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Renaissance Research Paper Assignment Description

Writing a compare and contrast essay can be a challenge, especially if you decided to delay working on it until the very end. Further complicating things is having to write on a vast subject such as Medieval Literature vs Renaissance Literature as both have a rich history. Luckily for you, you do not have to worry about selecting a topic to tackle for your compare and contrast essay.

In addition to our list of 13 facts on medieval English literature vs. Renaissance for a compare and contrast essay, here are 20 topics on medieval English literature vs Renaissance for a compare and contrast essay.

  1. Depictions of Romance and Chivalry in Major Literary Works Produced During the English Renaissance and the Medieval Period
  2. The Anonymous Author of the Medieval Era — Accuracy and Impersonality in Medieval Writing and Renaissance Works
  3. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Contrasting Concepts of Idea Ownership in Medieval Period and Post-Restoration Era Literary Works
  4. The Influence of Religion on Medieval Literature and Renaissance Literature
  5. Differences and Similarities in Transmission Mediums
  6. The Evolution of the Concept of Courtly Love and its Depictions in Medieval Literature and in Works Produced During the Renaissance
  7. Looking at Macrocosm through the Microcosm Lens: Contrasting Depictions of Nature in Medieval Literature and Renaissance Literature
  8. Secular Literature in the Medieval Period and Renaissance
  9. A Comparative Analysis of Major Literary Devices Used by Medieval Authors and Renaissance Authors
  10. The Political Views of Medieval and Renaissance Authors as Reflected in Their Works
  11. Female Authors and the Major Themes of Their Works
  12. Dissemination of Written Works during the Medieval Era and the Renaissance
  13. Chaucer’s Monk and Shakespeare’s Macbeth: A Comparative Analysis of Tragedy
  14. End of an Eternal Night: Literature as an Agent of Social Change
  15. Representations of Justice in Medieval and Renaissance Literature
  16. The Evolution of English and English Literature
  17. The Printing Press and English Literature
  18. Secular Poetry of the Medieval Period vs Renaissance Humanism
  19. The Power of Symbolism in Medieval Literature vs Renaissance Literature
  20. Major Literary Genres of the Medieval Period and the Renaissance

You can use any of these topics as they are or can be inspired by them to come up with your own.

If you need a little more guidance, here is a sample essay comparing Medieval heroes with Renaissance heroes to further clarify the topic.

Sample Compare and Contrast Essay on Medieval Heroes vs Renaissance Heroes

The people and society of Europe during the Medieval Ages and Renaissance held vastly differing culture and worldviews. This was starkly reflected in the literary works produced during those times. Fictional works often revolved around an individual who takes on the central role of the hero. The attitudes of the society are often depicted in the personality and actions of the hero. Moreover, these depictions offer a unique glimpse into the thinking of Medieval and Renaissance authors.

Renaissance heroes are notably different from classical tragic heroes. Their most important distinguishing quality is the context of the story.  Classical tragic heroes seem to operate in a different religious context as compared to Renaissance heroes. This results in significant differences in both the characteristics and the actions of the heroes. The readers or the viewers of the plays during the Medieval period held Christian beliefs and their expectations were different as compared to the Renaissance audience.

Another difference is that the heroes of Medieval tales belonged to noble families or were descendants of a higher power. This is not the case with the Renaissance hero. Usually, the Renaissance hero was morally superior to the Medieval hero, but socially inferior. The characters and moral standing of the Renaissance hero were more complex as compared to Medieval era heroes. They had shades of gray to their personalities and their demise followed a complicated path. On the other hand, the classical hero had a significant fatal flaw which caused a linear fall from grace. Shakespeare’s Mark Antony and Hamlet stand in sharp contrast to Sir Gawain from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

The literature of the Renaissance sheds a lot of the religious overtones seen in Medieval works. The heroes of the Renaissance no longer had to be socially important or supernatural. This shows that the thinking of the society in the Renaissance period had become more liberal.

The classical hero possessed a noble stature and high status. He must embody nobility, but has one major flaw. This flaw, coupled with external forces of fate, brings about a tragedy. However, the Renaissance hero is morally complex and has many flaws. He overcomes some of them and often undergoes a metamorphosis during the unfolding of the tale. This hero is more realistic, more human, and more tragic than the Medieval era hero. The authors of such characters understand that people do not have one major flaw. Human beings do not exist in black and white; human tragedy plays out on a gray spectrum. The players take on varying degrees of flaws and qualities.

Doctor Faustus, the main character of Christopher Marlowe’s famous play, is not of noble birth. His character shows a touch of the humanist tendencies of the Renaissance period as he is depicted as arrogant, foolish and selfish. On the other hand, he tries to ‘make men to live eternally’. The Medieval heroes were somewhat one-dimensional at least in aspects of morality. The Renaissance hero is seen as a more human depiction.

This sample essay is meant to provide you an example of how you can present your argument and essay. Feel free to use it as a template for your own work, but we know you can come up with an even better essay. So, get ready to write your own. If you need help with the technicalities of this academic assignment, check out our guide on how to write a compare and contrast essay on medieval English literature vs. Renaissance.

Aughterson, K. (1998). The English Renaissance. London: Routledge.
Braunmuller, A., & Hattaway, M. (1990). The Cambridge companion to English Renaissance drama. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press.
Fried, J., & Lewis, P. The Middle Ages.
Jansson, M., & Smith, N. (1996). Literature & Revolution in England, 1640-1660.Renaissance Quarterly, 49(4), 886. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2862991
Krstovic, J. (2005). Classical and medieval literature criticism. Detroit, Mich.: Gale.
Lambdin, R., & Lambdin, L. (2000). Encyclopedia of medieval literature. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
Lewis, C., & Hooper, W. (1966). Studies in medieval and Renaissance literature. Cambridge [England]: University Press.
Maddern, C. (2010). Medieval literature. Harlow, England: Longman/Pearson.
McAlindon, T. (1986). English renaissance tragedy. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
Muscatine, C. (1999). Medieval literature, style, and culture. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.

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Tags: compare and contrast essay ideas, compare and contrast essay topics, literature essay topics

Written Assignments

The Museum Response Paper template can be used as an assignment once or twice during the semester as a way to a) have your students undertake a concise written exercise that b) asks them to look closely at one object (or two if you’d like them to compare and contrast) and c) also asks them to engage with the museum or gallery space to make them aware of the cultural context in which they encounter objects in institutions. This template can be “set up” in class using the museum visit videos and Museum Observation Prompts handout.

This Formal Analysis Assignment provides some great ideas on how to guide students through formal analysis reminding them that the exercise is about looking and analysis and not research and analysis. Students are reluctant to trust their own eyes and their own opinions. For formal analysis papers they often automatically go to an outside source in order to further bolster the assertions they make in their papers. Kimberly Overdevest at the Grand Rapids Community College in Grand Rapids, Michigan has had great success with these prompts.

To research or not to research? Asking your students to undertake a research paper as part of the art history survey can be a tricky beast as the range of student experience with elements such as library research and bibliographic citations can be large and crippling. For most mixed-ability or required-credit survey classes, focusing on short papers with limited research allows you and the students to focus on finessing writing skills first. Always consider reaching out to the Writing Center on your campus – a staff member can usually make an in-class visit to tell your students about the range of services on offer which should include workshops and one-to-one appointments.

Presentations – either singly or in groups – can be a good way to have your students think about a class theme from a new angle. See the handout “How to give a great oral presentation,” which also contains a sample grading rubric so students understand instructor expectations as they prepare.



Writing Guides and Exercises

The “How To Write A Thesis” template is a useful handout for a class exercise post-museum visit, once students have picked their object and can think about what a thesis is and how to construct their own. As part of this in-class exercise, it might be useful to look at examples of previous students’ thesis statements on the Writing Examples PPTwhich includes anonymous examples of past museum response paper excerpts so students understand what a thesis statement, formal analysis paragraph, museum environment analysis, and concluding paragraph might look like (you can, of course, point out the merits and/or pitfalls of each example per your own teaching preferences).

Paper Style Guide handouts


Grading Rubrics

The Grading Rubric handouts can be given out in class and/or uploaded to your Bboard, and retooled to fit your objectives for the written assignment.

Grading student papers can be done the old fashioned way (your students hand you a paper copy) or through anti-plagiarism software such as SafeAssign (part of the Blackboard suite) or Turnitin.com (your school may have a license – find out who the Turnitin campus coordinator is for more details). There are ethical considerations to using anti-plagiarism software.

Formal Analysis Rubric Grid

Research Rubric Grid

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