Gender Roles (In Odyssey and Perceval)

| July 28, 2015

English 271 Final Research Project

–12 point font, MLA Style and heading

–6-8 pages, including a Works Cited page and, if needed, a Works Consulted page

–MLA style documentation; See the Course Homepage for Web Links that give examples: the OWL, MLA, or use the MLA Handbook, current edition.

–at least 3 but no more than 5, secondary sources (sources other than the literary texts, themselves) quoted or paraphrased.

PLEASE NOTE: These must be scholarly sources from college/university libraries, AVL (Alabama Virtual Library), or from .edu or .org internet sources. Do not use Wikipedia Cliffs Notes, Masterplots,, etc. as sources that you cite.

The purpose of this assignment is to take you beneath the surface of the literary work or works of your choice through reading and applying the ideas you find in secondary sources. You will develop research skills and analytical skills as you move through the process. The final product should reflect what you have learned and discovered in the course of this assignment.

Suggested Steps:

(Note: please see the examples at the end of the Steps.)

First, choose one-three works from those we have read that you enjoyed or found interesting.

Second, determine a question or questions that you wish to examine and attempt to answer in your essay. Write them down. (Please do not state these questions as the content for your introduction paragraph. The questions should be used to determine a topic and thesis. As in any other essay, the introduction ideas and thesis statement should be written as declarative sentences and not questions.)

Third, reread the work(s) carefully, looking for any information in the primary source that can help you shape or begin to answer the questions. Write down everything you notice.

Fourth, look at your question(s) again, and edit them to fit what you’ve learned in rereading the literary work(s).

Fifth, research the literary work(s) looking specifically for relevant information and answers to your questions. Make connections and analyze the sources as you read in order to create your own, well-reasoned answers. Do not expect to find a source that gives you the whole answer. Instead, use the ideas that you find and blend them with your own.

Sixth, write the research essay. Have an introduction in which you set out the research questions or problem. Have a thesis—the main point you will be examining/supporting/analyzing—in the first or second paragraph. Remember to use transitions between paragraphs, to have topic sentences that set out the main idea of each paragraph, and a conclusion that completes your thoughts.


Here are two examples; you may use this format or develop your own. (In other words, don’t feel that you are limited only to these examples.)

Example 1:

I am interested in the figure of the hero and the way in which the hero is defined in the literature of different periods as well as the way the hero is defined today. I will use Odysseus (epic hero, Ancient Greece), Perceval (hero as knight, Middle Ages), and Don Quixote (satiric hero, Renaissance).

My questions:

What are the qualities of each hero? Is there a connection between the culture and its conception of the hero? Does the hero reflect his culture—its values as well as what it values? How does the hero develop over time? Which traits change and which remain the same? What about the hero of contemporary literature? Can I add an analysis of him or her to my discussion?

(Note that I used the pronoun “he” for the heroes we studied because the female heroine would’ve been an anomaly in those times.)

Working Thesis statement derived from questions and research:

The figure of the literary hero has changed from era to era and reflects its culture. The Ancient Greeks valued physical strength, sharp wit, and adherence to its values—all seen in Odysseus, its archetypal hero. The medieval hero is a product of the chivalric age in which a knight follows a strict code of honor and behavior in service to his king. Perceval’s story shows the “youth” learning this code and in the process becoming an heroic knight. The Renaissance, which valued learning and wit, has Don Quixote, who reflects the heroes of the earlier eras, but is used to satirize their qualities as well.


(You’ll note that my thesis is several sentences and not one. You are welcome to use this format or stay with the single sentence one.)

Example 2:

I want to focus on one literary work and the topic of religious belief. I’ve chosen Dante’s Inferno.

My questions:

What sort of Christian belief is defined in Dante’s vision of Hell? What is Hell’s purpose for him? Why does he go there, and what does he learn? What was the historical context in which the poem was written? How do I see it at work or see its influence? Is Dante’s vision doctrinal for its time, or does he stray from the beliefs his culture would’ve held? In religions other than Christianity, there are depictions of an afterlife that includes a type of Hell. How do other religions see Hell or punishment after death? What are the similarities and differences? What about Hell today as seen in __________ (fill in a literary work or sacred text)?

Working Thesis statement derived from questions and research:

While some may want to limit Dante’s depiction of Hell as expressing only the religious beliefs of his time, research shows that his poem finds analogies in ancient as well as contemporary beliefs about the afterlife and its punishments and rewards.


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