1000-1250 words, excluding citations
Write an analytical essay on the following:
Using either the incident at the Gates of Dis or the encounter with the Malebranche, analyze and discuss the figure of Virgil and how he functions as an allegory for the limitations of human virtue and reason. Things to consider: the fact that Virgil, though a virtuous man, is still a pagan, and still consigned to Limbo, and the close and affectionate relationship between Dante and Virgil that is maintained regardless of Virgil’s failures.
Notes and Instructions:
This is a formal academic essay, and as such requires an introduction, a thesis statement, a conclusion, and a works cited page. Use MLA format throughout. Parenthetical citations should be to canto and line numbers. In your quotations, use slashes to indicate line breaks.
Your thesis statement should be the final sentence in your introduction. Remember, an introduction should have a narrowing function, where you go from the broad topic to your particular argument. I will treat the final sentence of your introduction as your thesis statement, regardless of what that sentence is!
We have talked more about claims than thesis statements, but a thesis statement is just a type of claim. The thesis statement is the thing you are arguing for and attempting to prove. A thesis statement is not a statement of fact, a description or summary, or an unsupported feeling or assumption. A thesis statement is interpretive in nature–that is, it is a statement of meaning.
In a sense, both essay topics here have thesis statements already built into them. For instance, the idea that Virgil is an allegory for human virtue and limitation is itself already an argumentative statement. The important thing here is that you practice the form and method of writing and that you demonstrate your own understanding.
The body paragraphs of your essay should follow the Headrick claim-evidence-analysis method. Begin all paragraphs with a claim; use and properly integrate quotations from the text (see chapter 2 of Headrick); analyze and unpack the meaning of the quotations.
It is easy, and tempting, to fill your essay with long block quotations. Some long quotations might be necessary, but do not over-quote. Remember, if you quote something, you need to discuss it, and the discussion should be longer than the quotation.
Your argument should have a logical structure. A logical structure is an argumentative sequence, and not a list of ideas or reasons why the thesis statement is true. Logical structure refers to the way that ideas are presented in a logical and sequential manner. It is not a complicated idea; instead, it simply means that ideas are presented in a way that makes sense, with certain necessary ideas appearing first. For instance, if you were to write about Virgil, a good logical sequence would be to first establish who Virgil is, then close read one of the encounters, and then discuss the allegorical significance. If you were to discuss Dante’s reactions and responses, a good logical sequence would be first to discuss how Dante often responds to the different souls (for instance, does he get angry with them, pity them, or feel horror), close read the particular encounter you are discussing, and then analyze his particular response here and what it means. For more on logical sequence, see Headrick chapter 4 and the videos for that chapter.
You are not required, nor particularly encouraged, to use secondary sources for this assignment. If you do use secondary sources, however, make sure you properly cite them. Do NOT rely on internet sources. These sources might help you understand the text better, but they should not form the basis of your analysis. Most of them do not include detailed close reading, and close reading should be the foundation of your analysis.
You are required to use the Robert Pinsky translation. Also, remember that it is Dante, not Pinsky, who wrote The Inferno!
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