Essay Assignment 1

Write an essay on one of the subjects below. A good essay will argue for a well-defined thesis based on the given subject and be well-written. An excellent essay will also be original, insightful, and interesting. You may use as little or as much secondary criticism as you want. My preference is to read papers that result from your own personal interaction with the texts, but intelligent research reports are welcome.

The length of the essay should be approximately 2500 words or about eight pages. You may safely submit an essay that is 10% shorter or 20% longer than the guidelines (which translates to 7 to 10 pages). Essays that are shorter or longer than this might be returned unread. I prefer you use MLA guidelines for both the presentation of the essay and the documentation of sources in the essay. If you don't use the MLA format, you must use one of the other standard documentation formats. I am not fond of title pages for essays less than twenty pages in length. Essays should be double spaced. Printed essays should use a 12-point, serif font and should not have a justified right margin. Consult the course website for tips on essay writing.

The essay is due on December 5th 2003. You may modify any of the topics, but you must consult me about the modifications by November 18th at the latest.

  1. To look to the future, one must study the past. Discuss Middlemarch's treatment of the eighteenth-century past or the medieval past. When considering the past, you may consider the political, the literary, the artistic, the philosophical, or the social past.
  2. To look to the future, one must study the past. Discuss Barchester Towers's treatment of the medieval past. When considering the past, you may consider the historical, the literary, the artistic, the philosophical, or the social past.
  3. Examine the use of science in Middlemarch. What is the novel's ultimate statement on the value of science? You may contrast the use of science with the use of art, literature, or philosophy.
  4. Examine the treatment of Christianity in North and South. You might want to look at Nicholas Higgins as the centre of religious controversy.
  5. Discuss the importance of the illustrations in Vanity Fair or Barchester Towers. To what extent do the illustrations support, enhance, or undermine the text?
  6. Compare the private and public worlds of Vanity Fair. In which world do the most significant transitions occur (you may consider any of character, plot, social progress, etc.).
  7. Compare Margaret (from North and South), Dorothea (from Middlemarch), and Marcella (from Marcella). Focus on any of characterization, treatment by the narrator and/or author, and social function.
  8. Examine the literary and/or social function of dress (or clothing) in Marcella.
  9. Discuss "airs" in North and South.
  10. Discuss the metamorphic trait of Will Ladislaw in comparison to one or two other characters in Middlemarch and perhaps the novel as a whole.
  11. Discuss the influence of the higher criticism on Middlemarch.