ESSAY 3 – CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS

Due: Tuesday, November 23

Total percentage of grade: 25% (250 points)


Length: no less than 5-6 double spaced pages, and do not worry if your paper runs a bit longer

Format: 12 pt. Times New Roman font, 1” margins, in MLA format


Primary text: The Terminal movie

Secondary text: “The New Colossus: Exploring the Idea of Border” essay by John Washington (WR pp. 238-256)


Assignment: For this essay you will have to analyze the primary text using secondary text(s) in order to set up the context for your analysis. Setting up a specific context is the key requirement for this essay, and all arguments that you make about the primary text need to be situated in that context. For this essay you will look at the theme of border, but there are still many directions that you can choose to go into within this theme. The idea behind this assignment is that by looking at one text with ideas from secondary text(s) in mind (that is, in a context), you will understand and appreciate the primary text in new and/or deeper ways. Your paper, then, should present this enriched understanding to your readers.

You can choose one of the two following approaches (to help you maintain your focus):

  1. Using “The New Colossus: Exploring the Idea of Border” as the lens text. You will select one specific quote from J. Washington’s essay and use it as the lens through which to approach the analysis of The Terminal. In your paper, you will explain what specific issue the quote illustrates and analyze how the movie relates to that quote (supports, contradicts, complements, etc.). As you are explaining, you will use the details from the movie (scenes, events, characters, quotes, etc.) to support your analysis.
  2. Using “The New Colossus: Exploring the Idea of Border” as (one of) the secondary text(s). In your paper you will analyze the theme of border as portrayed in The Terminal (using evidence from the movie to support your analysis), and you will use information from J. Washington’s essay (ideas, quotes, etc.) in order to help you further develop and support your ideas about the movie. If you choose this approach, you may (but are not required to) bring in additional sources (other secondary texts) to support your argument. You can use the texts that we have read earlier in this course, or you can use other texts that you find by doing some research on the topic of border and/or related issues (e.g., immigration, intercultural communication, discrimination, etc.). If you choose to use other texts, you will need to show them to me and get my approval before using them for your essay.

Remember that first and foremost this essay is the analysis of the primary text (not simply a comparison-contrast of two texts), so the primary text has to be the focus of your analysis. However, this analysis needs to be placed in a specific context. Thus, regardless of the approach you choose, your paper will:

    • Define selected context (that is, your approach to the theme of border);
    • Provide deep and detailed analysis of the primary text;
    • Explain how context affected your interpretation/understanding of the primary text, that is, make connections between the primary text and the secondary text(s).


Important Note! – Notice that this assignment is different from both Essay 1 and Essay 2. Unlike our Essay 2, this essay is not a personal response, so you may not talk about your personal experience and use it to develop your ideas/support your thesis. You may use only the primary and the secondary texts as the sources of evidence to support and develop your ideas.


To get a passing grade and higher, your paper should:

  1. satisfy the requirements described above;
  2. have a clear, argumentative thesis;
  3. present sufficient textual evidence to support your argument (quotes, summaries, paraphrases, specific details, symbols, and images from primary and secondary texts);
  4. exhibit a clear organizational structure that is easy to follow, complete with an introduction that effectively forecasts your essay and clearly articulates your thesis statement and a conclusion that shows the significance of your essay’s argument;
  5. introduce fully developed ideas that support your thesis statement, presented in well-developed paragraphs following the PIE structure;
  6. follow MLA conventions and be written in good Standard Written English.
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