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Eng 201 / 207: Longer Papers: Instructions and suggested topics                                                  Spring 2017


The essay is worth 15 points. It is an analytical paper in which you argue in support of a thesis based upon evidence and illustrative examples from the text(s) you’ve chosen to focus on. You may focus on one or more texts from the reading list. You should try to uncover what you think the author(s) in question seem(s) to be getting at or, more broadly, you should seek to point out significant patterns or perhaps idiosyncrasies you have noticed. Honors Students (ENG 207) are expected to examine and refer to some scholarly criticism in their essays. By Monday, April 24th, email me ( a 3-5 sentence abstract saying what you think your paper will be about and how you will approach your topic. The paper itself is due on Thursday, April 27 in class or Friday, April 28, delivered to my office (241 McClung Tower). Later submissions will only lose 2.5 points (a weekend counts as a “day”). The paper is supposed to be more structured than a Response Paper, as well as longer (4-5 pages long for 201 students, 5-6 pp for Honors Students). It should to be typed, double-spaced, with 12 (or 11) pt., Times Roman font, and 1-1.25 inch margins. Feel free to draw connections between texts that are chronologically far apart. Be sure to cite at least a few significant quotes from the text/texts you’re treating. Quotes can be cited using the translations, though you might want to quote some Middle English words, such as “trawthe.” (It is also important to cite the Middle English lyrics in the original, if possible.)


*Papers need to be submitted as hardcopies. Do not email your paper to me, unless an emergency arises.

*Plagiarism will not be tolerated. I am willing to work with you if you’re having a hard time completing this paper on time and need extra guidance, etc. Please do not try to cut corners by submitting something that isn’t truly your original work produced for this class.


Suggested Topics are as follows. You may come up with your own topic, but you should run it by me first. If there was a question on one of the Group Discussion handouts that interested you, you may return to that topic as long as you expand on what you said previously. Note: your paper need not be comparative.


The Christ of “The Dream of the Rood” has been called a miles Christi (Latin for “soldier of Christ”) figure, a warrior Christ well in keeping with the Old English warrior tradition.  Explore this warrior more closely.  Is there any divinity to him or is he simply of a warrior with the whole human race to fight and die for?


Festivities run throughout Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Is the poet simply describing the way medieval people tried to cope with stress?  Or trying to show the frivolity of courtly life by contrasting them it the intensity of inner psychological struggle?  Or do these festivities serve some other purpose?


There are many analogues to “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” (stories involving a Loathly Lady similar to Chaucer’s version), in one of which the choice of the Knight is between a wife beautiful during the day OR at night. While Chaucer was aware of these, he took care to create a story that is reflective of its teller. Show how this is so.


Discuss the theme of death and awareness of and/or preparation for it (or lack thereof) in at least two works.


Discuss the theme of men as learned elitists vs. women as intelligent realists in at least two works.


Explore the theme of alternative forms of society played out in one or more fictional place (e.g., Love’s Labour’s Lost & Gulliver’s Travels).


Discuss fate, providence or chance in two or more texts (e.g., “The Wanderer,” “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale).


Discuss the treatment of marriage in two or more works (Wife of Bath’s Prologue and “Noah’s Flood”).


Choose and analyze a pair (or pairs) of related portraits from “The General Prologue.”  In what ways do the details in the pair(s) complement each other?  Possible pairs include Knight/Squire, Prioress/Monk, Parson/Plowman, Miller/Reeve, Summoner/Pardoner.


Chaucer’s review of his literary output (in the Retraction and the legend of his deathbed repentance). Could also mention Faustus’s wish to burn his books and his last-minute regrets regarding his addiction to magic.

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