139W Essay 2: Research Essay

In this essay, you will combine the close reading and rhetorical analysis skills developed in your first essay and weekly forum posts with the knowledge of spy fiction conventions that you have acquired by studying our primary and secondary texts throughout the term. Where our previous writing assignments asked you to focus narrowly on reading a single text, this assignment will ask you to buttress the close reading of your chosen text with historical and generic research.

Prompt: This essay has 3 components:

1) Historical Context (2-3 pages): Here, you will introduce any historical contexts/events necessary to understand your chosen text. This could include particular events, long-term trends, or even social or political attitudes held by the text’s original audiences.

2) Generic Context (2-3 pages – MAY BE INTEGRATED INTO BODY OF RHETORICAL ANALYSIS): None of you has chosen to write on a “first-generation” piece of espionage fiction, such as Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps. Instead, each of your chosen texts builds on and updates the tropes of espionage fiction (or related genres) laid out in earlier works. In this section, you will take time to identify the tropes or themes of spy fiction present in your chosen text and give some explanation of how your chosen author/filmmaker updates or modifies those tropes so as to appeal to your chosen audience. In doing so, you may use our previous class texts as references. Additionally, if your chosen text draws heavily upon a genre other than spy fiction, you may address that other genre here.

3) Rhetorical Analysis (4-6 pages): In this section, you will draw on the information laid out in your first two sections to support a thesis-driven argument for how your chosen text uses the conventions and themes of spy fiction to comment upon or respond to social or political issues of its time. While the overall focus will be thematic, you should support your arguments by using close readings of particular scenes or episodes from you text, paying close attention to how your author/filmmaker uses literary, rhetorical, or filmic devices to convey his/her messages to the text’s audience. 


The Spy (Cooper)

Democracy (Didion)

The Untouchable (Banville)

The Third Man, Our Man in Havana, The Ministry of Fear, The Human Factor (Greene)

The Manchurian Candidate (Condon)

The Informer (O’Flaherty)

Any novels by Ian Fleming or John Le Carré

The IPCRESS File (Deighton)

The Day of the Jackal (Forsyth)

The Man Who Was Thursday (Chesterton)

Epitaph for a Spy (Ambler)

Ashenden; or, The British Agent (Maugham)

The Heat of the Day (Bowen)

Lust, Caution (Zhang)

Six Days of the Condor (Grady)

Enigma (Harris)

Your Republic Is Calling You (Kim Young-Ha)

The Tourist, The Nearest Exit, or An American Spy (Olen Steinhauer)


Three Days of the Condor (Pollack)

Enemy of the State (Scott)

The Conversation (Coppola)

The Third Man (Reed)

North by North-West, Notorious, The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock)

The Manchurian Candidate (Frankenheimer)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Alfredson)

Syriana (Gaghan)

Burn After Reading  (Coen)

The Lives of Others (Donnersmarck)

The Good Shepherd (de Niro)

Spy Game (Scott)

Munich (Spielberg)

The War Is Over/La guerre est finie (Resnais)

Argo (Affleck)

Lust, Caution (Lee)

Enigma (Apted)

Farewell (Carion)

Army of Shadows (Melville)

La Femme Nikita (Besson)

The IPCRESS File (Furie)

Television (episodes of any of the following)

The Americans (FX)

Cambridge Spies (BBC)

Alias (ABC)

Homeland (Showtime)

24 (Fox)

Spooks/Mi-5 (BBC)


Democracy (Frayn)

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