history study essay

You should shoot for around 1,500 words, between four and five pages with one-inch margins, double-spaced paragraphs and 12-point Time New Roman font. Three pages is too few, and six pages is too many! Here is the list of topics:

The following paper topics from a Literature of the Middle Ages class I taught last year are included as an example. I typically work out paper topics in discussion with students, and topics for a history class will necessarily have a different focus than topics for a literature class.

Books: How do the books Augustine reads influence him along his path to conversion? Consider Augustine’s reading of Vergil’s Aeneid, Cicero’s Hortensius, “some books of the Platonists”, Athanasius’s Life of Antony (a book he only hears about second-hand), and the letters of The Apostle (Paul). You might also want to consider Augustine’s unsuccessful attempts to read books from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

Emotions: Under what circumstances and in what ways does Augustine think it appropriate to express emotions? Consider the death of his unnamed friend, his conversion experience in the garden in Milan, the deaths of his father and son Adeodatus, and the death of his mother Monica at Ostia.

Friendships: In what ways are Augustine’s friendships an influence on his path towards conversion? Consider the childhood friends with whom he stole the pears, his unnamed friend who died, his friends Alypius and Nebridius with whom he lives in Milan at the time of his conversion, and even his son Adeodatus.

Monica: In what ways is Augustine’s mother Monica an influence on his path towards conversion? Be careful to consider ways in which Monica’s influence leads Augustine towards and away from conversion. (The ways in which her influence leads towards conversion are more obvious, but you have to also consider, for example, his apparent embarrassment over her reputation for drinking and over her unintellectual approach to Christian faith.)

The Aeneid: Augustine’s imagination was deeply influenced by his having been made to memorize and recite lengthy passages from Virgil’s Aeneid as part of his early education (especially Book IV focusing on Dido and Carthage). How is the influence of Aeneid Book IV reflected in Confessions Book V?

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