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The following assignment is an example of one used in the course.

First Paper Assignment (Exercise in Close Reading)

Length: 5 pages, double-spaced, 1-inch margins, numbered pages, stapled together.

Choose one passage from the options below and analyze it carefully. In your opening paragraph, situate the passage in its original context and explain its function or purpose within the work from which it has been excerpted. Then, include the entire passage, single-spaced and indented left and right. Next, break the passage down into its various component movements, noting syntactic and thematic patterns, narrative voice and perspective, clusters of images, symbolic meanings, and the structural arrangement of oppositions and alignments. Finally, address the consequences and ideological implications of these strategies of signification. In order to assess what is truly distinctive about the passage, you should compare your findings here with the treatments of similar material in analogous passages from other texts.

Geographic Descriptions

Gildas (3)

Bede (I.i, 1)

Nennius (7-9)

Geoffrey of Monmouth (I.i, 1-4)

Gerald of Wales (Topography of Ireland, I.i, 1-3)

Character Portraits

Alban in Gildas (10-11)

Alban in Bede (I.vii, 2)

Germanus in Bede (I.xvii, 1)

Germanus in Nennius (32)

Maglocunus in Gildas (33)

Vortigern in Bede (I.xiv, 2)

Vortigern in Nennius (31)

Ambrosius in Gildas (25)

Ambrosius in Bede (I.xvi)

Ambrosius in Nennius (42.2)

Wondrous Events

The Floating Altar in Nennius (71)

The Conception of Merlin in Geoffrey of Monmouth (VI.xviii, 1)

The Conception of Arthur in Geoffrey of Monmouth (VIII.xix, 7)