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Essay Instructions

Structure and Argument

Essay Instructions

An essay of 5-7 pages is due November 26. It is worth 20% of your final grade.

1. Structure and Argument

The assignment is to write an essay five to seven pages long. Since this course is all about stories, it is important to keep in mind that what you are writing is an essay, not a story.

This means it needs to have a clear introduction and thesis statement, followed by a well-reasoned argument in support of that thesis statement (properly citing sources where necessary), and a conclusion.


Be careful not to just pick a story and then write that story. Higher grades will be given to essays that are clear and well-structured arguments in favour of a thesis, and lower grades will be given to essays that are simple retellings of stories.

2. Grammar and Format

Here are some basic formatting guidelines:

  • Please do not include a cover page – the title and your name are sufficient.
  • Please do include page numbers.
  • Times New Roman font, 12-point size, double-spaced
  • One-inch (2.54 cm) margins on all four margins
  • Lengthy quotations must be separated from paragraph, indented a half inch (1.27 cm) both left and right, and single-spaced.
  • A bibliography listing your sources should appear on a separate page at the end; this does not count as one of the 5-7 pages.

Grammar and spelling count. For example:

  • Avoid informal speech like contractions and second-person pronouns.
  • Be consistent with singular and plural nouns and pronouns, and with verb tense. Use present tense when talking about narrative/text and past tense when talking about history.
  • Make sure your sentences are structured properly. Split run-on sentences into two or three shorter, simpler sentences. Avoid sentence fragments by ensuring that each sentence has a subject and verb.
  • Proofread carefully to ensure that there are no spelling errors, misplaced or missing punctuation, incorrect conjunctions and prepositions, careless typos, etc.

3. Research and Citation of Sources

As an essay requiring a certain amount of research, you will need to consult a few sources, though not many – it’s not a big research paper, so 3-5 sources should be enough. Whatever sources you use, you will need to cite them properly and consistently.

Acceptable sources include the textbook, books found in the university library, and journal articles found online through the university library’s website. But at least one of your sources should be a primary source, by which I mean a translation of the ancient text(s) that tells the story (if this translation is found in the textbook, that’s fine). For example, if it’s a story in Homer’s Iliad, then you should read and cite that story in a translation of Homer’s Iliad.

Primary sources that tell the story and secondary sources that interpret the story are the correct type of source material, and will result in better marks; but online sources like Wikipedia, YouTube, and blogs are not considered proper source material and will result in lower marks. Having said that, one of the best ways to access ancient texts in translation is the Perseus Digital Library (, which I highly recommend. If you are unsure about a particular source, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Feel free to use whichever style you’re most suited to (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago), but please do so consistently. Style guides are readily available online, but again, if you’re unsure about how to format a particular citation, I’ll be happy to help you out.

When citing ancient texts, please cite by book and line number, not by page number. This is the method that scholars of Classics use for citing ancient sources. For example:

  • Iliad 1.518-611 refers to lines 518-611 of book 1 in Homer’s Iliad
  • Hesiod, Theogony 115 refers to line 115 of Hesiod’s Theogony
  • Sophocles, Antigone 440-450 refers to lines 440-450 of Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone

You will see examples of this method of citation in the textbook and in secondary sources about Greek myth. If you are unsure about the right way to cite your ancient source(s), feel free to contact me and I’ll help you figure it out.

4. Essay Topics

No doubt there are few if any of you who are coming to this course having had no experience whatsoever with Greek myth. Myths have been portrayed in literature and the performing arts for centuries, and modern film is no exception.

And so one of the real-life skills you will take from this course is an ability to critically analyze modern depictions of ancient myth – or, to put it another way, to be that person who sits through the movie and constantly points out all of the inaccuracies. The flip side to being that person is this: when you see something in a movie or TV show that actually is accurate, you will have a deeper appreciation for it.

The goal of option two is to watch a movie or TV show that depicts Greek or Roman mythology, and then write a 5-7 page analysis that compares this modern depiction to ancient source material, pointing out where it is accurate and where it is not.

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