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Reader Responses

For specific classes marked on the calendar page, Reader Responses covering the current reading assignment will be due. Reader Responses should be 3 pages in length, typewritten in 12-point type, double-spaced with 1-inch margins on all sides, stapled together, and each page must be numbered. Each Reader Response will consist of three principal parts as described below:

  1. Identify some feature within the text (e.g., imagery, theme, incident, passage, narrative structure, framing device, style, sentence construction, message or moral, etc.) which happens to strike you as strange, unfamiliar, remarkable, or problematic, and explain what it is that you find so unusual about that particular element or how it differs from what you might have expected.

  2. Consider how that feature is operating within the text, what function or purpose it might be serving within its immediate context or within the broader narrative as a whole, and why it might have been represented in this particular manner rather than some other way.

  3. Then explain how this feature helps you to interpret the general meaning of the text as you explore the particular implications and consequences of your new understanding.

Final Paper Assignment

Length: 10 pages, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins, and with pages numbered and stapled together.

Choose one of the topics listed below. In your essay, you should address the works of all three authors in the course. In your introductory section, be sure to define your key terms and to lay out the major themes of your argument. Use concrete examples from passages in the texts to illustrate your claims, fully explain the citations in context, and assess their consequences and implications. In your concluding section, explain the general significance of your findings.

  1. Desire, in its many different aspects, becomes the dominant impulse that motivates characters in much of late medieval narrative. Consider how even the most personal and private of individual desires come into conflict with the collective public interests of the rest of society, and explain how each author attempts in his own way to resolve these tensions through different forms of expression or repression.

  2. The role of the Christian religion is strongly pronounced in each of these authors through frequent references to matters of theology and spiritual doctrine, private devotional practice, the role of clergy in public life and the institutional politics of the Church. In light of the Church history of the period, consider how each author responds to these concerns from a different perspective and explain the implications of these attitudes towards religion.

  3. Gender differences take on important symbolic and practical functions in each of these works by male authors, influencing the perspectives of their narratives, defining their goals and objectives, and determining the attributes and plot functions of their various characters. In as much as gender roles impose limitations on individuals and their ability to function independently, consider how the attitudes towards gender of each of these authors work both to constrain and to expand what it means to be fully human.

  4. In choosing to write in the vernacular rather than in Latin, the international literary language of the educated elite, each of these authors draws attention to the ways in which language mediates human relationships. Consider how language is portrayed as functioning by each of these authors in relation to notions of power and political authority.