Max Hailperin's FTS essay 2 (Fall 2004)

Due October 18, 2004


Vaidhyanathan, who we are now reading, picks a fight with Goldstein, who we read previously. He does so on pages 156.2-158.2. Since this is only two pages of text, you need not wait for us to reach that point in the syllabus to get started on this essay assignment. You can just go ahead and read those two pages early.

Vaidhyanathan based his criticism on the first edition of Goldstein's book, whereas we have read the revised edition. Therefore, if you think Vaidhyanathan misrepresents Goldstein's position, there are two possibilities. One is that he genuinely disagrees with you on how to interpret Goldstein's work, and the other is that Goldstein has modified his position in the meantime, perhaps even in response to Vaidhyanathan's criticism. Without comparing the two editions, you can't know. For the purpose of this essay, you don't need to know, either.

Write an essay in which you defend either one of two positions:

  1. Vaidhyanathan's criticism is valid when applied to Goldstein's revised edition. (Presumably it was valid in the first place, and Goldstein's position didn't change enough to matter.)
  2. Vaidhyanathan's criticism is not valid when applied to Goldstein's revised edition. (Presumably either it wasn't valid in the first place, or Goldstein responded effectively to it.)

Aim your essay at an audience that understands the basics of copyright law (as you and your classmates do), but that is not familiar with the books by Goldstein and Vaidhyanathan.

Evaluation guidelines

Please rewrite your essay until you are convinced that the answer to each of the following questions is "yes." I urge you to ask a peer to give you feedback as well on whether he or she agrees that all the answers are "yes." When I grade your essay, I will again use these questions, both to give you feedback and to come up with your letter grade. Specifically, I will start with an A and take off one grade "notch" (e.g., from A to A-, or from A- to B+) for each question where the answer is "no". Be warned that some of the questions are so critical that if the answer is "no," then one or more additional answers are necessarily also "no." For example, if the answer to question 1a is "no," you are doomed for 1b through 1e as well.

  1. Thesis
    1. Does the essay has some specific point it tries to make, discernible to the reader after reading the full essay?
    2. Is that point within the parameters specified by the assignment?
    3. Does the essay stick to that single point?
    4. Is it immediately clear to the reader what point the essay is going to make, without needing to read beyond the first few sentences?
    5. Is the language used to state the thesis clear, straightforward, even powerful?
  2. Audience
    1. Is the essay consistent in the assumptions it makes about the audience's background knowledge and vocabulary?
    2. Are those assumptions within the parameters specified by the assignment?
    3. Is the general style, tone, or voice of the essay appropriate to a general academic audience, or if a different audience is explicitly stated in the assignment, to that audience?
  3. Organization
    1. Does the essay have an introduction that lets the reader know what to expect from the essay?
    2. Does the essay have a conclusion that leaves the reader with a satisfied feeling that the matter has been neatly wrapped up?
    3. Does the body of the essay (between the introduction and conclusion) have a discernible organizing principle?
    4. Does each paragraph and each larger organizational unit start with a clear statement of topic, except where there is a good reason to do otherwise?
    5. Are there smooth, sensible transitions from each topic to the next?
  4. Supporting evidence
    1. Is each claim you make backed up by specific supporting evidence?
    2. Have you properly documented the sources of all your evidence, even when that evidence is not directly quoted?
    3. Do you comment upon each quotation or other piece of evidence and work it into the flow of your essay?
    4. Do you provide evidence that could on its face be taken as counter to your thesis, and explain how it fits into your understanding of the matter?
  5. Mechanics
    1. Is the grammar, spelling, diction (word choice), and typography all good enough to not distract the reader?
    2. Is the writing clear, crisp and direct?