English 2111 paper assignment

Write an analytical or argumentative essay closely addressing one of options below. Your paper must meet each of the following requirements. Read each of these requirements very carefully, more than once.

  • 6-8 pages in length, 1800 words minimum, 2500 words maximum (in the body of the essay, excluding headers, name, date, title, works cited entries, etc.).

  • Formatted carefully and correctly, following MLA guidelines as outlined on my "simple stuff" web page. Papers with errors in formatting ("SS problems") will be returned to you ungraded.
  • A minimum of ten quotations from the work or works you examine is required: ten is an absolute minimum—you may certainly offer more than ten to illustrate or substantiate your primary claims thoroughly and effectively.
  • You must incorporate some token research into this paper, offering quotations from at least two secondary sources of legitimate scholarly criticism or commentary on the work(s) you examine: this means at least one quotation from two different sources, above and beyond the ten quotes from the primary work(s) you address.  ("Legitimate" means truly scholarly sources, so items from the popular press, reviews of performances, encyclopedias, and study aids such as Cliff's Notes, Shmoop, SparkNotes, Master Plots, etc., are not acceptable.) You should most emphatically not consult any world wide web pages outside of our course materials while preparing your paper. For access to many scholarly articles and other materials in full-text electronic form, see the MGA Library website.
  • All quotations and other source material must be documented according to MLA guidelines as outlined on my "quotations" page, including the MLA conventions for citing poetry (Q4). A works cited page is mandatory.
  • Note that you must submit the final draft in the "formal paper" dropbox in D2L.
  • Paper proposals: as indicated on the schedule page, and as a graded assignment, you are to turn in a paper proposal in the form of a topic sentence outline, beginning with the question your essay will strive to answer, followed by each body paragraph's complete topic sentence as it might appear in the essay itself, and ending with a thesis statement that a) answers the question you are addressing, and b) ties together the primary points in your topic sentences. The question you raise for this outline should be a literal question—an interrogative sentence ending in a question mark, not merely a statement of what your topic is. You may send your topic sentence outline in the body of an email message—that is, it’s not necessary to send the outline as an attachment. For full explanation of a topic sentence outline, including examples, see the paper proposal assignment page.

Note that in all options below you are restricted only to works we have read for this course. Comparisons or other significant concentration on works we have not read is off-limits for this assignment.

  • The continuing relevance for contemporary American readers of any major thematic issues in any two or three of the works we've read in the first ten units of the class: Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, Oedipus the King, Medea, Lysistrata, The Aeneid, Song of Roland, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Inferno.

  • Comparison and contrast of the heroic ideal (what makes an ideal hero) in The Odyssey and The Aeneid.

  • Examination of the cultural values and ideals suggested in in any two or three of the following: The Odyssey, Medea, Lysistrata, The Aeneid, Song of Roland, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Inferno.

  • Examination of the depiction of women in any two or three of these works: Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, Medea, Lysistrata, The Aeneid, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

  • Analysis of Song of Roland as propaganda: i.e. the biased portrayal of both Christians and Muslims in Song of Roland.
  • Roland's positive and negative character traits in Song of Roland.

  • Analysis of chivalry, or the knightly code, as elaborated in Song of Roland and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

  • Inferno's representation of medieval Christianity.

blue bulletI encourage you to seek my help with your paper. Let me know if you'd like to set up a conference, and we'll make arrangements for times.

Reminders re: papers from our syllabus: see "Matters of course: the bedrock basics in the "grades and grading criteria" portion of our syllabus ("2000-4000 grades" at www.chipspage.com ).

In order to receive a passing grade:

  • An essay must first and foremost address a viable topic, meaning that if you are given a specific assignment for the essay, your paper must address the assigned topic squarely, directly, and fully. In the absence of a specific assigned topic, the essay must set up and address a topic genuinely worthy of exploration at the college level. We will deal with this issue later in the semester, but here's one quick illustration: a beautifully written paper proving that Hester Prynne is treated harshly in The Scarlet Letter for her sin of adultery would receive a quick F because the point is too obvious to need elaboration: any reader of the novel would know that Hester is treated harshly simply from reading the book. Your essays should develop a thesis that will enlighten your readers: you should present and develop significant argument or analysis that goes beyond simply stating the obvious.

  • Secondly, every essay should meet all specified assignment requirements. For instance, if an assignment stipulates that you must incorporate a personal anecdote from your own life and you do not include one, your essay has no chance of passing however brilliant it may be in other respects. Or if you are asked to incorporate quotations from four sources and you cite only two? No chance to pass.

  • An essay must be adequately developed in order to receive a passing grade. At the very least, all essays must exceed the minimum word count—in the text of the essay itself, excluding the title, header, works cited page, etc. If you are asked to write an essay of 500-750 words, 498 words will get you an automatic F. Be advised that the word minimum means absolute minimum in this class.


  • Offer concrete evidence (i.e. quotations) to support every one of your major assertions.
  • Make every body ¶'s topic sentence answer the paper proposal question directly.
  • Avoid plot summary: see nugget 1; introduce all quotes: see nugget 3.
  • Sweat the details: see the "Golden Rules," "Nuggets," "Simple Stuff," and "Quotations" pages and proofread carefully.
  • Email me if you have questions or problems.

    Use the Student Success Center! I encourage you to see tutors for help with your papers at the SSC on any of our five campuses. We have well-trained certified tutors who can give you plenty of one-on-one attention with any aspect of the writing process. Be sure to take a copy of this assignment with you to any tutoring session, or show your tutor this assignment page on the web.