ENG457F: Language in Britain in the 1770s

Take-home test #1: a literary essay using literature online


Due                 October 15th, by 11:00 am, at the Wetmore Porter's Lodge, New College (or to me in my office). 2% off per day thereafter.

Length            Between 2000-2500 words (8-10 typed pages)

Format            Do NOT put your NAME on the test.



Answer one of the questions below in essay form.

            You must read the instructions on the back of this sheet.

You must use literature online (http://lion.chadwyck.com/) to generate your first round of data.

            You may use secondary sources, but you must cite them accurately and scrupulously.


The topics


1. The worthy eponymous protagonists of both Humphry Clinker and Evelina have their true names and (relatively) worthy births revealed at the end of the novel. Compare and contrast some literary functions[1] of the word name in these novels.


2. Compare and contrast some literary functions of dress and/or clothing in each novel.


3. It is conventional to oppose the conventions and artifice of human society to nature. Consider the word nature in both novels: who uses the word? what issues does it raise? Compare and contrast the literary function of the concept of nature.


4. While each novel focusses on civilian society and its artifices, each contains at least one captain. Compare and contrast their literary functions.


5. Crisis often reveals character – and what else? Compare and contrast the literary functions of incidents in a coach or carriage in each novel.


6. Compare and contrast the literary effects of references to France and/or the French in each novel. Or, you may broaden the topic to include references to “abroad” more generally – e.g. also considering the East Indies and America in Humphry Clinker.


7. Both novels are epistolary. Compare and contrast the literary functions of of writing in each.


8. Consider the word language in each novel. What literary issues does it illuminate? Compare and contrast!


9. Consider the word creature in each novel. What literary issues does it illuminate? Compare and contrast, and ignore the monkey at your peril!


10. Compare and contrast the literary effects of the social significance of tea and coffee in each novel.


11. Compare and contrast the literary effects of the word body in each novel. (Yes, in Evelina it’s mostly in any body, no body, etc.)


12. A topic of your own choice: get my approval in writing by October 3rd.





Getting started


This assignment has several purposes:

I’d like you to have read and thought about both novels in a literary way before we spend class time discussing how language is used and/or represented in each text. (However, you have the option of writing on a more language-oriented topic.)

I’d like you to use literature online for this assignment so that you have an idea of how you might use it for your research paper. As you can see, most of the topics could be done without literature online, but I want to see what you can do and have done with it.


Assessment of your assignment will include the following:

            Does your answer demonstrate familiarity with the entirety of both novels?

Have you focussed the question sharply around representative incident(s), patterns, etc.?

(I.e. do not consider every single instance of the word when analyzing how the concept it denotes functions in the novel!!)

Does your answer demonstrate your ability to analyze the texts closely, with sense and subtlety?

Does your answer demonstrate your ability to draw links between your specific topic and themes or issues that you consider important to the novels?

            Is your answer well organized and well written?


The research

1.      Search for your words in literature online. You should consider whether your head words have variants that you need to check (e.g. variant spellings, variant grammatical forms (e.g. plural, past tense), derived forms (prefixes, suffixes).

2.      Some of the topics will generate a lot of hits, others less. Look for patterns: if your word is very common, you not only can but must narrow things down: the use of the word by one character; the importance of the concept it denotes at a particular point near the end of the novel; the word’s appearance with other words…

3.      Go to the novel and mark, then read the references.

4.      As you’re reading the references, keep taking note of any patterns. Is your word/concept associated with particular people, recurring situations, etc.?


The interpretation and analysis.

1.      In order to interpret the data, you’ll need to sort, classify, compare the material. Use such guidelines as

-which characters?

-how is it placed in the novel – in which scenes or situations?

-your own criteria

2.      In order to analyze the data, you’ll need to ask yourself about the significance of your topic to your overall understanding of each novel: how does it relate to themes, issues, characters, etc.?

3.      Select and synthesize your findings, and compose an essay presenting your research in the form of an argument, a line of reasoning which follows logically from point to point.

4.      Your essay will undoubtedly contain paragraphs or pages that provide a context for your topic rather than dealing with it specifically.


[1]“Function” might consider plot, character, theme. Whatever you do, focus!