Second Assignment (ECCO)

Deadlines: Preliminary assignment due on Compass by 5pm on Friday, March 18;
paper due April 8  (hard copy and print-out of primary text in class; backup copy on Compass).

Because much eighteenth-century literature is not in modern editions (or even considered “literature” in traditional terms), scholars of the eighteenth century often use archival primary materials.  “Archival primary materials” are newspapers, magazines, essays, textbooks, manuals, pamphlets and the like created in the period being studied (that’s what makes them “primary materials”) but not well-known to most scholars and critics who aren’t specialists in the period (this is what makes them “archival”).  This paper will (a) give you the opportunity to do the kind of primary research that literary scholars often do, and (b) give you further practice in developing a sound argument about the literature and culture of the past.      

The Preliminary Assignment
Browse in ECCO (Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, see instructions next page) and identify a short piece of primary text (anywhere from 2 – 10 pages; it can be a smaller section of a larger text) that you would like to write about.  You will eventually be writing a 3 - to 5-page analysis of some aspect of the piece (but first you need to hand in a 1-  to 2-page proposal (250 – 500 words) identifying the text you have chosen and describing the kind of questions you have about it.  The preliminary assignment should (a) specify the author, title, date, place of publication, publisher, and edition of the work you’ve chosen: and (b) identify what interests you about this work, what you would like to explore further through writing about it, and what issues or questions it raises that you might write about.  You need not have a fully worked out thesis in mind, but you should have some ideas in mind that you want to explore.

Late assignments will get less feedback, in a less timely manner, than assignments that arrive on time.  Very late assignments  will get no feedback  Failure to hand in a preliminary assignment at all will result in an automatic 3-point deduction from your grade on the paper.  (Bottom line, you can only hurt your grade by delaying this assignment; doing it in good faith on time will get you useful feedback that will boost your final score.

The Paper
Write a 3- to 5-page analysis of the text you have selected.  What interesting questions does it raise?  What seems strange, unexpected, or baffling about it?  What new or different or unexpected insight does it give you into the world during the Enlightenment era?   The paper, along with a printout of the passage you have written about, should be handed in in class, with a backup copy submitted to Compass.  Failure to hand in a printout of the passage you have written about will result in an automatic 3-point deduction from your grade on the paper.

How to Access ECCO
1.  Go to the main UIUC library webpage:
2.  In the center of the page is a column of links headed “Quick Links.”  Go down that column and click on “Online Research Resources”
3.  Type “ECCO” in the search window and click on “Title Abbreviations”
4.  In the list of search results, click on “Eighteenth century collections online” in Gale Academic ASAP.
5.  If you are using an off-campus or non-networked computer, you will need to type in your AD login and password.
6.  This should bring you to the ECCO search window.  If it doesn’t, (1) wait ten minutes and try again; (2) go to the main UIUC Library and use one of their computers; (3) e-mail me and describe the problem.

What to Look for in ECCO
You are looking for 2  to 10 pages of primary text that interests you and contains enough material to write about.  You may use an excerpt from a longer work.  Below are some topics you might be interested in exploring, but you are not limited to these ideas.   Come see me if you are stuck. 

Food and cooking
Conduct books and advice manuals
The American Revolution from Britain’s point of view
A particular region or town that means something to you
Military and warfare
Sexuality (useful keywords: venery, adultery, onanism, cuckold)
Doctors and medical advice
Theater and theater-going
Alcohol (especially gin and beer)
Science and scientific inquiry
Travel and exploration
The slave trade

Success on this paper requires you to do the following:

a.  Focus on a particular question or issue that your text raises
b.  Develop a plausible yet arguable thesis  
c.  Analyze specific and directly quoted evidence from the text to support your claims.
e.  Organize your well-grounded claims about the text into a coherent argument in support
of your thesis 
f.  Write clearly 
g.  Proofread 
h.  Hand in a printout of the passage you’re writing about with your paper.


  • Make sure the text you are writing about originates in the period covered by this course: 1600 – 1800.  The Bible, for example, was frequently reprinted in the eighteenth century, but it was written earlier and is therefore not a suitable text for this assignment. 

  • ECCO only contains works that were published in the Anglophone world of the eighteenth-century.  If you want to pursue further work by one of the non-English authors we read, you may be out of luck unless that author’s work got translated into English in the eighteenth century (Cao Xuequin, for example, didn’t get translated into English until the 19th century). You may be able to find texts of interest, however, that are related to the author’s region or thematic concerns.

  • Choose a text that gives you something to analyze.  Texts that consist of large chunks of Latin or Greek, tables of technical information, or lists of books, for example, will be much harder to write about than narratives, poems, or essays.

  • On the other hand, a well-known book by a well-known author (that is, the sort of thing that can be easily found in a modern edition or an anthology like the Longman) can present a different set of problems—if there’s already a lot of commentary and received wisdom about the text you’re looking at, it can be a lot harder to find a fresh interpretive angle for a relatively short paper.

  • Many C18 poems are of a good length and complexity for this assignment, but identifying them can be a little tricky with the ECCO search engine, since they are often published in anthologies and collections.   One way to locate poetry by keyword is to first do a title search for the work “Poems” or “Poetry” and then do a keyword search within those results for the specific term you want to use.

  • Narrow is good.  If you are worried that a text that interests you isn’t significant or intellectual enough to sustain a paper on the Enlightenment, don’t be.  The goal of this assignment is to give you practice in writing with precision and insight about the literature of the past.  It’s easier to do that by making an argument about the specific interesting features of your text than by trying to link your text to grandiose claims about the period as a whole.

  • Plan to spend some time browsing on ECCO looking for a suitable text—it will pay off in the long run.

Additional Research
You are not required to do any further research for this paper, but (1) doing a little background checking will help you avoid choosing a text that is outside of our time period and (2)  some additional information about your text will help you to make sense of it. 

Feel free to Google randomly or use Wikipedia for your initial “fishing expedition” type of research—but as soon as you start coming across information that you might be using in your paper, you should start looking for reliably authoritative sources.  You may NOT cite Wikipedia in your paper.  If Wikipedia has footnotes to the information you find relevant, the articles or books cited in those notes are a fine place to start.  Even better, though, are some of the resources available through the UIUC Library.  I would particularly recommend

  •  The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 
  • The Literature Resource Center 
  • The Oxford English Dictionary (good for looking up confusing words, or words that seem particularly significant for your text.  It gives dated examples of how each word has been used in the past, so that you can track changes in meaning over time.)
  • The MLA Bibliography

All of these sources can be found the same way you got to ECCO: by going to the main library home page, clicking on the “Quick Link” to “Online Researh Resources” and then typing the name of the database into the search window.

Any information that you find and use in your paper must be cited in MLA format.  If you are not familiar with MLA citation, there’s an excellent guide at Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL):

The Fine Print

  • Review the syllabus for information about   my policies on plagiarism.  They apply to this paper as to all written work for this course.

  • Your paper should have a title; whether or not it has a title page and where precisely you put your name, the date, and other identifying details is up to you—just be sure that my name and the course number appears somewhere on the first page.

  • Number your pages and refrain from justifying the right margins. 

  • Avoid using a running header or footer that puts your name on every page of the paper.