Religion 221a, Fall 2008

Guidelines for Essay 2, Religion 221b

Due: Friday, December 5, 4 p.m., second floor, Gest

The assignment: Each of you should prepare a 5-page paper (double-spaced) offering your own analysis and interpretation of a particular passage, character, idea, image, theme, or practice from one or more of the primary sources assigned since the last paper.

Texts: Paul through Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Mary, Selections from the Miller anthology and online sources, Acts of Paul and Thecla, Passion of Perpetua.

Topics you m ight consider:

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 offer close textual and conceptual analysis* of the textual material in the service of a specific interpretative claim or argument about its significance. Be as specific and focused on the details of the text as you can to build a strong interpretative argument.

Focus on some feature of the text (a theme, image, character, passage, etc.) you've found interesting; examine closely the way that feature works within the text, and build an interpretive claim about its significance. This claim should be based on your close reading and analysis of the text, not on any outside scholarship or source. You should only need to cite books, translations, or editions that have been assigned for class.

Citations of Text: Let your reader see how your analysis of the details of the text support, illustrate, and extend your interpretive claim/s. Cite the edition used in a footnote the first time you quote or refer to a text; thereafter, refer to passages or page numbers in parentheses within the body of the text.


*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.


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