Modern Heroes essay


The essay must be 3 (full) to 5 pages long, double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 pt. font. It will be one of your tasks to find a focused, arguable (both contestable and defensible) thesis statement that is based on a topic addressed in one of the prompts below.

You are not expected to use any other sources besides the Inferno and Beowulf (this especially includes summaries or online analyses). You may, however, use online searchable versions of the texts in order to find supporting quotes–only if you then use the translation used in class to type out those quotes (Do not cut and paste from a different translation). Use parenthetical citation according to MLA format, noting line numbers for Beowulf, and canto and line numbers for the Inferno. Choose short, pithy quotes to make your point rather than long summative passages. Analyze; do not summarize. Assume the reader of your essay has already read the texts and doesn’t need to know what happens next in any particular passage. Instead, your task is to convince your reader of a certain interpretation of the text.

Regardless of the prompt you choose, you must mention and quote both Beowulf and Dante, but you may organize your essay in such a way that you devote more space to analyzing one over the other. The space you devote to each character must take up at least 1/3 of your essay.

Remember to distinguish between Beowulf the hero and Beowulf the poem by using italics correctly. Also, remember to distinguish between Dante the Poet and Dante the Pilgrim in your essay.

Choose 1 of the following prompts to write your essay:

Prompt 1, About Modern Heroes:

Which is the more modern hero, Beowulf or Dante the Pilgrim? Keep in mind that, although we covered Dante first in class because it nicely follows the Aeneid, Beowulf is the earlier written poem. This doesn’t however, mean that Dante must be the more “modern” hero. With the proper support, you could write a successful essay arguing either perspective, but be sure to choose one. It may benefit you to consider a few characteristics of modernity and then spend a paragraph or two on each of these characteristics as portrayed by Dante and Beowulf. As always, keep your argument focused, organized, and well-supported with evidence from the text.

Prompt 2, About Christian Heroes:

Which is the better example of a Christian hero, Beowulf or Dante the Pilgrim? As always, keep your argument focused, organized, and well-supported with evidence from the text. With the proper support, you could write a successful essay arguing either side, but be sure to choose one. It may benefit you to consider a few characteristics you think a Christian hero should have and then spend a paragraph or two on each of these characteristics as portrayed by Dante and Beowulf.

Please check to make sure your essay meets the guidelines for argument, organization, mechanics, and style to be found in the Writing Help Document and the “6 Rules for Good Writing” document posted on Blackboard.

Submit your assignment by 11:59 p.m. (CT) on Sunday of Module/Week 7.

Further advice and instructions for your essay:

Let’s say you want to argue that Beowulf is a better example of the modern hero than Dante is, because Beowulf has more of x, y, and z. You could fill your essay with an organized argument that Beowulf has more of x, y, and z, but that’s not enough to address the prompt. Early on in your essay, or at the beginning of your discussion of each particular characteristic, you need to provide some quick proof that that characteristic is associated with the ideal under consideration. In other words, in an essay on Beowulf as a Christian hero, it’s not enough to prove that Beowulf is generous… you would also have to explain why generosity is an aspect of Christian heroism. Or in an essay on Dante as a modern hero, you could develop an argument for Dante being teachable, but you’d first need to lay the groundwork for the idea that being teachable is an attribute of the modern hero. This step can be done quickly, but it cannot be ignored.

You have a lot of work to do and only a few pages to present your argument, so this is a good occasion to practice citing and quickly referring to short passages and phrases from the text. Remember that one instance of bravery doesn’t necessarily mean that the character has mastered the virtue of fortitude, just as one instance of fear does not mean the character is a coward.

One way to accomplish a lot in a little space is, for each trait and each paragraph, to examine one of two instances of a hero’s expression of a particular trait, and then reinforce your case with citation (but not quotation) of other passages that further support your claims.

For example, let’s say you think humility is a specifically Christian virtue. You first explain why humility is an aspect of Christian heroism. You then may note two passages where Dante the Pilgrim demonstrates humility in The Inferno. After exploring those two passages in detail, you could make a more general statement about humility, noting that the words “humble” and “humility” occur nowhere in The Inferno. You discovered this by doing a quick search for the word on the Princeton Dante Project website, and since this is an argument from absence, you do not need to provide citation. You then search for the word “Proud” and discover three occurrences in The Inferno. You first consider the circumstance in which each instance of the word occurs. You could economically conclude your paragraph with the following sentences:

Virgil suggests that Pride caused both the fall of Troy and Satan’s rebellion against God (Inferno 1.75; 7.11-12). In Canto 15, Brunetto Latini tells his former pupil that Florence has also been corrupted by “a people greedy, envious and proud” (l. 68). Dante the Poet consistently assures us that Pride is the sin that disturbs and destroys good cities. Since Brunetto Latini then instructs Dante to “stay untainted by their ways,” the reader may conclude that Dante’s humility that distinguishes him from the citizens of hell, and marks him as a Christian hero (15.69).

Whether or not you agree with the argument above, this is a model for supporting an argument with quick reference to several supporting passages. Quotations do not need to be extensive, but you should cite several instances of support.


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