Sample Research Proposals


Benjamin Sasser

Ms. Mitzi McFarland

ENGL 2300-04

9 March 2009

 Red Balloons Straining to Fly Free


Judith Fetterly, in The Resisting Reader, argues that male authors presumed for centuries their readers all were male. Describing phallocentric assumptions as “universal” (xii), Fetterly explores the ways in which patriarchal practices in literature penetrate the “consciousness” of female readers who must learn “to read like a man” to successfully navigate a masculine language community (which has its own codes and conventions). Because women were and are raised in a language system and literature that still presumes its authors and readers are male, Fetterly argues that they become psychologically “immasculated”—not “emasculated,” in the sense of having “maleness” taken away from them, but rather they learn to think and read and write like men (what she calls an “assenting” reader).           

In The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros presents Esperanza in terms of what Judith Fetterley calls a “resisting reader” (4) who increasingly resists her social text through the development of the novel. However, even at the end of the text Cisneros makes it clear that Esperanza has not freed herself entirely from the confines of her immasculated universe, but as she has up to this point, she continually struggles against the grasp of this framework. As Esperanza grows up within her community, she observes women acting subservient to men. At times she and her friends even model this type of behavior amongst themselves and for others. But overall, as the story progresses and Esperanza matures, the reader witnesses her struggle more and more against the masculine/feminine stereotype that surrounds her. Like the red balloon in “Boys and Girls,” she rises above her surroundings as much as she is capable of doing and fights against the ideological anchor of patriarchy to which she is barely, but surely, tethered (9).





NOTE: This example only integrates one secondary source. You must integrate TWO in your proposal.






Samantha Godwin

Mrs. McFarland

Practical Criticism

4 December 2008


Architecturally Constructing Ideology in The House on Mango Street


Many critics of Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street only implement traditional critical perspectives to analyze the home’s significance. Limited to Post-Colonial, Feminist, or other literary theories, analysts like Jacqueline Doyle diminish their insight by ignoring the link between every literary interpretation of the text: architecture. In a novella where a young girl, Esperanza, journeys to redefine her cultural identity through re-conceptualizing her domestic space, it seems bizarre that academic critics ignore architectural discourse in their analyses, especially considering architecture’s impact on literary criticism’s development. Michael Foucault, a founding theorist of Cultural Poetics, created his notion of “the other” by observing that “physical and social arenas outside of our daily life” most accurately portray the social order, and also “suspend, neutralize, or invert sets of relationships,” for example (as quoted by McLeod 16). The Greeks, founders of many modern literary and social ideologies, used the word oikeios or “own” as the adjectival form of the word oikos or “house,” equating the home to one’s “owness” or identity (Bergren 80). Indeed, the home and identity remain linked throughout the novella, as Esperanza struggles to find her literal and figurative place in the world.


Just as Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects constructed space to underscore or re-envision the racial or gender relationships within it, moreover, the novella’s protagonist, Esperanza, seemingly utilizes the home to challenge her patriarchal, Chicano culture, as she transforms the homes of her inner-city, Chicano neighborhood where “swollen doors” “open with a sigh” and “windows were so small you would think they were holding their breath” into a spacious “flat all [her] own.” Is the nature-based, spacious, Frank Lloyd Wright-esque home she purchases at the novella’s close evoking similar ideas of freedom through nature? Or is it a symbolic removal from the sexual confines of her previous Victorian-esque environment? Or, in contradiction of either interpretation, does her purchase of a spacious home allow her to “otherize” herself, as Foucault might suggest? These questions alone attest to the ways in which an architectural analysis of the text links various literary theories to uproot and enrich the connections between the complex psychological, social, and sexual facets of Chicago’s Chicano culture.