HS 063 Honors Section

John L. Heineman Fall 2003

 

Writing Assignments:

I. First Writing Assignment: Due 12 September 2003

Carefully read the documents contained in the packet "Reformation Texts" and then write a two-page, typed essay which answers the following assignment:

"Although the primary content of the reformer's criticism of the Church was theological, because of the intimate relationship between Church and State, it is almost impossible to separate stictly theological and political arguments. in their writings." From the material assigned, select what you consider to be the three (3) most important arguments of the Reformers, and analyze the relationship of the political and theological aspects.

 

III. Third Writing Assignment: Due 14 November 2003

Carefully read the documents contained in the packet "Enlightenment Texts" and then select one of the following topics in order to write a two-page, typed essay which analyzes some aspects of Enlightenment views on this particular topic. In this essay, you should limit your discussion to one or two texts in order to create a persuasive case. In your essay, you should specifically what is new about the Enlightenment approach and what aspects of the then current religious-political-cultural-intellectual tradition it challenged.

 

IV. Fourth Writing Assignment: Due 3 December 2003

In the course of the 18th century, opera reflected very accurately the growing transformation of society. Originating in an aristocratic pastime which emphasized Greek and Roman mythology, opera in the skilled hands of Mozart and Beethoven came to reflect the Enlightenment views of society and the human position in it. In your final essay, using examples from the operas we have seen, analyze how this transformation was effected.

Suggested Operas: Orfeo by Monteverdi

Marriage of Figarro, Cosi fan Tutte, Don Giovanni, Zauberflöte by Mozart

PLEASE NOTE

All essays should be type-written, and should not be less than 500 words in length. Papers exceeding two-and-a-half pages will be returned ungraded, and the student must submit another version. All essays are due on the date assigned. Except for recognized medical excuses, late papers will not be accepted.

 

 

Some Suggestions for the Paper Assignments

These essay assignment are designed to help the student write better answers to exam essay questions. The principles of such writing are those of all good writingorganization, clarity and precision. Basic rules of grammar, correct definitions and understanding of words, and attention to proper paragraphing will help achieve these principles. Therefore, in your writing, the following thoughts might help:

1. Even though your essay may comprise several parts, LIMIT YOUR ANSWER TO A SINGLE CONCLUSION, which is stated at or near the beginning of the paper. This theme is often called the "thesis" of the paper. If you reserve your conclusion for the end, the reader will have to read the essay again to see how well you have supported it with evidence. In lengthy works and for purposes of dramatic effect, this rule can be suspended, but not in brief, factual answers.

2. Organize your thoughts into paragraphs. Each paragraph, like the entire paper, should consist of a main idea and the material necessary to support or elaborate upon it. The main idea of a paragraph should be stated in the beginning of the paragraph in a topic sentence. This idea should be an assertion about the subject, and not a statement of what the subject is. Therefore avoid writing "Let us consider the nature of a paragraph." Write instead: "The paragraph should consist of a main idea." If you write what you think about a subject, the reader will know that you are considering it.

3. The ideas that support the main conclusions should be isolated in short paragraphs which relate to each other by means of transitions. Make this transition in the first sentence of each paragraph.

4. It sometimes helps to make a brief outline of your answer. Each main point, with the evidence supporting it, can thus become a separate paragraph. In an outline, you might see better ways to re-arrange your points to build to a final conclusion, or to introduce elements which might modify these conclusions. There are no fixed rules for organization, which should flow from the particular way you have decided to answer the question. Thus chronological organization (treating the events in proper sequence) may confuse the reader if your point is the similarity of response to each event. In such a case, a topical organization should be considered.

5. Write for your reader. The audience for any paper or essay is the general educated public and your instructor. Do not use slang, or the jargon of a particular group or class of society. Most slang is imprecise and meaningless when applied to historical events. To say that "Germany was ripped off by Bismarck" leaves your instructor groping for some meaning. Similarly, jargon is not the common possession of all and frequently does not travel well from one discipline to another. Thus "homogenization" can apply to milk, but becomes imprecise jargon when applied to social classes.

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6. As nearly as possible, avoid grammatical errors because they confuse your meaning and make your argument difficult to follow. In doubt, consult a good handbook of English usage.

7. Eliminate unnecessary words, including sentences which do not serve to support or clarify the main conclusion, as well as all repeated words and all remarks about your research and writing. ("After a good deal of thinking on this subject, and from all the books that I have read, I have come to the conclusion that the Church opposed witchcraft" really equals "The Church opposed witchcraft." The reader is aware that you have thought about the subject, and read about it, and expects that you write what you think.)

In the following sentence, you can eliminate all the words underlined: "Many other words really don't actually add anything of value to the meaning of a sentence after all, due to the fact that they are, or tend to be redundant, if not in fact meaningless." This sentence actually equals: "Many words do not add to the meaning of a sentence since they are redundant or meaningless." In a rough draft, it is helpful to circle as many words as you can without changing or obscuring your meaning, and then rewrite the paper omitting those words.

8. Be precise in your writing. This is a difficult task, but several suggestions may help:

a. Avoid the passive voice. To say "The war was won" cannot convey the same precision as "Prussia and her North-German allies won the war." In other instances, the passive voice leaves the reader with unanswered questions: "This event will long be remembered." (And we must ask, "by whom ... the author, the press, the victim?")

b. Avoid labels that are not accurate. If you are not certain that Napoleon was a tyrant, do not call him one; call him Napoleon.

c. Avoid making abstractions act like humans. Do not write that "the book said," "the institution decreed," or "the empire was tired," for books do not talk, institutions do not issue decrees, and empires do not become fatigued. Great care should also be employed in making statements about abstractions such as class and religion. Catholicism seldom does anything, Catholics frequently do.

d. Select your words carefully; use a dictionary when in doubt about the exact meaning of words and always use the simplest form.

9. Some Pet Peeves which I rigorously object to read in a paper:

"Due to" means money owed, or a financial debt of some kind. It must not be used to replace "because."

"Feel" means to touch physically, as in "He felt the edge of the table." It cannot be used to mean "believe," "sense," "think," "know," or any other good words for mental activity.

"Social" is an excellent adjective. It gets no better if you write "societal," which is both improper English and pompous. Another example is "pacifistic" (not a word) instead of pacific

Similarly, the proper words are "liberal" and "conservative," not the non-words "liberalist" or "conservativist." Think of the example of "democrat." You would not dream of calling such a person a "democratist."

10. Eliminate cliches from both your thinking and your writing. These expressions have been so overused that they now lack all vividness and punch "As strong as an ox," for example, is flat and stale, not least of all because few of us probably have seen an ox to know how strong it is. And "toe the line," which once meant placing your feet on a line for the start of a race, is today so little understood that many students write "tow the line." In any case, it is a cliche and should be avoided.

11. Eradicate from your writing all illiteracies. Nothing more mars your work than such mistakes. There is no excuse for a college student to write:

Nor should college students ever mix up:

 

Look up the meanings in a dictionary if you are not sure.

12. When in doubt about spelling, use a dictionary. Obviously, few instructors will deduct points for misspellings on mid-terms and examinations, but they are likely to penalize you for such mistakes on book-reports and papers. Good spelling is largely the result of habit, and can be improved by practice.

Should you use a computer or word-processor in writing your papers, get in the habit of using one of the word-spelling programs. Most faculty insist that there can be no excuse for misspellings in a computer-generated paper. But a word of caution is in order here. Word spelling programs will not pick up the use of the wrong word, and thus bear, bare; there, their, flee, flea, etc. will sneak in despite the use of a computer spell checker. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR CAREFUL PROOF READING.

13. In writing an examination (and our small essays are designed as examples of test essays), you should try to avoid a number of common errors.

First, note carefully the directive verb that tells you what the teacher wants you to write about. If your instructor asks for you to enumerate or list ten Emperors of the 19th century, you should make only a list of their names. The instructor does not want a chart of their reigns, a description of their appearance, or their major accomplishments. If you give this information, it adds nothing to your answer and deprives you of time for other questions.

A second frequent error is that through inattention to the question students will change the subject. If the question calls for you to "define" the nature of Protestantism, no amount of discussion about the life and times of Martin Luther will be acceptable in the answer.

A third error would be to use language that is too general. Suppose the question had been "Describe briefly the three orders of Greek architecture." The following answer would be largely worthless because it is entirely too vague: "In Greece there were three orders of architecture. Each one had its own characteristics, its own particular style, and its own distinctive claim to beauty. The three varied considerably in many details and were modified in some degree according to the type of building in which they were employed."

Always remember that clarity and conciseness are the two virtues of every piece of writing.

14. Avoid all forms of Plagiarism. You must credit both the ideas of other authors, as well as the exact words which others have used. My general rule is that four or more consecutive words quoted as they appear in your source must be identified by quotation marks, and the proper footnote citation.

In your short essays for this class, we assume that everything is from the set of readings, but you should still identify quotations with the appropriate page, such as "Socialism is the opiate of the intellectuals" (258).

In general, you should however avoid frequent and lengthy quotations. By using them, you force the reader to undertake your task of analysis. As a rule, you should quote directly only those pithy (and brief) statements which are so critical to your analysis that no other way of saying it would suffice.

15. Several other brief rules might be helpful:

a. Delete all references to "I, we, us" unless specifically expressing your opinion.

b. Rewrite all contractions, such as "won't," "can't", "don't." Write out "will not," "cannot","do not."

c. Write out in full all words that you have abbreviated (e.g. US, Eng).

d. Carefully check all subject-references. Pronouns must refer to something or some person. Ask yourself frequently will the reader know who "she" is? Remember, the pronoun always refers to the last noun that preceded it. Because of this fact, you should never begin a sentence with "that" or "this"

e. Check for precision of words. Have you chosen the noun or verb or adjective that completely catches your meaning? Are you sure of the meaning of the word you have written?

16. Check your paper for typing errors. The surest way to destroy the good impression you wish to make in a paper is to leave in careless mistakes. Instructors usually will not mind corrections inserted in ink in a finished papers; they will always object to uncorrected and unproofed pages, no matter how beautifully typed.

Computer-assembled papers especially must be proof-read with care. There is no excuse for turning in an uncorrected computer-generated paper.