These are, as far as I recall, the sum total of the excuses for writing I handed in during a three year BA honours degree in English at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, maintaining a 67.5 average in the second and third years with not much variation. You'd have to be fairly nuts to copy any of them verbatim.
1. "The subversiveness of a deconstructive reading of literary texts is a purely textual, not political phenomenon." (The Turn of the Screw, Henry James)
2. "The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond its title, the first line and the last full stop, beyond its internal configuration, its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences." (New Writing 9, Kennedy & Fowles ed. & Yes Prime Minister, Lynn & Jay)
2. "When science fiction looks at the future, it is really looking at the here and now."
(Neuromancer, William Gibson & Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick)
'Restoration comedies are simply about sex in its various manifestations from prostitution to romantic tenderness and not vehicles for social criticism.' Discuss Wycherly's The Country Wife and Behn's The Rover in light of this statement.
‘Deconstruction is not a dismantling of the structure of the text, but a demonstration that it has already dismantled itself.’ Assess the implications of this statement.
(With reference to Winnie The Pooh by A.A. Milne, news and popular culture.)
1. "Detective fiction is a defensive reaction against the unknowability of the modern world." Discuss.
(Primary texts for this essay: The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler & The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.)
2. ‘If the purpose of detection is the discovery of hidden identity, the effect of the process of detection is the forging of new identities for the characters caught up in it.’ Discuss some of the tensions that arise in the treatment of ‘identity’ in detective and crime fiction in the light of this comment.
(Texts: Beneath The Blonde, Stella Duffy & Cabal, Michael Dibdin.)
The earliest of these essays, often neglecting basics such as paragraph structure, complete footnotes or sufficient background reading. Learn from my mistakes.
4. "Are there obvious links between these two poems?" Or something like that.
("Beggars" and "The Sailor's Mother" from Home At Grasmere, William Wordsworth)
3. "Discuss the direction and effect of Pope's satire in The Rape of the Lock with particular reference to his use of the mock-epic." (The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope)
4. "What was the value, the meaning of things" (To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf)
"The literature of the uncanny invites psychological interpretation." Discuss.
(Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen & The Confessions of a Justified Sinner, James Hogg)
1. "Byatt's message is that art, curiosity and stories save us." Do you agree?
(Text: Elementals, A.S. Byatt)
2. "For a cult youth novel, Alex Garland's The Beach is extremely critical of youth culture." Discuss.
(Text: The Beach, Alex Garland)
These last essays should mostly be taken as examples of how not to write academically. Lengthy quotation and sparse bibliography do not an essay make.
1. "Although Mary Rowlandson's deliverance from her 'heathen' captors was celebrated by Puritans and later Americans as evidence of God's favourable disposition toward their 'errand into the wilderness', on reading her captivity narrative today one is struck by her ambivalence toward her captors, her own society, and the God who so sorely tested her faith." In the light of this comment, discuss A Narrative of the Captivity and restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.
2. "We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it—for a little while." (Alexandra Bergson in O Pioneers!) How complex is the relationship between people and the American landscape in Willa Cather's novel as a whole?