English 41: Literatures in English, 1688-1865

First Essay Assignment

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General Directions

Write a 3-5 page essay on ONE of the following topics that establishes a clear, focused argument and that uses significant textual evidence to support that argument. You should format the paper as follows: double-spacing, decent margins, your name and teaching assistant (and the essay's title) on the first page. Please use parenthetical citations for all quotations instead of footnotes. That is, put the page number of the quotation in parenthesis following the passage from the work.

*If you choose to devise a topic of your own, you must do so in consultation with your instructor.

The essay is due February 20.


1. Analyze the sequence in Paradise Lost that recounts Satan's entrance into Eden (Book IV: 172-204). In your analysis you should consider how form and content (style, language, metaphor, etc.) contribute to the characterization of Satan and the world of Eden. You may also consider how the entire passage relates to larger themes (such as seduction, innocence, political conflict, moral authority, etc.).

2. Analyze the reunion scene with the sister in Equiano's Narrative of the Life (NAAL 757-58). How does the style, language, imagery of the scene contribute to Equiano's overall critique of slavery? You might want to briefly consider this scene in conjunction with others (755, 773, 778) which feature women. How does the figure of woman (or the family, the domestic, even the sentimental) function specifically in the text's political challenge to readers?

3. Adam and Eve have two arguments in book IX (ln. 205 onward and ln. 1067 onward)--how do these arguments develop Milton's characterizations of Adam and Eve? You will want to consider both the content of the argument (What do Adam and Eve argue about?) and the form of the argument (How do they develop their respective arguments?). You may also consider how these arguments relate to the larger issue of gender in Paradaise Lost.

4. How does Mary Rowlandson's Narrative employ not a singular but rather multiple voices? Choose one or two passages that you think are representative, and explain how and why they reveal different perspectives, ideologies, and even roles that she plays in captivity. What is the literary effect of this feature of Rowlandson's work? What does it say about the position of a woman writer?

5. Compare the original ending of The Sot-Weed Factor with the revised version that was distributed at lecture. What does the original ending satirize about both English and colonial cultures, and what does the revised ending satirize? How does the new ending change our understanding of the what the poem as a whole - not just the ending, in other words - is trying to satirize?

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