Russ 321
Mid-Term Exam

The mid-term essays will be due at sections on Friday, October 29. No late submissions are permitted unless there is a documented medical excuse. Essays should be approximately 5 pp. in length, double-spaced with normal (1-inch) margins. A list of all works consulted for the essay should be supplied, and care taken to identify all quotations and provide exact references to their sources.


The so-called "intellectual silence" of Rus has been a source of much controversy. The central question concerns the nature of the response in Rus to what Byzantium had to offer, with certain value judgments implicit or explicit in some of the answers. Several additional and more focussed questions (which you will need to specify) help to frame the subject of the debate, some involving the nature of Byzantine culture, the more important ones addressing the nature and development of culture in Rus. A particular set of issues concerns writing and literacy, although that aspect of Rus culture by no means exhausts the subject.

Is it appropriate to speak of the "intellectual silence" of Rus? If so/if not, why? Your answer should demonstrate that you are familiar with the assigned secondary readings and have a good command of relevant primary sources to use for developing specific examples.


You are encouraged to take advantage of E-Post during the week you are working on this essay, both to post comments or questions about specific readings and to raise issues connected with the essay itself.

Click here for an example of an excellent response to the question. You can see in this essay the development of a strong and consistent argument with specific reference to (and critique of) interpretations by several of the scholars whose work you were expected to use. Quotations from those authors are used, but sparingly and always in a way that is integrated into an argument that is this essay writer's own. You might easily imagine different choices of primary source evidence, but the essay is quite effective in the way it demonstrates a good understanding of the substance of the primary sources it cites and integrates the examples into a coherent argument. The essay demonstrates real command of a wide range of the assigned readings and the ability through focused writing to convey a great deal of information in a few pages. In contrast, many of the other essays we received showed a much more limited engagement with the scholarly arguments, often confining themselves to one or two of the articles and then never really digesting the material enough to critique or otherwise use effectively the author's views. In too many cases, the main use of the readings was for a summary statement that avoided the issue of needing to articulate clearly in one's own words what was important and then engage in a dialogue with the author. Similarly, citations of primary sources too often were superficial, with no real effort to analyze what in fact we might learn from them. To write a good essay requires the ability to read, absorb, stand back from the material, and then construct an argument which draws effectively on a real understanding that allows selection of that which will support a coherent argument.