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.

English, year three

RT2 Literary Theory

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)

Science-Fiction: From Frankenstein To Cyberpunk

1. Examine the relationship between science fiction and the Gothic in Frankenstein.

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)

EN30930 / EN30830 - Nineteenth & Twentieth Century Literature

1. "Not the opium-eater, but the opium, is the true hero of the tale."
How do you interpret De Quincey's (in)famous pronouncement on his Confessions of an English Opium Eater?

2. 'There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies' (Marlow in Heart Of Darkness.) Discuss the role of lies and self-deception in the novel.

English, year two

EN30530 - Seventeenth Century & Renaissance

Write about the function of wit and humour in Hero and Leander. (Kit Marlowe)

EN20120 - Eighteenth Century & Restoration

'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.

EN20120 - Modern Literary Theory

‘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.)

EN34720 - Detective & Crime Fiction

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.)

EN33120 - Women, Writing & Religion In The Middle Ages

1. Virginia Woolf claimed that medieval women did not write 'for writing's sake.' What reasons did medieval women have for writing and what sort of texts did they produce?

2. Write on the representation of the body and/or female sexuality, and/or sexual violence in at least two texts on the course.

English, year one

The earliest of these essays, often neglecting basics such as paragraph structure, complete footnotes or sufficient background reading. Learn from my mistakes.

Core Modules

1. "Compare these two editions of Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe." Or similar.

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)

An Introduction to Genre

"The literature of the uncanny invites psychological interpretation." Discuss.
(Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen & The Confessions of a Justified Sinner, James Hogg)

2. Compare and contrast the representation of the beloved in Shakespeare's Sonnet 20 ('A woman's face') and his Sonnet 130 ('My mistress' eyes').

Contemporary Writing

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)

American Studies, year one

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. What were the weaknesses in the aims and the methods of the Abolitionists after 1830? Discuss.

2. "The New Deal was, all things considered, a distinctly conservative response to the problems of Depression America." Discuss.


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?