English 2121 paper 1

Write an analytical or argumentative essay on a topic of your choosing from the list of options below. Your paper must meet each of the following requirements. Read these requirements carefully, more than once.

  • 4-6 pages in length, 1200 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. Papers with errors in formatting ("SS problems") will be returned to you ungraded.

  • A minimum of six quotations from the work or works you examine is required: six is an absolute minimum—you may certainly offer more than six to illustrate or substantiate your primary claims thoroughly and effectively.

  • I'm not expecting research with this paper, but you may, if you like, incorporate some research, offering quotations or other information from secondary sources of legitimate scholarly criticism or commentary on the work(s) you examine.  ("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.

  • 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.

  • Note that you must submit the final draft in both hard copy (printed on paper) and digital form via the D2L dropbox for this assignment.

  • 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. For full explanation of a topic sentence outline, including examples, see the paper proposal assignment page.


For clarification or elaboration of any of these topic options, see me during office hours or email me.

  • The relevance of any one of the major works we've read thus far—Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, "Lanval," or The Canterbury Tales—for contemporary American readers.

  • Comparison and/or contrast of the concept of honor in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

  • The portrayal of religion in Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and/or The Canterbury Tales. You may focus on one, two, or all three of these works together.

  • The depiction of women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and/or The Canterbury Tales and/or "Lanval." You may compare and contrast, or you may focus only on contrast.

  • The author's demonstration of the pagan heroic code in Beowulf.

  • Chivalry, or the courtly, knightly code, as elaborated in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

  • Chaucer's use of satire to offer social criticism or commentary upon his medieval British society (hint: define "satire" early in the essay).

  • Demonstration of Gawain as a classic "chivalric romance"—would require quoted authoritative definition of the chivalric or medieval romance as a literary genre, from a handbook of literary terms or some other scholarly source, not from a general-purpose dictionary or a website.

blue bulletI encourage you to seek my help with your paper outside of class. If my office hours don't mesh with your schedule, let me know, and we'll make arrangements for other times.


  • 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. 

Take advantage of the Writing Center, in the Teacher Education Building 226, for expert one-on-one tutoring by the English Department's faculty or some of our star English-major students! 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.