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ENG 241 British Literature--Assignment #1

Library Resources for students in Professor Snoke's ENG 241 class.
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Essay 1: Archetypes in British Literature


The purpose of this essay assignment is to demonstrate an understanding of Anglo-Saxon poetry or Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Also, the essay will showcase close reading skills, critical thinking, synthesis, research methodology, and effective source integration.


  • Create an essay ranging from five full pages of text to seven full pages of text (excluding the works cited page).
  •  Apply MLA formatting to the essay: 12 pt. Times New Roman font, double-spaced, 1” margins, last name and page number in the upper right hand corner, and a heading including your name, instructor’s name, class, date, and title. 
  • Apply basic composition skills: topic sentences, thesis statement, logical and effective organization, effective integration of sources, transitions, and incorporating appropriate content.
  • Understand and apply standard written English. Use appropriate vocabulary and avoid mechanical and grammatical errors. 
  • Incorporate at least three scholarly sources into the essay using MLA guidelines for in-text documentation and for the works cited page. (You should have at least four sources in your text—three critical sources and the primary text under analysis). You must include textual evidence and your research throughout the entire essay. You may use handouts provided in the essay, but you must incorporate three other scholarly sources. Not including the required number of sources will result in a penalty of ten points per missing source.


Read the supplemental definition of “Archetype” provided in Week 4’s course materials. Once you develop a general understanding of literary archetypes, choose one of the following texts:

  • Beowulf
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


Once you choose the text to analyze, discern how the text relates to literary archetypes. Listed below are some ways or reasons why literature incorporates archetypes:

  • To employ an archetype to carry a particular meaning or connotation in the poem
  • To undermine or subvert established archetypes
  • To aid character development

Once you have decided on the text to analyze and discerned its relationship with archetypes, compile substantial research for your ideas. Your research is not limited to criticism regarding the text you are analyzing; you can also research some of the following:

  • The archetype(s) and how it is present in the text’s literary period
  • The role of an archetype in general
  • Historical events or climates surrounding the composition of the text (think of publication time and location) and how those can influence or create an archetype

Once you establish the text’s relationship with archetypes, compose an essay to explain the relationship but also argue as to how and why that relationship exists or is necessary. For example, why would the poet need to employ a particular archetype, and why does the use of that archetype matter? How does the use of archetypes affect the text? There are various approaches to this assignment. You may even feel that neither text employs or establishes archetypes. If so, why does the text or poet stay away from using archetypes? Overall, you need to be able to answer the following three questions: How? Why? So what?


When integrating sources, explain the relevance of the information you integrate to your argument. How do particular quotations strengthen your points? Also, if you cite information that is not about the text under analysis, be sure to apply it to the text. For example, if you cite general criticism about archetypes, you must show how that information relates to the text under analysis. Be sure to exclude first person and second person pronouns. Also, you should have research/textual evidence to reinforce your claims in each body paragraph. In order to avoid explication and to focus on analysis, do not use events from the poem or quotations as topic sentences. Your topic sentences should refer back to your literary argument/thesis statement.

Note: The following sources will not be accepted:

  • Wikipedia.org
  • Shmoop
  • Sparknotes
  • Dictionary.com
  • Primary and secondary educational resources
  • Blogs, op-eds, summaries, etc.
  • Any other reference/encyclopedia type sources that are similar to any of the sources listed above.

Instead of relying on basic Internet searches through Google, Yahoo, etc., use the databases accessible through the school’s library. For the best literature based research, access Bloom’s Literary Reference Center or JSTOR. Your scholarly sources should have credible authors, and they should be published in anthologies, journals, or other sources that are reviewed and edited by fellow scholars.