English 2111 paper 2

Write an analytical or argumentative essay on a topic of your own choosing, avoiding plot summary (see nugget 1) and focusing narrowly on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Song of Roland, Inferno, or our readings from Don Quixote. You must meet each of the following requirements. Read each of 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 seven quotations from the work or works you examine is required: seven is an absolute minimum—you may certainly offer more than seven 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 poetry (Q4). A works cited page is mandatory even if you cite only one work.

  • 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.  ("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 with paper 1, and 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.

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 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 assigned for this paper.
  • Analysis of Song of Roland as propaganda: the 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.
  • The portrayal of religion in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Song of Roland.
  • Aspects of Dante's Inferno in conflict with modern Christian views (be careful: avoid stating simply the obvious, such as "modern Christians don't believe hell has different levels": you must be truly analytical with this topic, perhaps focusing on particular sins that are no longer considered so sinful anymore, e.g.).
  • Dante's clever representation of God's "perfection in divine punishments."
  • In-depth analysis of particularly crucial characters or scenes in Inferno.
  • The different roles of Sancho Panza, comedic and in relation to the novel's mockery of chivalric romances.
  • Analysis of different comedic devices in Don Quixote (very challenging topic)
  • The need for more "Don Quixotes" in our contemporary society.

Matters of course: the bedrock basics (from chipspage.com, "grades and grading criteria").
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.
blue bullet I encourage you to seek my help with your paper. Let me know if you'd like to set up a conference, even by telephone, and we'll make arrangements.


  • 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 Writing Center! I encourage you to see tutors for help with your papers at the Student Success Centers (SSC) and/or the Writing Centers if you are within reach of our Macon or Cochran or Warner Robins campuses. We have well-trained 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.