Write an analytical or argumentative essay on a topic of your own choosing, avoiding plot summary (see nugget 1) and focusing narrowly on The Aeneid, The Song of Roland, The Inferno, The Praise of Folly, Don Quixote, or possibly Hamlet. Read these requirements carefully, more than once.
- 4-6 pages in length, 1250 words minimum, 1800 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.
- A minimum of eight quotations from the work or works you examine is required: eight is an absolute minimum—you may certainly offer more to illustrate or substantiate your primary claims thoroughly and effectively.
- 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 verse (Q4). A works cited page is mandatory.
- You must incorporate some research into this paper, offering quotations from at least two secondary secondary sources of legitimate scholarly criticism or commentary on the work(s) you examine (beyond the ten quotations from the primary work[s]). ("Legitimate" means truly scholarly sources, so items from the popular press, reviews of performances, encyclopedias, and study aids such as Cliff's Notes, 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.
Paper proposals: as a graded assignment, you are to turn in a paper proposal in the form of a topic sentence outline just as with the first paper, beginning with the question your essay will strive to answer, followed by each body paragraph's complete topic sentence in direct answer of that question, 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.
The real challenge here will be to arrive at a viable topic, one worthy of exploration in a 2000-level course. See especially the first item below (excerpted from "grades and grading criteria" handout for this class. I have been of two minds on whether I should assign specific options for you to write on in this paper, but I think it's an important element of any literature class beyond the freshman level that you learn to explore and establish angles of critical analysis in formal papers on your own. I know that assigning an open topic is also problematic because it permits far more opportunities for wholesale plagiarism—I would strenuously advise you to recall the definition of plagiarism we covered earlier in the semester.
Feel free to take any matters from our discussions or critical response writings as a starting point for greater development in this paper. I also urge you to consider points of connection or comparison between different works we've read this semester. In fact, if you want to compare one of the works assigned for this paper with one from earlier in the semester, this would be fine by me. Some obvious points of connection may occur to you if you consider the genres we've read.
Okay . . . here are a few quick topic possibilities. You are by no means restricted to these ideas, and I sincerely hope many of you will explore other options beyond those listed here:
- Contemporary relevance of any of the works viable for this paper.
- Roman values and ideals suggested in The Aeneid.
- Comparison and contrast of The Aeneid and The Odyssey as model epics.
- The Aeneid as propaganda.
- The portrayal of both Christians and Muslims in Song of Roland.
- Roland's positive and negative character traits.
- The relationship of Roland and Oliver.
- Aspects of Dante's Inferno in conflict with modern Christian views.
- The Inferno's representation of medieval Christianity.
- In-depth analysis of particularly crucial characters or scenes in Inferno.
- Satire in The Praise of Folly: what human foibles does Erasmus bring to light?
- The different roles of Sancho Panza.
- Analysis of different comedic devices in Don Quixote.
- The need for more "Don Quixotes" in our contemporary society.
- Hamlet as a representative of the "modern human condition."
- Psychological depths in Hamlet.
- Perhaps more to come. . . .
Matters of course: the bedrock basics (from chipspage.com, "grades and grading criteria").
In order to receive a passing grade:
Note: Feel free to contact me by email or telephone for help. If you would like to meet face to face but my office hours don't mesh with your schedule, let me know, and we'll make other arrangements.
- 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.
Make every topic sentence answer the central question directly.
Introduce all quotes: see nugget 3.
Sweat the details: use the Golden Rules, Nuggets, Simple Stuff, and Quotations pages and proofread carefully.
Offer concrete evidence (quotes) in support of each of your major assertions.
See me in the office or email if you have questions or problems.
Use the Writing Center! I encourage you to see tutors for help with your papers at the Student Success Center (SSC) and/or the Writing Center. We have well-trained, qualified 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.