Writing Assignments:

General Description:

There are four main essays to write - each one for 20 percent of the grade. Two of these will papers analyzing a primary source - one of a document, and one of an item. One essay can be either a response to an argument (Feudalism, Fall of Rome, etc.) or a response to a modern work about the medieval period. The final paper will be a research proposal for a plan-paper-sized project. While all four essays will carry the same grade weight, in practice the primary source papers are shorter (4-5 pages), the response to a modern work of medium length (5-7) and the research proposal somewhat longer (around 10 pages). However, there are no fixed page requirements for any single essay. Because this course is meant to be writing intensive, there will be numerous points in class where students will also be asked to write short responses. Some of these will be handed in, but will not be graded. In general, much of the discussion in class will be geared towards practicing the skills that will be required in the written essays.

Late Papers:

Papers are due the Friday following the final week of each section. Papers turned in late will not be penalized. However, I will not provide any written comments on late work and will only assign a letter grade. Also, over the course of the semester, you get six free extension days to be used at your discretion. For example: if you turn in your first assignment on time, but your second assignment on Monday after it is due, you will have used three extension days and will have three remaining. Use these extensions wisely. Once they are gone, all papers are due as stated. No work will be accepted after Monday, December 12th at Noon.

Paper Style and Academic Integrity:

The standard historical citation form in historical research is the Chicago Manual of Style. I am willing to accept other formats if you are more familiar with other forms. However, whichever form of citation you use, I would prefer the use of footnotes with clear references to the work and page numbers for any idea, argument or direct quote which is not your own. If you want to use Chicago Manual, Ohio State has a reasonable online summary of many of the basic styles (it begins with Sciences – scroll down for History samples). If you have any questions about when to cite and how to cite, feel free to ask me at any time.

Due Date:
Attendance and Participation

First Paper
Second Paper
Third Paper
Final Research Proposal
12/5 and 12/10

Note: The final paper has two due dates, the earlier date is for students submitting a writing portfolio in order to receive feedback prior to the portfolio submission date. All students not taking the course for designated writing can submit their work on the later date.

Attendance: 20%. Attendance is mandatory and will impact your final grade.
I have designed my presentations to leave time for questions both during and after the presentation as well as a variety of student presentations and discussion of primary sources. I encourage questions that engage both with the lecture and with the assigned reading for the week.

Primary Source Papers: 2 papers, 20% each. One of the primary tasks
of the historian is to consult and interpret the myriad forms of material left to us from the past. They may be done for any of the first three units (Politics, Religion, or Economy) and need not come out of a specific topic we discussed in class. Students have often chosen these assignments to expand into an area not covered in depth by the course presentations and readings including the early church, Vikings, Muslim culture, Jews, the silk road, and many other topics. The primary questions of the essays should focus on what you believe you can learn from the source. What does it illuminate about the medieval world that you had not known before? What did you find surprising? What aspects of the source appear to be unique and which aspects are more likely general or indicative of social norms? How could you create a deeper understanding of the past if you were to look at many of the same type of source? We will spend a fair amount of class time focusing on these questions which should help write these papers. Lastly, you will have to write two of these essays with one difference. One of the essays will need to be about a written or textual source, the other about an item. The item can be anything whose primary value is not the words it contains - a coin, a boat, a painting, a building, a human skeleton, a map, a plow, almost anything. Be imaginative.

Secondary Source Paper: 20%. This essay is in some ways the loosest of
the assignments. You have a choice - either delve into a scholarly argument and respond to what you believe the main points of view to be (we will get to a good example in week three with feudalism); or you may choose a modern work of fiction, cinema, an essay or other material that uses or frames the middle ages and respond to that work as you see fit. For the scholarly argument, feel free to come to me with topic ideas - the goal will be to understand as well as possible what scholars find is at stake in their arguments and why people might reasonably hold different ideas about the particular set of events. For the modern artistic work, questions will vary widely with the chosen work, but might include: How and why has the creator of the work used the Middle Ages in their work? What does that particular setting serve? What does the work tell us about the medieval past or about our understanding of it? You might also consider what Umberto Eco has to say about Medievalisms in his essay assigned in week four.

Research Proposal: 20%. This will be the final paper,
and the topic can be almost whatever you want within the bounds of Europe and its neighbors from the end of Rome till 1500. Imagine that you are preparing to do a plan in medieval studies or medieval history. You will need to do primary research (using a collection or set of primary sources) and you will need to use those sources to develop a new narrative of past events. You will also need to respond to the arguments scholars have already put forward regarding the material you propose to study. As such, the proposal will have two concrete portions of work. 1) Identifying the source and gaining enough access to it to be able to imagine what you might say if you could read it all (you need not have access to all of it - use the online collections to find examples of source types or specific collections that if you could see all of them you might have more to say (you don’t even have to know the language of the original, as long as you have several good sample translations). 2) Researching what previous scholars have said about the topic. This will involve using the library, search engines, and online journals to find published material developing an argument from sources either related or similar to your own chosen body. These two tasks also roughly correspond to the portions of the essay, although which one goes first and how they are integrated depends greatly on the material itself. As with the previous assignments, I will discuss all of this in more detail in class, but do start thinking about what type of material you would find most compelling to work on.
Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011, 9:18 AM