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Question Description

Essay Prompt
For your first assignment for COMM 100B, you will write a short essay in which you take
a semiotic approach to “The Paper Menagerie,” a short story by Ken Liu, originally
published in 2011. [A PDF can be found in the “Assignment 1 documents” folder in the
“Files” section of our Canvas site.]

Your goal is not to say what you think Liu’s story means in the usual sense of reading a
work of fiction and discussing plot, character, theme, and so forth. What you think Liu is
trying to say, or whether you think the story is good or bad, or how you felt during or after
reading it, are irrelevant to this assignment. Instead, your goal is look at Liu’s story as a
container of signs that produce meaning within the story.

The objective of this assignment is for you to choose, and apply, knowledge drawn from
our course so far to show how semiosis – the making of meaning through systems of
signification – takes place in Liu’s short story. To do this, your job is to identify one or
more signs and show how meaning is produced within a system (or systems) of
signification. You can choose any sign(s) that you want, but your reader should clearly
know what you have chosen, its significance, and how you are using it in your semiotic

Your essay should include a clear thesis (a claim about what sign(s) you are using and
what you intend to argue with it), plenty of clear evidence (concrete examples drawn
directly from Liu’s story and from Chandler’s text to support your claim), and a clear
conclusion. Both Liu and Chandler must be cited in your essay to show your
engagement with ideas from our course.

All essays must be approximately 750 words (exclusive of endnotes), typed, double-spaced, using no larger than 12-point font and normal margins. Your essay must be
carefully written, edited, and proofread for egregious spelling and grammatical errors.

Grading will be based on clarity of thought and expression, demonstration of
learning drawn from our course, and overall persuasiveness of writing and critical
thinking. Be sure to make correct use of quotations and endnotes/footnotes as
appropriate. This assignment is worth 15 percent of your course grade.

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