Guidelines: These topics ask you to write a thesis paper that argues an interpretation, not a descriptive report. Be prepared to analyze, speculate, and argue beyond the content of lecture. If you consult any secondary source, you must acknowledge it. The essay must be word-processed and the pages numbered (list the word count at the end). Padding is unwelcome, as is an underdeveloped argument. Formal academic prose is required, as is a title. Consult the Key to Numbered Comments in advance to know grading criteria for structure and style.
1. The uses of history: in Week 4 we saw two high-stakes episodes in which ancient sources were either falsified (the Donation of Constantine) or contradicted each other so that the facts are lost to us now (the Norman Conquest). Describe and explore the similarities and the contrasts between these two cases, quoting any primary sources assigned for class. How truthful can we assume primary sources to be? Can you identify a more recent parallel (from the last 200 years) for one or both of the episodes?
2. Connect the thirteenth-century humanization of religious figuresChrist, the Virgin Mary, Saint Francisto the rise of verisimilitude / mimesis in the visual arts. Choose ONE of our primary texts from Week 6, and ONE image close to it in time and place, and explore the ways in which they try to make their subject lifelike, present, and contemporary to the audience of the time. To be clear, you can use ANY image, not just one weve seen in class, but your text should be one assigned for Week 6. Be sure to quote both your image and your text; include and identify your image.
3. Its clear that medieval and Renaissance Christians were interested in their individual salvation: we can see that in the representations of the Last Judgment (week 5), as well as in the prayers and praise-songs to Christ, Mary, and the saints (week 6). At the same time, though, religiosity and the Church were also often either ignored, as in Bisclavret (week 2) and Silence (weeks 2-3), or mocked, as often in the Decameron (weeks 7 and 8). Write a paper focusing on the Decameron: choose one or more tales and examine how it treats (or they treat) the question of salvation, holiness, and virtuous living.
4. The Decameron is famous for a more closely mimetic (realistic) treatment of human lifeits more interested in exploring how we do live, than how we should live. Choose one of the following four themes: the search for identity; the search for love; the search for the divine; the search for power. Identify one or two Decameron tales that in your opinion exemplify that theme, and show how they use representations of everyday life to do it.
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