, and imagine that you’re in the planning stages to write an essay for the following prompt:

Write a 10-12 page paper that focuses on the character of Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses to discuss formal innovation in the novel. Though you should not do any outside research, you may refer to The Odyssey, Ulysses’ companion text.

You settle upon the following claim:

In both Joyce’s Ulysses and Homer’s Odyssey, a long-suffering wife comes sharply into focus near the end of the work. Throughout Ulysses, Joyce’s use of lengthy prose narration paradoxically resonates with parallel instances of compressed epic imagery in Homer to reveal the Penelope-like terseness underlying Molly’s voluble thinking.

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Based upon this claim, which of the following would be appropriate to use as evidence to support your claim?

  • A. An analysis of the generic similarities and differences between epics and novels as illustrated in the two works, and how these parallels and changes affect the ways the characters are portrayed.

  • B. A close reading of Molly Bloom’s final soliloquy in Ulysses.

  • C. Biographical evidence about Homer and Joyce’s lives.

  • D. An overview of what characters in each work say about Penelope and Molly, respectively, and how these comments relate to the ways the two women actually behave.

  • E. A comparison of the historical circumstances of 20th-century Dublin and ancient Greece.

  • F. A discussion of the power structures unique to being colonized, in order to discuss the impacts of imperialism upon Joyce’s Ireland, versus the role of the colonizer, in order to discuss the significance of imperial power to ancient Greece.

  • G. A formal analysis of the similarities between the two works in regards to the ways Molly and Penelope are described.

  • A. Correct. Since you will be comparing the two works in your claim and discussing the formal nature of epics and novels, a genre analysis would be good support for your claim. What else could you use to support your argument?

  • There are other answers for this question that you should select as well. Try again.

  • B. Correct. A close reading of Molly’s final thoughts would be a good way to support your arguments about the similarities between Molly and Penelope. What else could you use to support your argument?

  • There are other answers for this question that you should select as well. Try again.

  • C. The assignment tells you not to do any outside research, and so this biographical evidence would not support your claim. Similarly, biographical information is different from a formal analysis, which is what the prompt asks you to do. Try again.

  • D. Correct. You could use a general overview of the ways the two women are portrayed in the novel to make connections between your close readings. What else could you use to support your argument?

  • There are other answers for this question that you should select as well. Try again.

  • E. The assignment tells you not to do any outside research, and so this biographical evidence would not support your claim. Similarly, biographical information is different from a formal analysis, which is what the prompt asks you to do. Try again.

  • F. While colonialism is important to both works, using this kind of evidence would require significant outside research. The assignment tells you not to do any outside research, and so this historical evidence would not support your claim. Similarly, historical information is different from a formal analysis, which is what the prompt asks you to do. Try again.

  • G. Correct. You could analyze the two women’s similar character traits to show the ways that the Ulysses and The Odyssey are similar. What else could you use to support your argument?

  • There are other answers for this question that you should select as well. Try again.

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2. Think back to the opening exercise for this lesson, and imagine that you’re in the planning stages to write an essay for the following prompt:

Write a 5-7 page paper that focuses on the theme of death in William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying.

You settle upon the following claim:

While William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is a text ostensibly concerned with death, the novel in fact drives towards rebirth. Rather than redeeming the tragic aspects of the text, however, this focus on rebirth suggests a universe in which tragedy will continually renew itself.

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Based upon this claim, which of the following would be appropriate to use as evidence to support your claim?

  • A. Faulkner infuses the novel with imagery of birth, such as: when Addie’s coffin becomes submerged in the river, suggesting a baptismal scene; Dewey Dell’s unplanned pregnancy; etc.

  • B. Faulkner was a writer who thought a lot about his own childhood, dedicating one of his works to the servant who helped to raise him.

  • C. Darl’s slide into schizophrenia symbolizes the splitting of one person into two, which in a sense, enacts a self-birth.

  • D. Faulkner’s texts are saturated with concerns about female reproduction, as in the depictions of Caddy’s burgeoning sexuality in The Sound and the Fury, or the disturbing image of the marital bed in “A Rose for Emily.”

  • E. In the beginning of the novel Darl says, “It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That’s how the world is going to end.” While Darl’s apocalyptic vision imagines a depopulated world, his later statement belies his initial remark: “That’s why I am not is. Are is too many for one woman to foal.” As Darl is the voice the reader identifies with most, the trajectory of his thought from desolation to population parallels the novel’s concern with renewal.

  • F. Faulkner’s meandering sentences, which subvert standard grammar and style rules about comma use and sentence-length, enact their own form of rebirth: words spawn more words, text begets more text.

  • G. Faulkner’s text, written at a time when birth control was being debated in American society, engages with the sorts of concerns about female reproduction seen elsewhere in Progressive-era America and beyond.

  • A. Correct! By focusing on specific material from the text, this evidence will enable you to make an argument that readers can agree or disagree with.

  • There are other answers for this question that you should select as well. Try again.

  • B. Try again. Although Faulkner did dedicate a novel to his childhood nanny, this claim does not come from As I Lay Dying, and would be extremely hard to argue effectively using evidence from the novel.

  • C. Correct! Although some readers may disagree that Darl’s mental illness is not about birth at all, evidence for this interpretation is located in the text, making it available to your readers as well as to you.

  • There are other answers for this question that you should select as well. Try again.

  • D. Try again. When you are writing about literature, evidence for a successful claim usually comes from the text you are writing about. Here, representations of female sexuality in Faulkner’s other texts are only adjacent to As I Lay Dying, making it difficult for your argument to focus on the novel itself.

  • E. Correct! This example uses close reading to show that while Darl envisions the end of the world in the novel’s opening, his thought shifts to the persistence of the human race. This transformation provides evidence that the novel focuses more on staving off death than submitting to it.

  • There are other answers for this question that you should select as well. Try again.

  • F. Correct! Faulkner’s grammar in As I Lay Dying is an example of evidence from the text that you can draw on to make your point. Good close readings bring together analyses of the text’s content with analyses of the form in which the text is written.

  • There are other answers for this question that you should select as well. Try again.

  • G. Try again. In order to write about concerns over birth control in Progressive-era America, you will want to link those concerns more firmly to As I Lay Dying—for example, Dewey Dell’s attempts to buy an abortifacient—and make sure to explain how they shed light on the novel as a whole.

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