FINAL ESSAY (25% of course grade) ITLT 42: Lie, Cheat, and Steal: Short Stories of the Decameron
INSTRUCTIONS Please read these instructions carefully since they lay out all expectations!
Format: separate title page with identifying information, text double-spaced, Times New Roman 12 point font, 1” margins on all sides, word count provided at end.
Length: Please keep your discussion within the parameters of 1200-1500 words. For every unit of 1-100 words you fall below the minimum of 1200, your grade on the essay will be penalized a full letter grade. If you go beyond the maximum 1500, I will read only as far as 1600 words and evaluate at that stopping point. Please aim for quality and precision in what/how you write. If you have the tendency to be wordy, you will need to edit: organize your thoughts, focus your analysis, provide textual citations as clear evidence of your analysis. And, after you’ve done all that, proofread and edit your work closely to make your points within 1600 words.
Sources: The only source you need to use is our text. No outside research is necessary, and I specifically ask you not to undertake it. You should be able to address any of the topics solely with the work you have already done in the course. (You can, of course, also use any of the online materials I’ve prepared for the course; there is no need to cite those materials if you reference them.)
Editing and proofreading: Carefully edit and proofread your essay before submitting it. Use spellcheck, but also go back and re-read your work afterwards since spellcheck cannot correct grammatical and structural errors or differences in word choice between homonyms such as it’s/ its, bare/bear, grisly/grizzly, nun/none, friar/fryer, whole/hole, where/wear/ware, there/their/they’re, etc. Your work should not contain many language errors, incomplete sentences, run-on sentences, and/or faulty punctuation. At the university level, everyone should be able to write a reasonably error-free, readable, academic essay. Grammar and spelling need not be perfect, but they should be solid.
Academic language and tone: This is an academic essay: word choices and tone are important. Your grade will suffer if your writing frequently demonstrates the abovementioned language errors as well as informal turns of phrase used in everyday conversation. Academic writing avoids all informal language as well as references to I/you. The expressions “I believe” or “I think” should not appear in an academic essay. Also take care to avoid expressing opinions since the essay is not intended as a discussion of personal, moral perspectives or reactions. Instead, the essay discusses how the text/the tales/the narrators develop themes and how situations lend themselves, guided always by the point of view of the narrator, to the interpretations you want to demonstrate. In effect, the tale itself and the storyteller direct all our interpretations; your job is to highlight how that is done. Also, please avoid anachronistic contrasts/comparisons like “Nowadays, women have more freedom” or any generalizing comment of this sort; keep your analysis focused within the tale and within the Decameron as a whole itself. Do not move beyond the text into our understandably very different 21st-century world. For example, here is a sentence that needs editing to avoid some common pitfalls (informal tone and word choices, expression of opinion, comparison to 21st century): “Basically, I think Boccaccio wants to show that Ghismonda is a really strong woman especially for her times.” To edit, eliminate “I think” and “really” as well as the reference to the time period and the meaningless filler word “basically”; get right to the point. The point/thesis is how the tale conveys the protagonist’s power: “The tale demonstrates that Ghismonda is a powerful woman by A, B and C…”
Content and structure:
1. First, give your essay an interesting title.
2. After that, do not engage in a generalizing introduction about Boccaccio and the Decameron. Instead, present the chosen topic in a short introduction (3-4 sentences) that 1) immediately references the tale(s) you will discuss and that 2) contains a thesis statement (= what you will demonstrate in your analysis).
Note: If I cannot readily identify your thesis statement in your introduction, your essay is not structured well: as a result, your entire essay might very well drift from topic to topic without an essential anchor. A thesis statement is the anchor: it is your job as the writer of the essay to guide your reader; it is not your reader’s job to try to search for the guiding principle in your essay.
3. Each paragraph within the body of your essay should also contain a readily-identifiable topic statement.
4. Next, you must supply a brief conclusion. A conclusion does not simply re-state everything you’ve already demonstrated: instead, it provides one final, new reflection on what you’ve demonstrated in your essay. Try to think of the conclusion as a final, intriguing thought with which to leave your reader.
5. Lastly, provide a word count at the end of your document. This count should not include information such as your name, my name, the name of the course, date, etc. Begin the count with your title. Reminder: your essay should contain 1200-1500 words.
Citation format: You must make direct references to the text, especially when discussing stylistic features of the author and/or pointing out themes and perspectives. Cite those references using MLA format (= simply give the page number or e-book location number in parentheses after the end quote). If you need to refer to a tale in general, simply cite it by Day and Number between parentheses, for example, “In the tale of Andreuccio (2.5), the protagonist is a naïve, foolish, and vain young man, ripe for the picking by a wily prostitute and the grave robbers he encounters in Naples.”
Submission: Each student should submit the essay via Turnitin and follow up via email attachment. Turnitin scans for plagiarism; any evidence of plagiarism will result in a zero on this portion of the course grade and the immediate filing of an academic dishonesty report with the appropriate academic dean. The back-up copy via email attachment is your proof on on-time completion of the essay in case the Turnitin system malfunctions.
Deadline: The deadline for the essay is indicated on Blackboard and on the course calendar. Grade penalties for late submission will be announced on Blackboard.
Grading: I evaluate your essay in terms of
1. what you say (=clear thesis statement, content of the essay, and use/analysis of appropriate citations to demonstrate your points: 50%), and
2. how you say it (=overall organization and paragraphing, use of academic language and tone, avoidance of repeated grammatical and spelling errors, use of complete sentences, avoidance of run-on sentences, correct punctuation: 50%).
Choose one of the two topics.
Each topic requires you to apply what you have learned about Boccaccio’s Decameron. You read an additional novella independently and then contextualize your understanding of it alongside two other novellas that we have examined during the course.
Each topic naturally lends itself to an essay comprised of an introduction with a thesis statement, three full paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Topic 2 Boccaccio’s Women: The Tale of Madonna Filippa (6.7)
Focus on the symbolic value of Madonna Filippa, Ghismonda (4.1), and Lisabetta (4.5) in their respective novellas. What does each figure represent in the context of her tale? What each protagonist does in her tale is, of course, important, but take care to avoid plot summary in your essay. Your brief plot references should instead serve the purpose of analyzing each protagonist’s symbolic function/role/value as a female character. Why is she the center of the tale? What message does she convey? Although the three female protagonists are very different, is there something that you could argue that they collectively contribute to the topic of women’s roles in the stories of the Decameron? The answer to that question is your thesis.
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