University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

English 448/648
Seminar in American Literature since 1865:

Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow

Duyfhuizen, Fall 2007

Keystone Passage Papers

For these writing exercises, you will take a "keystone passage" from Gravity's Rainbow. Your main goal is to select and analyze the keystone passage as a means of interpreting the text's theme. Your task, then, is to provide a focused "close reading" of your selected passage and to draw inferences related to your overall reading of the text. Remember that isolating keystone passages is often merely a starting point for critical writing, and you may well need to cite other passages from the text to help you make your point. At the same time, remember that you cannot do everything in a five-page paper, and I don't expect definitive readings.


In preparing the paper:

  1. Reproduce the keystone passage as part of your introductory paragraph (or attach it as an Appendix to which you specifically refer). Your thesis should be targeting the significance of the passage for revealing meaning in the text as a whole.
  2. Since we are using different editions of the novel, you need to provide accurate citations in the your paper whenever you are quoting from the text, and to provide a separate Work(s) Cited page at the end (see the Sample Paper to get the format right). Also, make sure you transcribe all quotations accurately--I often find in my own writing that I begin with one point in mind when I quote a passage but discover two or three more during the process of transcription; don't underestimate this "clerical" task as part of your close reading strategy.
  3. Even though it is a short paper, you need to have a title that is indicative of the paper's thesis (a title such as "Keystone Passage" won't do).

My evaluation:

I will use a rubric for grading these papers; you should consult it to see what basic components of composition will be worth on this assignment.

Here are two sample papers from 2007, showing succesful responses to the assignment: Sample#1; Sample#2.

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Bernard Duyfhuizen
Associate Dean
College of Arts and Sciences
Updated: 8 November 2007