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The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil

To develop reading practices for a book-length text (in this case, a single story).
To think critically about a book-length text and consider how it responds to the world beyond.
To conduct academic research in efforts to support a central argument and integrate these quotes effectively.
Structure an essay around a central, persuasive argument and provide evidence to support.

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Materials for the Assignment
George Saunders – The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil
From They Say, I Say
Chapter 7 – “So What? Who Cares?” (pp 91-100)
Chapter 15 – “On Closer Examination” (pp 187-204)
Charley Locke – “The Real Reason Dystopian Fiction Is Roaring Back” (published on Wired) (Links to an external site.)
J.P Telotte – “Science Fiction Reflects Our Anxieties” (published on The New York Times) (Links to an external site.)

You will also need to conduct independent research (using the COC library databases and other reputable sources)
Purpose of the Assignment
For this essay, you will be reading George Saunders’ novella The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil. As you read, you will be using a critical eye to discover connections between the world created within the text and the cultural moment in which it is being read. In order to elaborate on and support the connection between fiction and reality, you will need to conduct academic research to find credible sources about the real-world concept you are discussing.

In this sense, you will not simply be looking at the content of the story but will need to dig beneath the surface to uncover deeper themes and meanings. You will be doing this in order to propose an argument on what readers can learn about our present cultural moment from the text.

The Writing Task
Your primary objective for this essay will be to use evidence from the novella AND a minimum of three outside resources to answer the following question: Despite taking place in a fictionalized world, WHAT idea/message does The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil present about a contemporary real-world issue?

Homework For You

Some Helpful Guidance
What this paper is: Your paper is the culmination and final product of an involved process of research, source evaluation, critical thinking, organization, and composition. It is, perhaps, helpful to think of the researched argument as a living thing that grows and changes as you explore, interpret, and evaluate sources related to a specific topic. Primary and secondary sources that deal with your chosen topic are the heart of a research paper. Your paper should serve to not only further the conversation of a given topic but will also provide you with an exceptional opportunity to increase your knowledge.

What this paper is not: This paper is not an informed summary of the novel by means of primary and secondary sources. This paper is a genre that requires you to spend time investigating and evaluating sources with the intent of offering interpretations of the texts and how they converse with each other. The goal of this paper is not simply to inform your reader about what others have to say about a topic, but to build on those arguments in order to offer a unique interpretation of the novel in relation to a contemporary issue.

Think about the following as you begin to form your argumentative stance on your topic:

How do you see your topic at work in our society today?

What kind of correlations can you draw between the world within the text and our own?

What are the larger consequences of your topic?

How does the text inform or complicate your thoughts on your topic?

Minimum Requirements:

Your essay should be 6-8 pages (not including your works cited page), in standard MLA format, and include a Works Cited page.

You will need to include three (3) outside sources that inform and support your argument. I have provided some “secondary sources” on Canvas that you can select from, although these will only count towards one of the outside sources. Sources that talk directly about Saunders’ novel are discouraged UNLESS you provide some new insight/perspective. (You want to avoid parroting a pre-existing idea).

The essay will need to base itself around analysis and interpretation of George Saunders’ The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil.

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