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ENGLISH 2H06 / AMERICAN LITERATURE

TOPICS FOR THE SECOND ESSAY

Length: 2000-2500 words; percentage of total mark:  20%; due date: December 5, 2011, in class.

PLEASE NOTE: Essays should be typed, double-spaced, with proper margins;  back-printing is fine. Include the title of the essay, your name, the course name and number, my name, and the date. Essays are due at the beginning of the class on the date specified; the penalty for late submission of assignments is 3% per day. Please give the essay directly to me, and keep a copy of the paper until the original is returned to you.

There is no need to use secondary sources, but they must be properly documented if they are consulted. Please use the MLA handbook for style and citing of sources (you must acknowledge all borrowed ideas and quotations.) Be sure to read the “Statement of Academic Ethics” included in McMaster’s Senate Policy Statements booklet.

I. Literature often depicts the inner conflict of individuals who feel compelled to make choices that go against their conscience or divides their loyalties. Discuss the theme of psychic or moral conflict as it appears in Melville’s Moby-Dick or Billy Budd.

2. The use of counterpoint, or the entertaining of very different perspectives on the same phenomenon–whether it is life, Nature, the human condition–is an integral aspect of Moby-Dick. Each character embodies a different view of reality, which is a projection of his personality. Discuss this use of different perspectives in the novel.

3. Compare the archetype of the Noble Savage as it is used in Moby-Dick and Billy Budd.

4. Discuss the function or role of one or two of the secondary characters in Moby-Dick (that is, any of the characters other than Ahab or Ishmael).

5. Moby-Dick is, among other things, a powerful treatment of leadership and group psychology,  the subjection of a group to the emotionally compelling personality of a charismatic leader. Discuss.

6. The question arises in reading Moby-Dick: to what extent are the monstrousness and evil that Ahab sees in Nature really there, or only a projection of his own maddened mind? Discuss with reference to other possible interpretations

7. Come up with a topic your own in consultation with me or your TA. The topic must be approved by me, or the essay will not be accepted.

NOTE: feel free to email me at adamsonj@mcmaster.ca if you have any questions about the topics.

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