First Essay Assignment
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,
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?