Religion 221a, Women and Gender in Early Christianity

Fall 2009

Guidelines for Essay 1, Religion 221a, Fall 09

Due: Thursday, 10/8/08, 4 p.m., Second floor, Gest, or submit electronically by email to

The assignment: Each of you should prepare a 5-6 page paper (double-spaced) in which you offer your own analysis and interpretation of the represenatation of women and/or gender in a particular passage, character, idea, image, theme, or practice from one or more of the primary sources assigned for class to this point.

I urge you to see this paper as an opportunity to explore in greater depth and with greater care the complexity and depth of the material you’re studying this semester. Your paper should thus offer close textual and conceptual analysis* of the material in the service of a specific interpretative claim or argument about its significance. It is up to you to decide what kind of significance you want to focus on - it could be the historical significance of the material (what it tells us about women in the history of early Cty), its social and/or cultural significance in its original or later settings (e.g., the later reception of the material in shaping or restricting women's roles in the church), its theological significance. Choose whichever approach and focus is most interesting to you, examine closely the way that feature works within the text, and build an interpretive claim about its significance. Be as specific and focused on the details of the text as you can to build a strong interpretative argument.

Your interpretative claim/s should be based on your close reading and analysis of the text, but you may bring in the perspectives of scholars or other readers of the material. Be sure to cite outside materials in footnotes and bibliography. Primary texts can be cited within the body of the paper (citing passages or page numbers in parentheses), but the edition and translation you used should appear in your bibliography.


 *Close textual and conceptual analysis means close attention to, and explanation and interpretation of, the claims, arguments, or points of view that a text advances, as well its use of image, structure, and style--in sum, all of the observable and potentially meaningful features of the text. Such analysis may be contrasted with interpretations that consist primarily of speculation, opinion, or personal reaction to the material without close engagement with the text. It may also be contrasted with a research paper in which you rely on and/or respond to the interpretations and scholarship of others.

Structure and Content. This paper should come out of your own analysis and interpretation of the material, and should reflect your understanding of the text of which it’s a part. A reader of your essay should be able to discover within the first paragraph the specific text(s), themes, or issues you are exploring. The structure of your essay should illustrate and develop your interpretation with frequent reference to and quotation from the source(s) in a manner that makes sense and is easy for a reader to follow. Use the source(s) as evidence throughout your paper to support, illustrate, and extend your interpretation. But let your analytical and interpretive voice frame the material and lead the reader through the argument of your paper.

Return to Religion 221 Home Page

This page is maintained by, Last updated 9/27/09