Four your second paper you will write an analysis of Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls. You may take any one of the following three approaches to the essay.

Essay Option 1: You have been ordered to pronounce judgment on Marguerite Porete and her Mirror of Simple Souls. Should her book be condemned? Should she herself be consigned to the flames as a heretic for her failure to renounce it? Just how dangerous (or not) is this book?

Another way of thinking about this: In what ways does Marguerite draw on earlier Christian mystical traditions and in what ways does she strain the boundaries of Christianity as understood in her day? Why did the authorities find her and her work so problematic?

Use both the text itself and the introductory material to inform your response. You are encouraged to come to your own conclusion, but try to avoid anachronism; make your determination with a realistic awareness of historical context and early fourteenth-century concerns. Regarding Marguerite's fate, your job is not to judge the appropriateness of the death penalty per se, you are simply to determine whether she is in fact the sort of dangerous heretic who ought to be handed over to the secular authorities for appropriate punishment. You will be graded on how well you articulate and defend your position.

Essay Option 2: In our readings this fall, we have seen that apostolic poverty was embraced as a powerful spiritual and devotional tool. Different individuals, however, seem to have understood and used poverty in different ways. Explore the theme of poverty in Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls. How does Marguerite explicitly and/or implicitly define poverty? Why is the theme significant for her? How do unspoken assumptions about poverty inform her text? In what ways do social conditions seem to affect her understanding? These questions are only meant to get you thinking about the problem, not to limit the scope of your paper.

Essay Option 3: Write a paper analyzing some aspect of Marguerite's Mirror of Simple Souls, or comparing the Mirror with some other text that we have read this semester. You can pursue any question that interests you, but make sure that your discussion is focused and your observations precise.


This assignment is meant to be an exercise in close reading and hard thinking rather than a research project.  You are free to apply whatever course or outside readings  are helpful to you, but do not fill your paper with background information.  You should focus on the assigned primary source reading and introduce specific passages of text (citing page numbers!!) to illustrate your points.  It is not necessary or desirable to quote extensively--simply introduce and summarize or paraphrase the passage. Of course you will go on to elaborate and provide analysis. You should consider contextual/historical/political issues as well as theological ones.

A general guide for length is 4-6 pages, typed, double-spaced, full margins. 

Your paper will be judged on the care with which you construct your argument, quality of writing (including grammar and spelling), and your mastery of the concepts at hand.

Please see my plagiarism policy; if you have any questions about appropriate use and citation of sources, please ask.

Deadline and policy on late papers:

Your paper is due in the Blackboard dropbox before the Ilaria Ramelli lecture on Monday, November 15. There is no response paper due on the day we discuss Marguerite's work or on the day that the second short paper is due.

Extensions will be granted only in cases of serious emergency.  If an extension has not been granted, your paper will lose one partial letter grade for each day that it is late.  The same rule applies to any new due date given by extension. 

Availability: In addition to my office hours, feel free to contact me via e-mail if you have questions or would like to set up an appointment.

Remember the significance of naming your work; choose a title for your paper with care.