ENG214.001 -- Topics in World Literature: Ancient to Medieval
Prof. Eileen Joy (Spring 2010)
CRITICAL ESSAY #2 -- Comparative Analysis
Due: Thursday, April 22nd
Figure 1. Paul Klee, "Embrace"
For your second essay--a COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS paper--develop a narrowly-defined argumentative thesis related to a comparison of some aspect, or aspects, of two of the works we have read thus far (the Iliad, the Mahabharata, Song of Roland, and Dante's Inferno). Write a paper of approximately 4 typed (double-spaced) pages. NO outside sources are to be used for this paper, which should solely represent your own critical and analytical thinking. On the other hand, the online notes and other hyperlinks I have provided for you on the online syllabus can be consulted in order to help you generate ideas and refine your thinking with respect to these works, and you may incorporate information from these notes into your paper if you feel it is relevant to your argument. I would really prefer that you develop your own thesis without my assistance, and therefore, for this essay I will not be providing topics as I did with the first critical essay; rather, I would like for you to spend some time contemplating possible connections between the works we have read in order to develop your own, original thesis you want to argue.
The most important thing about this paper, in addition to having an argumentative thesis (that, hopefully, does not just re-state something obvious about the narratives and their characters and stories), is to make sure that you support your argument with a CLOSE reading of the texts themselves: their language and descriptive details. Whatever it is you want to argue (and you have free rein to develop any argument you like; there are no "right" or "wrong" interpretations in this course, only stronger and more weakly argued ones), just be sure to connect your main observations and ideas to specific passages and details in the poem itself (this will require direct quotation, as well as paraphrase and summary).
Important Note: one of the pitfalls of the comparative analysis is that students will sometimes write a paper in which the essay simply compares "similar" and "dissimilar" aspects of a work. An example of this might be a paper that compares and contrasts Achilles and Arjuna as warriors (pointing out how they are similar, and how they are also different in certain ways), or that describes all the ways in which honor is "important" in both the Mahabharata and The Song of Roland, in similar and different ways. This is what we call a straight "compare and contrast"-type essay, but it does not necessarily have anything interesting to say beyond certain obvious features of both works. The important thing to remember is to have a debatable (and hopefully creative and interesting) point you want to argue (and this requires judgment on your part--you have to have some sort of critical edge in which you are adopting a particular opinion that requires persuading your reader to understand your point of view, even if they don't ultimately agree with it). Your thesis should be a point you want to make that could be contested; it should also pass the "why does it matter?" test. In other words, what is ultimately interesting about the ultimate point you want to make, and how does it go beyond just a literal reading of the surface details of the story itself?