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530 Long Paper

Page history last edited by Eric Leonidas 4 years, 11 months ago


ENG 530: Renaissance Humanism—Long Paper



The assignment is a paper in the neighborhood of 12-14 pages.  You need to substantially engage at least 3 different sources, and you must cite your primary (and any secondary sources) properly using MLA format.


Due Dates:

  • Tues, Nov. 3: One-paragraph statement of your proposed argument.  Consider this a version of your introduction.
  • Tues, Nov. 17: Paper draft due.  You may submit a traditional draft, but I think a “paper prospectus” is a useful alternative (see separate link).
  • Tues, Nov. 17: You must have at least 3 entries on our annotated bibliography website.
  • Tues, Nov. 24: You must have at least 3 more entries up on the website; printed annotated bibliography due in class.
  • Tues, Dec. 1: Presentations 1; all students submit a printed version of your annotated bibliography
  • Tues, Dec. 8: Presentations 2; Final Draft due for all


The subject of the paper will take one of two forms:


1. A close reading of an English literary text, or texts, as a reflection on a single humanist concern or value.  The paper will present an argument on what perspective the literary text (or texts) creates.  Your evidence will include texts that establish the value as significant to Renaissance humanism (at least one primary, though more would be helpful; and any secondary critical sources that support your sense that the value is important to humanism).  Your evidence from your literary text should include not only content but also analysis of formal elements (genre, tone, diction, figures and allusions, etc.).  Secondary critical resources might help establish historical or cultural context, supporting or alternative readings, or biographical information.


2. A comparison of two or more English literary texts that address a common humanist concern or value.  In this case, you must be careful your argument is conclusive; that is, rather than simply illustrate that different texts share a common view or take opposing perspective on a humanist value, you must show a purpose to such a comparison: perhaps the texts combined reveal a common ideological effort; perhaps they reflect a broader cultural ambivalence; perhaps they illustrate a historical or cultural change in how a value is understood; perhaps they form a critique of some aspect of culture.


As above, you might use a central humanist text or texts (with or without critical secondary works) to establish the value as particularly humanist.  But in this case, since you will be working with multiple texts anyway, you might not have to; the texts you analyze closely might do that work.  And once again I will expect close analysis not only of content but also of form.  This particular approach, moreover, is likely to require research into the history and cultural context of your works; while it’s possible that, for instance, two poets might “debate” the validity of the patronage model in an abstract form, such a discussion would likely benefit from some grounding in the social circumstances of the poets, the patrons, and the broader cultural attitude toward commercial art.


Your overarching goal is to study the reception of a conventionally humanist value--a value established and articulated in the curricular and broad social changes of the early Renaissance--within the English literature of the 16th and 17th centuries.  I don’t mean to be overly prescriptive: if you would like to base your paper mainly on texts written in Italian or Latin, or if you prefer to study the origin of a humanist value rather than its later manifestation in English literature, I’m willing to consider a topic.  But such an argument is probably going to require considerable additional reading.


Annotated Bibliography


Together, we are going to create an annotated online bibliography.  As you begin your research, you should create an annotation of whatever you read.


The annotated bibliography should include at least 6 entries.  The sources themselves should be either book-length works, book chapters, or essays in published collections or journals.  You may not use internet sources unless they are reprints of or digital access to conventionally published works, or unless they are peer-reviewed online journals (such as Early Modern Literary Studies).  At least half of your sources should be from the 1990s or later.  The works should be at least peripherally connected to your paper topic, specifically whatever text(s) your paper finally focuses on.  I expect you’ll use these sources to help refine your topic, so ultimately some of them might not be directly connected to what you come up with in the end.  (The Works Cited attached to the actual paper should not be annotated and should contain only works cited in the body of the paper.)


You will hand a printed version of your bibliography on Dec. 1, but I’d like you to submit your entries to our webpage as you go, as well.  Please arrange them alphabetically and include your name or initials at the end.


Be sure your annotation gives an account of the author’s claim, then proceeds to describe her approach and evidence.  For instance:


Blissett, William. "This Wide Gap of Time: The Winter's Tale." English Literary Renaissance 1 (1971): 52-70.

Explores the mirror-like symmetry of the play's halves, which meet at the devouring bear and consuming tempest.  After this turn, Blisset argues, a movement of emptying becomes one of fullness, and the motif of a troubled heart changes to images of health and love.  Above all, agitation and sin are smoothed and redeemed by grace.  Blisset also compares Shakespeare's use of important symbols and figures to earlier instances in Shakespeare’s plays in order to illustrate the sophistication and maturity of this late drama.


The best source for material is still the Modern Language Association bibliography, accessible through the library website.  Try this before JSTOR or any of the other databases that only link full-text sources (MLA entries will have links to JSTOR and other database journals).  If you suspect a journal might be available electronically, though a citation does not contain a link, try looking for the journal by clicking the E-Journal tab and entering the title manually.  Otherwise, you might just have to go to the library.  If you need help with searching, databases or accessing library materials, please ask me.



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