Professor Fleming†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

L101: Western World Masterpieces I

Spring 2010 Second Essay


Online Thesis statement due: †††††† April 20

Final paper due: ††† April 29, in class.†††


From the very basic prompts below, craft a thesis statementóa concrete argumentówhich you will defend throughout the paper.Your thesis statement is due April 20 online.Failure to submit a typed thesis statement on this day will result in 25% reduction for the essay.


Then write a polished 2Ė3 page double-spaced essay in a 12-pt font.

This is due in class Thursday, April 29.


All papers must have

       A clear thesis statement / introductory paragraph which fully outlines what exactly your paper will cover

       Clearly organized body paragraphs which support your thesis

       Abundant textual evidence

o   This is the number one priority in a paper like this: prove to me that you have read the texts very carefully and understood the authorís language

o   This means QUOTATIONS from the text which support your argument


No outside resources are required.If you wish to use any secondary resources for your paper, you must obtain written/email permission from me before you hand in your paper.Failure to do so will result in a failing grade for the assignment.


Your audience is me and other members of the class.As a result, donít spend too much time on summary.Assume weíve read the texts, and are familiar with the same basic information.Summarize aspects of the larger story which are essential to your argument.DONíT tell me stories: thatís the poetís job.Your job is to make an argument about our authors.


I highly recommend visiting the IPFW Writing Center before handing your paper in.(visit to set up an appointment)



(you are also free to develop you own prompt, but you must CHECK WITH ME before you submit your thesis statement)



       Think about the images of Lordship presented in Beowulf; Hrothgar, Hygelac, and Beowulf have similarities, but also have significant differences in their roles as kings.Consider the poet presents these various characters in their roles as Lord.


       Consider the notion of Heroes: how does the presentation of Aeneas compare to that of Odysseus (or Achilles, for that matter)?

o   or Gawain

o   or Dante


       Think about the monsters of Beowulf: they all constitute serious threats to humans, but there are many differences in their action, characterization, and presentation.Do we learn more about one than the others?Is their perspective / outlook / situation ever presented?Can we view any of the sympathetically?Do they serve a greater good, from the poetís perspective?


       What is the role of women in Beowulf?Who are the women of Beowulf? How are they presented?Are they more or less important than the men (if this question can even be answered)?How do the actions and words of women compare to those of men?(Note: since we are dealing with a pre-modern society and text, the role of women is obviously greatly different than that of today; donít point out the obvious, and donít get carried away in your condemnation of the past)


       Should Beowulf ultimately be seen as a poem which praises or criticizes the world it presents?Is Beowulf a role-model for the poet, or a warning?


       Think about Thorstein the Staff-struck and Beowulf; how do the different authors of these tales present the past?How do they depict violence?


       How does the tale told by a given character in the Canterbury Tales enhance our understanding of the character?How do their own words compare with Chaucer's initial presentation of them in the General Prologue?Does the tale confirm the GP description?Does it contradict it?What do you suspect Geoffrey Chaucer (the author) wants us to think of this character, ultimately.Is he mocking them?


       How does Dante's conception of the underworld differ from that of Virgil's in the Aeneid?What does this tell us about each author's concerns?


       Consider any individual sinner of the Inferno (especially those who have an extended treatment): how do they fit into the larger scheme of the Commedia?What do they tell us about Danteís conception of justice or sin?(Farinata; Ulysses; Brunetto Latini; Francesca Ö )


       Consider the role of fantasy and reality in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.


       What does the authorís perception of the courtly/chivalric world of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight seem to be?†† Again, is this a poem which praises or criticizes?


       Examine the role of women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight