Term Paper – World Literature


Term Paper Assignment

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Term Paper – World Literature
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Fall 2020


Below are some suggested topics for your term paper, which will be due on the day of the final (if you would like a graded copy back by the time of the exam, you must turn it one week prior).


Your paper should be between 4 and 5 pages in length, typewritten, titled, and double-spaced with inch-wide margins on both the right and left hand sides of the page. Outside research is welcome, but not required (though if you do use material other than the text, proper MLA citation is indeed required). Should you be in the market for sources, I’d be more than happy to recommend some.


Analyze one or more of the major WORKS on the syllabus at much greater length—and in much greater depth—than you had leisure to do in class or your response essays. Feel free to approach the material from whatever perspective you wish—as representative of its times, its author, a particular philosophy, etc., or in comparison to other works.

Analyze one or more CHARACTERS from the works on the syllabus at much greater length—and in much greater depth—than you had leisure to do in class or your response essays. Your paper can take the form of an extended individual character study or a detailed comparison. Show who they are through what they say and do.

Analyze one or more of the AUTHORS on the syllabus in much the same way. Using their work(s) as evidence, describe their characteristic traits in both form and content. Consider not only what they say, but how they say it—and why. That is, study how their works work—what they do, as well as what they “express.”

Describe how a certain THEME, philosophy, literary technique, etc., appears in the work of one author or compare how it appears in the work of several. Whatever your choice, be careful to keep your terms as definite and your examples as concrete as possible. That is, being abstract is fine; being vague isn’t. Finally, please feel free to select your own theme (just be sure you run it by me first). Examples might include representations of the female, the role of Fate in human life, humankind’s relationship with divinity, the wisdom of acceptance, personal and cultural hubris, the dangers of imperialism, literature as a vehicle for cultural propaganda or criticism, conceptions of human or divine justice, ideals of heroism, the concepts of civility and barbarism, storytelling as a method of cultural preservation, the importance of certain social rituals like burials, the struggle between elemental forces in human nature like eros and sophia, and representations of extreme states of consciousness like rage and madness or extreme acts of savagery like cannibalism, suicide, infanticide, mutilation, etc.

(* If you have another topic in mind, or just wish to tailor one of the following to suit your interests, simply propose the new or customized idea to me during my office hours or by e-mail. The hope is that you are both interested and invested in what you’re writing about.)


Analyze; don’t summarize.

Remember, this isn’t a book report. After all, generally speaking it’s fairly safe to assume that I’ve read the material I’ve assigned and taught you.

Interpretation, not biography.

Stick to the texts themselves. Outside facts will only be “admitted into evidence” when relevant to the matter at hand.

Support; don’t pad.

Again, quotes are wonderful, but only when germane. That is, they are there strictly to enhance an already strong argument, not to conceal the absence of one. So, refer to the text constantly, and quote individual lines from them often, but quote longer passages from them only when their presence on the page is necessary for your reader to follow the discussion.

Relatedly, don’t quote me back to me. The main attraction here is what YOU have to say. Trust me, at this point I’ve had just about enough of what I have to say. (Haven’t you?)

Argue; don’t opine.

Your paper should be structured like a unified logical argument, not a random list of observations. Paragraph to paragraph, arrange and connect your various dots to form the desired picture. Sentence to sentence, first make a claim; then back it up. Remember: the goal is not to express yourself, but to persuade me of the validity of your interpretations.

Be individual, not personal.

Your paper should contain original ideas about the text, not personal information about your response to it—or, worse yet, private experiences or associations with the subject. Correspondingly, focus on the works themselves; avoid analogies to contemporary figures or events except in passing.

Clarify your terms; simplify your style.

Use precise diction and concrete examples. Keep your content specific, and the writing will generally take care of itself.

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