You must come up with the topic (as well as the thesis) on your own(though I can help you if you bounce ideas off of me over email). Do not simply expand on one of your two previous essays. Rather, come up with a distinct topic and thesis for this assignment. Think about what ideas you have found most interesting and/or challenging throughout the semester. Think especially about points of comparison between various texts that interest you. For example, it seems to me, based on my interpretation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, that hamlet may exemplify some characteristics of what Kierkegaard calls the “knight of faith.” This is a topic and is already on its way towards being a developed thesis.[This is from a previous semester; of course, Kierkegaard’s text is not one of your options this term.]When writing a comparative essay, it is tempting to just list superficial similarities and differences between the texts. Avoid doing this. You may need to consider similarities and differences at first, to set up the rest of your argument, but come up with a substantive and interesting conclusion. Taking up again the example from before: To me, several of Hamlet’s speeches in Act 5 seem to introduce the Christian concept of Providence or God’s Will. Hamlet’s attitude towards God’s Will seems to be that one needs only to be receptive to it: “The readiness is all.”This leads him to act according to “indiscretion” (i.e., impulse), which also seems to solve his endless doubt and hesitation. Now, the “knight of faith,” as Kierkegaard characterizes him/her, is someone who acts for the sake of completing God’s Will and not for the sake of doing what is ethical ‘right’. The knight of faith does not act out of rational deliberation but rather ‘leaps’ out of thought and into action. Further parallels can be adduced: given the peculiar way in which Hamlet finds out about his father’s murder, he is not in a position to disclose his situation to others in such a way that they would understand it. The knight of faith, too, cannot disclose his/her situation because of its purely ‘private’ nature. […]Therefore, I argue, Hamlet exemplifies certain key characteristics of Kierkegaard’s knight of faith. (Etc.) Notice that I am listing similarities and differences here, but they are substantive, and they culminate in a relatively interesting thesis statement. Your argument may be less sophisticated than this, and that is okay. For this essay, you must include at least one outside source, whether it be a book or an article (don’t use posts from random webpages as these are not typically peer-reviewed; the Temple library’s web database gives you access to plenty of good peer-reviewed articles and books). Ideas from this source should be meaningfully incorporated into your paper and not tacked on as an afterthought. A secondary source may provide you with an interesting interpretation of a text, or part of a text, which you can then use to further your own argument.
Another possible way to use a secondary source is to demonstrate a position/interpretation that is contrary to the one you are arguing for. This can make your discussion more interesting and can help clarify your own position, too.
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