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First year students only

Formative assessment

You will write 4 formative essays of 1400 - 1600 words in the course of the module, one on each of the language units studied (Italian, French, Spanish, German). The marks for these essays will not count towards your final mark for the module; rather they are training essays for which you will receive feedback. The word count includes quotations but not footnotes or bibliography. Please also note that footnotes should only be for references, and should not be discursive.

Essay 1 (Italian)


1. ‘Marco Polo's Book should be considered first and foremost an Italian text.’ Discuss.

2. Comment on the issue of authorship in the Book of Marco Polo, with reference to both the text itself and the context of its production.

3. Explore the connections between the French Revolution and Casanova’s ‘Histoire de ma vie’ AND/OR Mozart’s and Da Ponte’s ‘Don Giovanni’, with reference to the themes of authority, unruliness, and parenthood.

4. Discuss the problem of autobiography/autofiction in relation to Casanova’s ‘Histoire de ma vie’.

Essay 2 (French)

1. Discuss Maria Esposito’s claim that there is a tension between the visual and narrative components of Jean de Florette with regard to the ideologies the film promotes, paying particular attention to cinematic form.

2. Analyse how the construction of characters and their interactions in L'Auberge espagnole depicts European identity as a whole.

3. ‘We should regard the Persian dress of the letter-writers as a literary device, or ‘mask’, allowing more or less audacious criticisms to be made with impunity.’ (BETTS, adapted). Discuss the literary device of the persona in Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes.

4. Discuss the representation of self and other in Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes, with reference to the themes of race, religion AND/OR sexuality.

Essay 3 (Hispanic)

1. Write a textual commentary on the poem ‘Spain’ by Emma Roberts. Your commentary should address how Roberts’s choice of form, structural devices, and imagery contribute to her construction of Spain and the Spanish people.

2. To what extent is ‘the gaze’ a helpful concept for analysing nineteenth-century representations of Spain and the Spanish people? Your answer should make detailed reference to at least two of the texts we have studied.

3. “Nineteenth-century cultural representations of Spain and the Spanish people were little more than an excuse for expressing wider concerns about cultural and religious difference.” Do you agree? Your answer should make detailed reference to at least two of the texts we have studied.

4. “The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are” (Samuel Johnson). Discuss the relationship between travel, imagination and reality in at least two of the texts we have studied.

Essay 4 (German)

1. Lessing’s Nathan der Weise shows the ‘worthy and successful erosion of the artificial barriers by which humanity divides itself’ (Hughes). Discuss this judgement with close reference to the text.

2. It has been argued that Lessing’s Nathan der Weise is not so much a play that encourages us to accept cultural and religious difference, but rather a play that denies such difference. Discuss with close reference to the text.

3. Alexander von Humboldt, in Daniel Kehlmann’s Measuring the World, devotes his life to getting to know as much as possible about the (to him) unknown parts of the world and their inhabitants. Discuss with close reference to the text how successful he is in this quest, and if there are limits to his understanding.

4. What kinds of knowledge do Gauss and Humboldt each strive for? What do their enterprises have in common, and where do they differ? Discuss with close reference to the text.