Essay #2, Due Monday, October 21st
Write an analytical essay of at least three full pages in response to one of the following prompts. For best results, re-read key sections of the text(s) and quote/refer to them directly as part of your essay. Cite line numbers and include bibliographic information for your source at the end. Do not try to complete this assignment solely from your notes or from memory; you will not produce an appropriately specific literary analysis and argument for your thesis.
Choose one of the tales we’ve read from The Canterbury Tales, and discuss how it reflects on the pilgrim who tells it. Consider the details the narrator gives about the teller in the General Prologue. Does the tale, and the way it is told, provide insight into the teller beyond the General Prologue? Does the description in the General Prologue alter one’s sense of the tale? In other words, in what ways is the narrative affected by the knowledge provided about the teller (and vice versa)?
Choose one (or maybe two) of the prologues and/or tales in The Canterbury Tales and discuss or compare the representation of marriage, especially in terms of husband/wife roles and relations. What, in the world of Chaucer’s narrative, constitutes a good marriage? What is a bad marriage? Are all marriages problematic?
Compare and contrast the student/clerk described in The General Prologue with “handy Nicholas” in The Miller’s Tale. What do they have in common? To what purpose do they put their learning? Is there an ideal version of a clerk suggested by Chaucer, as there might be of a knight or a parson? Is there any suggestion in the text of why the miller might tell about a scholar’s getting the best of a tradesman when he himself is one?
Compare and contrast the depiction of King Arthur’s court in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and in The Wife of Bath’s Tale. Do both depict a failure of knighthood, or depict it in the same way? How does the quest set for Gawain compare to the one set for the knight in The Wife of Bath’s Tale in terms of moral purpose or duty? How does Gawain’s behavior in Sir Gawain compare to the knight’s behavior in the wife’s tale?
Compare and contrast the way misogyny may be seen as a theme in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and in one or more sections of The Canterbury Tales. What are the bases for medieval anti-feminism according to these poems? Is there any evidence to suggest that the authors themselves agree or disagree with the misogyny found in their narratives?
All essays should be double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, with no more than 1.25” margins all around. They are to be structured as academic essays (introduction leading to a thesis, body, and conclusion) and be written objectively (no first- or second-person references). When writing about literature, it is best to focus on the text – what is actually on the page – rather than to speculate about the author’s intentions or writing process, or to assume specific audience reactions. In other words, avoid writing about what you don’t or can’t know. Also, avoid slipping into a review of the work; do not applaud, recommend, criticize, or try to rewrite the literary work about which you are writing – again, be objective, analytical and interpretive.
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