read ONE critical article focusing on Henry James novella

For this exercise you will read ONE critical article focusing on Henry James’s novella, The Turn of the Screw, and then write an essay 1,250-1,500 words in length responding to the prompt below.

The assignment will give you practice reading and responding to literary criticism, and the opportunity to think further about some of the concepts and theoretical approaches that we’ve learned about in class. The assignment is worth 80 points. A workshop draft of your essay will be due in class on October 16th; your final draft will be due four days later (on October 20th), and should be submitted through Blackboard.

For this assignment you will read and discuss ONE of the following essays. (Note: page numbers refer to our textbook edition of The Turn of the Screw, 3rd ed., edited by Peter G. Beidler.)

1) Bruce Robbins, “‘They don’t much count, do they?’: The Unfinished History of The Turn of the Screw” (pp. 376-89)

2) Sheila Teahan, “‘I caught him, yes, I held him’: The Ghostly Effects of Reading (in) The Turn of the Screw” (pp. 392-405)


Write a summary and reflection for ONE of the essays. Summarize the essay’s main argument (or thesis) as well as its important secondary claims. Indicate, and give examples of, the kinds of “evidence” the critic uses to support their claims. In your summary, strive to be as objective and descriptive as possible, and (at least for this part of your paper) withhold your own judgment on the quality or merit of the claims made by the author.

Then, conclude your paper with a discussion of how the essay has advanced your own understanding of James’s text, and make a case for how convincing (or not) you find the critic’s reading of The Turn of the Screw. In presenting your evaluation of the article, be sure to make clear your own position on the specific interpretive issues that the article addresses. Note that this reflection/evaluation portion should comprise no more than 10%-20% of your paper, while the summary portion (described in the above paragraph) should comprise 80%-90% of your paper.


When reading and evaluating your essays, I will focus on four specific skills, listed below in the order of importance. (Note: I will distribute a more detailed grading rubric in class.)

1) Summary: your ability to comprehend a challenging work of literary criticism and to communicate your understanding clearly, fairly, and competently.

2) Analysis: your ability to: (1) tease out the critic’s thesis and secondary claims, and the evidence they use to support their claims; and (2) support your own analysis with good reasoning and ample support.

3) Evaluation: your ability to judge the strengths and potential weaknesses of the critic’s argument and their interpretation of the text.

4) Expression: your ability to express your meaning in clear, well-structured prose.

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