R. Gray

German 390/Comp Lit 396/Engl 363/CHID 498/JSIS 488/Lit 298

Freud and the Literary Imagination


Guidelines for mid-term and final papers.

General Approach: Use one of the themes around which the course is structured as the basis for your theoretical (Freudian) approach to the text. Choosing one theme, rather than just picking and choosing among Freudian ideas, will help give your paper more focus and make your argument more coherent. Apply this theory to the text under examination. In general, you should be able to direct your paper toward an informed reader—say, your fellow students in the class. You can cite Freud where details of his theory are important for your argument. You will want to give concrete examples from the literary or cinematic text (in the latter instance, summary is sufficient) that bear directly on your thesis. Close interpretation of cited passages is often more efficient than citations used merely to "support" a point.

Formal Criteria:

1.   PAGE NUMBERS: Include them please.  It makes it easier for us to give you specific feedback.

2.  TITLE: Include a title that will alert the reader as to the focus of your essay.

3.  INTRODUCTION:  Your introduction should explain why it is important to write your paper, as well as outline what exactly you will examine in your essay.

4.  PARAGRAPHS: A good paragraph develops one idea, and includes all of the examples that you want to give.  One example does not necessarily merit its own paragraph, and a paragraph composed of just a few sentences probably doesn't develop its idea adequately.  A paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that tells the reader the idea that you are going to develop in the paragraph.  The bulk of the paragraph should then be spent discussing the idea.  The paragraph should conclude with a sentence or two that suggests how the development of this paragraph has shed new light on the idea, and relates it to the overarching argument of the paper.

5.  PLOT SUMMARY: Avoid plot summary.  Refer to the plot only where it is important for your argument.


a.) When using parenthetical documentation, you must include the author's last name and then the page number.  If you use a number of different works by the same author in your paper, then you must include the author's last name, then a comma, then the title of the work cited, and then the page number.

c.)  Be very careful when you switch between a few different sources that you include the author of the source.  If you quote first from Freud and then from a work of fiction, if you do not introduce the fictional work in the body of your sentence and just cite a page number, it will seem as if both quotes come from the same source, except in the instances listed below.

d.) You do not have to include the author's last name or the title of the work cited in your parenthetical documentation if you have already mentioned them in the body of the sentence, as in: "In his work entitled Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud positsÉ"  Here, you only need to cite the page number.  Nor must you include them if you already mentioned them earlier in the body of the paragraph, provided you do not mention another author or work in between mentioning the original author/work and using a quotation.

7.     QUOTING:

a.)   For a quote of up to four lines, keep the quote in the body of your paragraph and use quotation marks around it.  For a quote of more than four lines, use a block quote.  This means that you must return to a new line, indent the quote, and use single spacing.  Example:

Marx claims that as long as an object is valued simply for its utility, it remains in its natural state, but as soon as it becomes a commodity, its essence changes.

So far as it is a value in use, there is nothing mysterious about it, whether we consider it from the point of view that by its properties it is capable of satisfying human wants, or from the point of view that those properties are the product of human laborÉBut, so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. (320)


b.)   Quote no more than you wish to interpret.  Do not use block quotations just to take up space.  As a general rule, you should spend twice as much space on the page interpreting and analyzing the quote as the quote itself takes.

c.)   Paraphrasing can be an efficient means of including certain information, but you must still cite the author.

d.)   Quote both from the Freud text and from the short story/film/novel/etc. that you are interpreting.

8.     PASSIVE VOICE: It is extremely common for writers to slip into passive voice construction because it sounds so pleasant.  Passive voice is not universally to be avoided at all costs, but it should be used sparingly and with a specific purpose in mind.  Passive voice has the general effect of diluting the force and power of a statement.  Instead, you should try to use active voice as much as possible to convey concise and forceful points.  Instead of: "The ball was thrown by the boy," (Passive), write "The boy threw the ball" (Active).

9.     DANGLING PREPOSITIONS: Never end a sentence with a preposition, because in this position it seems to have no relation to the subject and verb of the sentence.  For example, instead of: "It is this traditional conception of sexuality that Freud moves beyond," write: "It is this traditional conception of sexuality beyond which Freud moves."

10.  DANGLING QUOTES: Do not end a paragraph with a quote that is not further supported.  You must analyze and explain every quote that you use.  It may feel like you're being obvious or repetitive, but those who read your paper will appreciate it.

11.  BEGINNING A SENTENCE WITH A NUMBER OR DATE: This move is frowned upon in the academic community, presumably because it jars the flow of the narrative.  Instead of: "2005 was the year Freudian theory was refuted," write: "Freudian theory was refuted in 2005," or: "In 2005, Freudian theoryÉ"

12.  TENSE AGREEMENT: Be sure that whatever tense with which you begin your paper you consistently use throughout your paper.  If you begin writing your paper in the present tense: "Freud claims thatÉ" then you should never use the past tense at any later point in your paper, as in: "Freud concluded thatÉ"

13.  CONTRACTIONS/COLLOQUIALISMS: We should never use contractions (don't, isn't) or colloquialisms ("Freud is wacko," "This realization pushed him over the edge") in academic writing because they are too informal.  Also avoid using "I" if possible.

14.  WORDINESS: Avoid wordiness by shortening run-on sentences and avoiding strings of prepositional phrases and relative clauses.

15.  CONCLUSION: Your conclusion should be in line with your introduction, but it should take the ideas set forth in the introduction at least one step further – there must be some sort of development in the paper.

16.  BIBLIOGRAPHY: Even though we're all using the same Freud texts, it is important to include a complete list of all of the works that you cite at the end of every academic paper.  This way, whoever reads your paper can check your sources.  The format of a bibliography should be in alphabetical order as follows:


Pynchon, Thomas.  The Crying of Lot 49.  New York: Perennial Classics, 1999.


Schultz, Max F.  Black Humor Fiction of the Sixties: A Pluralistic Definition of Man and

            His World.  Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1973.


Stoppard, Tom.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.  New York: Grove Press,