The course essay, due near the end of the semester, is a research-based literary analysis. This essay will allow you to interpret a work of literature, to formulate a claim about a text (a thesis statement), applying concepts and ideas from your reading and our class discussions about Victorian Medievalism to a work we have not formally discussed in class. The research you will undertake will give you the opportunity to investigate scholarship about Victorian Medievalism (or nineteenth-century Medievalism more broadly) and about the work you choose to write about. By using a text we have not formally discussed in class, you will be able to explore your own ideas and formulate your own interpretations.
Given essay's length, your focus should be narrow enough so that you can develop your discussion thoroughly. You might begin by formulating research/writing questions your essay will answer. The general focus of these questions will center on how your work (a Romantic or Victorian work) addresses the medieval past. Related or subquestions might focus on what past your work presents, the attitude towards and values of this past, and the relationship between the past and your work's present. Then study your choosen work and line up your evidence - from your research notes and your reading notes from the work itself. Draft an outline that gives you a view of the entire essay - structure and content. Turn this in with your essay. The answer to your research/writing questions will be the basis of your thesis, which will come out of your evidence. You should choose one work to write about, but you can bring in related works as part of your discussion. Writing about two works may not be feasible, so see me if you have questions about this.
Choose one of the following works to use for your research essay. (Some of these works are not, strictly speaking, Victorian works, but they do represent nineteenth-century medievalism. Find copies of these works in the library or online for an initial look. When you choose one to write about, you should use a reliable edition.
- Scott's (long) narrative poem The Lady of the Lake
- Hereward the Wake: Last of the English
- Tennyson's "The Lady of Shallot" (in the NA, vol E)
- A selection from Tennyson's Idylls we do not read (get the full text)
- Arnold's "Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse" (in the NA, vol E)
- Tennyson's play Harold
The essay length is 8-10 pages + a works cited page, double-spaced, one-inch margins, 12pt, Times New Roman. Required research sources: 6-7, not counting your primary work or works.
Please include a title (not the title of your text or "Course Research Essay") and page numbers.
See me early in the semester if you have questions about your choice of texts.
Research sources you find, read, and take notes about will 1.) be general literary criticism about your work and 2.) be about Victorian medievalism, nineteenth-century medievalism, and perhaps medievalism generally (the Gothic, Anglo-Saxon/Norman periods/1066 Conquest, and medieval romance/chivalry).
You should aim for a variety of sources. Journal articles will most likely offer you the best sources, but books (or book chapters and introductions) will be useful. Scholarly websites can also provide you with helpful information. (See British Literature under Resources menu on the Course Website.) Also, notes or bibliogrpahies from your sources will often lead you to additional sources.
Be sure to search the library book catalogue as well as the all of UW-System libraries. Use universal borrowing for books our library does not have. For journal articles, use MLA International Bibliography, JSTOR, Academic Search Elite (EBSCO) as well as other relevant humanities indexes. See me or a librarian for help. You can also request articles using universal borrowing.
- The Penguin editions have bibliographies that you should consult, located after the introductions
- Consult bibliographies in sources you find/Check notes included in sources
- Try Google Scholar to find suitable sources
- For website sources, see the course website: Resources--British Literature Links
- Search terms are important. Be sure you keep track of search terms and use relevant search terms related to your topic, e.g., try pairing your work with "medievalism and Great Britain" or "middle ages in literature" or "Anglo-Saxon in literature."
- Library stacks section that has books that may be relevant for your research: DA520s-560s and PR460s
Academic websites can also be used. Here, though, credibility is very important. Check authors and sponsoring organizations of sites (-edu? -org? -com?). See the websites I have listed on the course website (under Resources--British Literature Links). Remember, an effective works cited page achieves balance in terms of the currency of sources and the variety and types of sources.
Documentation: You will use the MLA citation style for your essay. Include a works cited page. (Your working bibliography will become your works cited page.) Consult the MLA Handbook, 7th ed. I have put a copy on reserve (check under my English 102 course).
If you have trouble finding sources, see a librarian in the library. Ask for help.Introduction/Thesis
Your introduction should will most likely be one or two paragraph(s). Begin your essay by naming the work your are writing about. Hook or engage your readers by introducing your work (novel? poem? play?) and framing the issue you are exploring, perhaps by presenting readers with (a) key question(s) that your essay will address. (This question or these questions will, no doubt, focus on Victorian Medievalism. Questions also reveal assumptions about about the work(s) you are exploring. If possible, you might also briefly contextualize the work you are writing about within the author's other works. Then state your thesis--the main point, conclusion, or claim you are making about your chosen work. Your thesis will come from your careful reading and thinking; it will not just pop into your mind.Sample
(Thesis is in brackets)
Title: Marriage as an Experience in Eliot's Middlemarch
Intro: After reading Middlemarch, one's thoughts focus on the novel's two central marriages. Since both marriages result in unhappiness, it appears as though George Eliot views marriage as a confinement or a source of self-inflicted pain. This interpretation results from taking a narrow view of the novel and not considering its entire scope. [Through its central marriages, Middlemarch reveals the growth or loss which results from marriage. Marriage is not an end, but a beginning, a single fragment of human experience resulting in a fruitful relationship or an unfortuante loss.]
After you have formulated a thesis, find the best evidence you can to support it. Do not organize your essay around "the plot"; organize it around the central idea you are presenting (in your thesis). Select the best examples to illustrate your ideas.
Your direct quotations, paraphrases, and summaries will be from your research
sources and the work itself. You should use some direct quotations--let the work speak for itself and present readers with emphatic or telling examples that would lose their impact if paraphrased. Also,
direct quotations from sources can add credibility to your essay and can be an
effective way to present emphatic or key ideas. Do not, though, use long block quotations or too many quotations. Remember, quotations are not a substitute for your own thinking. You must interpret them for readers. Quotations supplement your thinking.
The handouts I will gave you explain how to integrate quotations.
You do not need to include the authorâ€™s name when citing a primary work (just the page number) since the context should be clear. If for some reason the context isnâ€™t clear or you need to differentiate a primary work's author from the author of a secondary source, then include the authorâ€™s name and the page or line number, e.g., (Scott 234).
When discussing literature, use the present tense (e.g., In â€œHereward the
Wake,â€ Herward exclaims . . . .).
Also, use third person rather than first or second person. See the sample introduction above.
Tone and style will be formal - avoid contractions and colloquialisms/slang
Assume readers, who are students taking a 200- or 300-level English literature course, have a basic knowledge of the novel's or poem's plot. What would this audience expect to learn from your essay? What would be their reason for reading it? Keep these questions in mind as your draft and revise.
Feel free to see me if you have any questions. I'll also be glad to look at drafts as you write them.