Writing Your Final Assignment
The final assignment for the Reading and Writing Medieval Women Scholars Programme course is:
“Woman must write woman and man, man” (Cixous, 1976): to what extent do you agree with this statement in reference to the work of the medieval women writers we have covered on this course?
On this page you’ll find some resources and some top tips for completing your final assignment.
If it helps you, you can download and fill in this skeleton plan: Final Assignment Plan
Want to read an example essay? Here was one what was selected for publication in The Brilliant Club’s journal The Scholar! Woman must write woman
Then, get ready to graduate!
Why do I have to write a final assignment?
Writing an essay brings together all of the ideas you’ve learned across the course and helps you distil your own thoughts on what we’ve covered. It’s also good practice for the essays you’ll have to write later in your school career!
How will it be marked?
According to a university grade scale, so 3rd is 40-50, 2.ii is 50-60, 2.i is 60-70 and 1st is 70+. Our scale is also matched to school key stages, so if you get a 2.i you’re performing at a key stage above your age, which is an incredible achievement given that you’re writing about unfamiliar material and on top of your regular school work.
What do I need to do to get a first?
Write an essay that shows you’ve thought deeply about the subject, write with clarity and precision and persuade the reader of your point of view. Make sure that everything you say is backed up with solid evidence, and express yourself confidently but without making sweeping statements. Sounds easy, right?
What should I avoid?
- Sweeping generalisations
g. ‘Women in the Middle Ages couldn’t read or write.’
You’d be amazed how often I read this in a course called ‘Women Writers in the Middle Ages’. Of course, it’s true that, generally, women had lower levels of literacy across the board in comparison with men in the Middle Ages, but that also depends on what you think of as ‘literacy’ – women heard and interacted with stories. The Middle Ages is a period of roughly a thousand years, so it’s better not to make any generalisation at all, if you can help it. Instead you might say ‘Far fewer texts written by women survive from the Middle Ages than texts written by men.’
- Assumptions based on Modern stereotypes
g. ‘Medieval women were not allowed to leave the kitchen’
There are a lot of comments in the texts we’ve read together about what women are and are not permitted to do, but not a single mention of the kitchen. Have a look at what medieval expectations were, e.g. Margery Kempe being told to ‘spynne and carde as other women do’.
- Muddling or over-complicated language
In the desire to sound academic, many an enthusiastic student has used a word without really knowing what it means. I remember vividly one tutorial during which I found myself unable to pronounce a word I had written in my own essay and being scolded (as I deserved) for using a word that I did not understand.
Keep your language simple and precise. Oh, and don’t call women ‘females’. ‘Women’ is just fine.
What should I do?
- Write a really strong introduction that lays out your position clearly.
Don’t save anything as a “surprise” for the conclusion. Make sure that you’re laying out what you want to say with a strong ‘thesis statement’, e.g. a statement of what you intend to argue. For example, say, ‘Some people argue x and some people argue y’ – tell me what you think.
- Back up all of your points with evidence
Many a strong essay have I read that shows good thought and understanding but that has no evidence from the text. Everything you say needs to be backed up with evidence.
- Check your work!
Avoid embarrassing typops and mistooks by reading your work aloud before your submit it
- Cite your sources
And, of course, don’t forget to reference.