ENGL110 College of San Mateo Oedipus El Rey Play Interpretation Analysis – Excelsior Writers | excelsiorwriters.com
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English 110 Essay #2: Interpretation of the play, due 6/25
Oedipus El Rey
by Luis Alfaro Malavade
Due dates: see Canvas
As we move into more complex literary analysis, I would like you to try out using some of the
literary theories we have studied. With that in mind, I am offering several options for your essay 2 topics. The
discussions we have had about the play should help you develop your ideas and ultimately craft your own,
unique interpretation and analysis of the play.
Choose one of the following topics for essay 2:
1. Cultural Studies/Critical Race Theory: Consider the concept of fate/destiny/the prophecy in the play
from this lens as representing the prison system and/or institutional racism* (see CRT definition). How
does Alfaro use those concepts in the play to make a point about the prison system and/or institutional
racism? What language, characters, or events in the play reflect those systems as they operate
currently? How are those systems interpreted and presented?
: This concept refers to the systemic ways dominant society
restricts a racialized individual or group’s access to opportunities. These inequalities, which include an
individual’s access to material conditions and power, are not only deeply imbedded in legal institutions,
but have been absorbed into American culture to such a degree that they are often invisible or easily
2. Character Analysis from a Cultural Studies lens: Does the work’s presentation support or condemn
Oedipus and his actions and why? Can it be seen to do both? Explain how you interpret the character
based on evidence from the text.
3. Cultural Studies: How does the play consider traditionally marginalized populations, in this case:
Chicanos living in poverty, or incarcerated men? How does it represent these populations?
4. Psychoanalytic Criticism: Consider the concept of fate/destiny/the prophecy in the play from a
Freudian perspective which assumes “that human beings are motivated, even driven, by desires, fears,
needs, and conflicts of which they are unaware.” How does Oedipus’ “fate/destiny/prophecy”
represent his unconscious desires, fears, needs and/or internal conflicts? How does he “unconsciously
behave in ways that will allow [him] to ‘play out’…[his] conflicted feelings about the painful experiences
and emotions [he] repress[es]” ?
5. Psychoanalytic Criticism: Analyze the tragic relationship between Oedipus and Jocasta: what does the
text suggest about the motivations for this relationship (on both sides) and what is your interpretation
of Alfaro’s choice to put this relationship at the center of the play rather than keep it “off-stage” as
Sophocles did? What does he want to show us through his depiction of their relationship?
Content Requirements/Grading Criteria:
to introduce the play and author, provide a brief summary that
will lead to your thesis, and state your thesis at the very end of your introduction paragraph.
for an audience who is unfamiliar with the play.
should provide an overall guiding statement of your specific interpretation of the play
in response to the topic question you selected, and should clearly indicate what you intend to
show/prove/argue in this paper.
(See thesis statement resources)
method to keep your body paragraphs focused and to deeply illustrate and
analyze your points. (See PIE/Effective Paragraph handout). Each paragraph should directly relate
to and develop part of your thesis.
Within each PIE paragraph, illustrate your point with
specific examples, ideas, and concepts
from the play
. Use direct quotes and paraphrasing and integrate all quotes. (See my handout on
In each paragraph, integrate several quotes to prove your point for that
paragraph. Always balance textual evidence (quotes) with equal or more analysis and
commentary from you, and demonstrate your close and careful reading of the play in your
analysis and commentary.
your paragraphs so that they connect to each other and so that your essay progresses
logically. In other words, your essay should not just be made up of individual paragraphs that serve
their own purpose. Instead, your paragraphs should present a unified, cohesive discussion that
addresses the topic you chose.
It is not required that you include counterarguments to your
thesis in this essay, but if you think it would make your essay stronger, feel free to do so.
the essay with a paragraph that ties together your argument and convinces your
audience that this topic is worth examination.
Technical Requirements/Grading Criteria:
Final draft must be 4 FULL page or more in MLA format (including a unique title for your essay that
reflects your thesis in some way).
Please use in-text citations play: ex: (Alfaro 120), which refers to page 120. No works cited page
required for this essay unless you use sources I did not assign. Refer to the title of the play in
not quotation marks.
It is not absolutely required that you use literary terms as part of your interpretation and analysis,
but if you do use the terms, be sure you use them correctly.
This includes any mention of the
literary theory or school of criticism you are using: remember my comment about “common
mistakes” students make in their essays—don’t do it!
Plagiarism is unacceptable and will result in an F. Develop your own ideas. If you use secondary sources
(anything besides the novel itself), cite them,
but remember this essay is about your individual
interpretation—not a research paper.
Put significant time and effort into your work. Revise and proofread your essay thoroughly before
submitting a final draft. (Remember this is a transfer level course.)
Points will be deducted for
outline: due 6/24
After reading the essay prompt carefully, as well as the other essay writing required resources (particularly: information on Thesis Statements, PIE paragraphs, and Naysayers and Concession) please submit an outline for your essay. You should also view the example outline format I provided.
Please remember that an outline is not a rough draft! It should be quick and easy for me to scan. Here is an example (Links to an external site.).
Your outline should include:
- Your thesis statement (see prompt for my requirement for your thesis statement)
- Topic/point sentences–complete sentences–for each body paragraph (see my handouts on effective body paragraphs for what I’m looking for in a topic/point sentence).
- Information/Evidence: indicate which passages from the play you will use in each body paragraph to illustrate your points. Please see requirement on essay prompt for how many quotes you need.