Renaissance Literary Culture

This essay aims to help you to refine your use of secondary material (both literary criticism and history), by
asking you to engage with it critically yourself.  When you make use of a piece of literary criticism or history,
you should be asking
(1) what it is arguing;
(2) how it makes that argument (what kind of evidence is used and how)
(3) how successful that argument is.
This enables you to see more clearly how you might situate your own interpretation of a text in relation to that of
a critic and, often, to advance or modify their reading.  Remember that in order successfully to assess a critic’s or
historian’s rigour you need to be confident about what the larger contours of their argument are, and how they
relate to the evidence. The evidence you know best is the primary source or sources you are using.
Read carefully the chapter ‘1492: A New World View’ by Sylvia Wynter. Choose one of the primary texts we
have studied this semester, and carefully re-read it. Go once again through ‘1492’, annotating it carefully, taking
notes on what its argument is, how it is made, and how it is supported (what evidence is used, and how?  What is
emphasized, and what is omitted?)
Write a 1,500-word essay which briefly describes the chapter’s argument, assesses its critical strategies, and
comes to a judgement about how convincing it is. In developing your judgement you should consider how
Wynter’s chapter can help us understand your chosen primary text, and what the primary text tells us about the
critical rigour of Wynter’s article.
In assessing the essay the examiners will be looking for the following qualities:
1. Understanding of the arguments and critical rigour of Wynter’s chapter.
2. Understanding of chosen primary text.
3. Ability to use arguments of Winter’s chapter to elucidate the primary text.
4. Ability to use the evidence of the primary text to evaluate Winter’s arguments.
5. Grasp of relevant historical contexts.
6. Clarity of expression and of writing style.
7. Clear and consistent presentation.

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