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First assessed essay


Essay Titles 2016-2017

1. “Oh, to vex me, contraryes meet in one” (John Donne). What oppositions arise in the religious poetry of Donne and/or Herbert, and how do they resolve these issues? You must discuss at least three poems in detail.

2. “These things are but toys” (Bacon, “Of Masques and Triumphs”). How trivial is the early seventeenth century masque OR the literature of the Cavalier Poets?

3. “Exiling thoughts that touch inconstancie,/Or those which waste nott in the constant art” (Lady Mary Wroth). Does Pamphilia to Amphilanthus present constancy as a virtue for both men and women?

4. Do Milton’s Poems (1645) offer a critique of Cavalier poetry? Discuss at least three poems in detail.

5. “It wanted a full and understanding auditory” (Webster, on The White Devil). What does Webster teach us about education and intelligence in The White Devil?

6. “I ha’ known men ha’ been insufficient, but women can play their parts’ (Bird in a Cage, 3.3.36-7). Discuss the nature of female performance in Shirley’s play.

7. Discuss the presentation of nature and artifice in Marvell’s poetry. Discuss at least three poems in detail.

8. “My praise is plain” (Jonson, ‘To Mary, Lady Wroth’). How clear is Jonson’s poetics of praise?


Use this guide to Working with Sources in your first essay -- it is about 'evidence' (very important).

Before you start to write please read How to Write An Essay linked from the Seventeenth Century front page. You should also look at the Referencing section of the website.

Here is a link to the department's guide to Academic Writing which will show you how to do footnotes in MLA. There is also face-to-face help available which you can access from this page.

We advise that you use MHRA because it is easier to reference using this system when you are writing about texts written in the 17th Century and the resources you need to understand them, many of which are available online. Please refer to the style guide emailed to you all when writing your formative essays. The complete MHRA style guide is available here. You will not be penalised for using MLA style, but we strongly encourage you to get to grips with MHRA for the purposes of this course.

We will exact the full penalty available to us for mistakes in referencing and scholarly practice in the assessed essays on the grounds that you have had an opportunity to learn how to do this properly in the formative essay, and will have been provided with feedback.