Identify a problem, conflict, or uncertainty—the thornier the better. Many of our texts already portray legal disputes or trials (The Eumenides, our excerpt from The Decameron, and The Merchant of Venice, to name a few); those might suggest easy places to begin, but don’t limit yourself to the obvious. Think about what’s really at stake in our course: what are the fundamental matters of judgment, power, or determination on which our narratives hinge? What kind of law, rule, or decision is in play, up for grabs, thrown into doubt, or taken for granted? Once you’ve chosen a sufficiently complex question, your paper should present arguments for at least two sides of the debate. There are several ways you might structure this on the page. You might want to portray a simple dialogue, perhaps between a plaintiff, defendant, or other advocates. You might want to include the voice of a judge, adjudicator, or other “overseer” to police the proceedings and render a verdict. You might want a neutral mediator or referee to keep order and impose balance. You might include a narrator, perhaps charged at the outset with specifying the exact matter under dispute and setting the scene for your reader. Be creative. Feel free to mix, match, and merge questions or characters from our material, but make sure that you cite at least two of our texts meaningfully and insightfully. Should one side in your debate “win”?
The fundamental matters of judgment, power, or determination on which our narratives hinge can vary depending on the context and the type of narrative being told. However, some common themes include:
Moral Judgment: Many narratives revolve around the ethical choices made by the characters and the consequences of those choices. The audience evaluates the characters’ actions and makes judgments about their morality.
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er Struggles: Narratives often explore the dynamics of power and the struggle for control between characters or groups. This can include political power, social status, economic power, or physical strength.
Personal Determination: Many narratives focus on characters who are trying to achieve a particular goal or overcome a challenge. The audience is invested in the character’s journey and their determination to succeed.
Consequences of Actions: Narratives often explore the consequences of characters’ actions, whether positive or negative. This can involve characters learning from their mistakes or experiencing the fallout of their decisions.
Overall, the fundamental matters of judgment, power, or determination on which our narratives hinge are often intertwined, and a compelling narrative will explore several of these themes simultaneously.