Home button

English 2122 critical response topics, fall 2017

Note that critical responses must be turned in as hard copy (printed on paper), and they have a 200 word minimum: responses shorter than 200 words will not pass. Avoid plot summary or straightforward retelling of "what happens" in the work—see nugget 1.

Format your response according to MLA guidelines for margins, spacing, name, date, etc., headers, etc. as outlined on my "simple stuff" page. Note that I will not accept critical responses that have any errors in document formatting: responses submitted with any "simple stuff" errors in formatting will be returned to you ungraded, and you will have to fix the errors and resubmit your work to get credit for it. Works cited pages are unnecessary for critical responses. Even without works cited pages, do still follow the MLA conventions for documenting quotations as explained in Q1-4 on my quotations page.

 

2.14 Due Wednesday, November 15th: Choose one, do not address both:
a) What fundamental statement(s) about life does Beckett's Happy Days make? What does Beckett suggest life actually consists of? Include at least three quotations from the play in your discussion.

b) How is Winnie heroic in Happy Days? Include at least three quotations in your analysis.


On deck:

2.15 Due Monday, November 27th: TBA


Previous critical response topics—no longer valid for submission:

1.1 Due Wednesday, August 16th: Discuss Blake's conception of innocence in two different poems from this day's readings, quoting each poem at least twice. Does Blake seem to view innocence positively or negatively?  Explain. For the mechanics of citing poetry, see Q4.

1.2 Due Monday, August 21st: Comment on two or more of Blake's "Experience" poems, focusing specifically on how he characterizes experience as distinctly different from innocence.  You are not required to, but you might consider how poems are paired in depicting the two "contrary states of the human soul": the two "introductions," or "The Lamb" and "The Tyger," the two different "Chimney Sweepers," "The Divine Image" with either "A Divine Image" or "The Human Abstract," etc.  Include at least two quotations from each poem from Songs of Experience that you discuss, following guidelines for citing poetry as explained in Q4.

1.3 Due Wednesday, August 23rd: Discuss Coleridge's ideas about nature in any of the poems we're reading for this day. Include at least three quotations to illustrate your claims, again following guidelines for citing poetry outlined in Q4.

1.4 Due Monday, August 28th: Choose one, do not do both:
a) Explain Wordsworth's central ideas about nature in "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," including at least three quotations to illustrate your claims; also note how any of these ideas are borne out in any of the other poems we're reading for this day—follow guidelines for citing poetry outlined
in Q4.

b) Open assignment on Wordsworth's "Michael": respond to whatever strikes you as interesting or significant in the poem (you might want to consider how it exemplifies any of the principles Wordsworth elaborates in his "Preface to Lyrical Ballads"). Illustrate your observations with three or more quotations, following guidelines for citing poetry outlined in Q4.

1.5 Due Wednesday, September 6th: Open assignment: respond to anything in the Shelley poems we're reading in whatever analytical fashion you like (i.e. avoid summary).  If you're really stuck: you might consider with which of the other Romantics Shelley seems to have the most in common, or you might consider Shelley's view of nature or his evident radicalism. In any case, include at least three direct quotations in your discussion, following MLA guidelines for citing poetry as outlined in Q4.

1.6 Due Monday, September 11th: How is Keats's poetry different from all the other poetry we've read thus far?  How is Keats, along with Shelley one of the "second generation Romantics," similar to earlier Romantics?  How is Keats "Romantic" (might help to see the "Romanticism" page from the first day of class)?  Include at least three quotations in your discussion, following MLA guidelines for documenting poetry as outlined in Q4.

1.7 Due Wednesday, September 13th: After reading the first third of Frankenstein (through p. 54), consider how Victor Frankenstein and Captain Walton are similar in multiple ways, including quotations from at least three different chapters.

1.8 Due Monday, September 18th: Discuss Shelley's commentary upon the nature of isolation or alienation in the second third of the novel, considering especially its causes and consequences. Include both Victor and the Creature in your analysis, and support observations with at least two quotations on Victor and two on the Creature.

1.9 Due Wednesday, September 20th: Choose one, do not do both:
a) After reading Frankenstein to the end, consider one or more ways the novel as a whole is a model text in Romanticism. That is, explain how Shelley's novel falls in line thematically, or in its fundamental concerns, with different major emphases that we have noted in Romanticism to this point in the semester. Include at least three quotations from the novel to support your claims.

b) Open assignment. Avoiding plot summary, discuss whatever in strikes you as interesting or significant in the final third of Frankenstein. Include at least three quotations to illustrate your observations.

1.10 Due Monday, September 25th: Discuss either 1) the theme of loss, or 2) the portrayal of women in any of the Tennyson poems we're reading. Support your observations with at least three quotations, following MLA guidelines for documenting poetry as outlined in Q4.

2.1 Due Monday, October 2nd: Open assignment on any two Elizabeth Barrett Browning poems: comment upon whatever strikes you as interesting or significant in the two poems, avoiding simple plot summary (Nugget 1) and quoting each poem at least twice in your discussion. For the mechanics of citing poetry, see Q4.

2.2 Due Wednesday, October 4th: What do you make of Heathcliff in our first installment of Wuthering Heights? What seems significant about his portrayal in the first fifty pages in Wuthering Heights? What do you think Bronte wants readers to think or feel about him through the first quarter of the novel? Include quotes from at least two or three different chapters.

2.3 Due Monday, October 9th:  Focusing both on Cathy and Isabella, consider what truths Bronte seems to suggest about women in the second quarter of Wuthering Heights (pp. 53-125), including quotes from at least three different chapters in your analysis.

2.4 Due Wednesday, October 11th: Open assignment on pp. 125-79 of Wuthering Heights: respond to whatever strikes you as interesting or significant in two or more chapters this installment of the novel, illustrating your observations with at least two quotations from each chapter you examine.

2.5 Due Monday, October 16th: Respond to the novel's conclusion: explain how the final outcomes of the novel help convey Bronte's specific theme(s) in Wuthering Heights (you will need to indicate precisely what these themes, or statements about life, are). Include at least three quotations from the novel's final two or three chapters to support your claims.

2.6 Due Wednesday, October 18th: Describe as fully as you can the personality of the speakers of any two of Browning's poems. Point to (quote) specific passages that reveal what kinds of people these speakers are.

2.7 Due Monday, October 23rd: Wilde's hilarious, farcical The Importance of Being Earnest has been described as a "garden of sheer delight, a modern Eden where winter never enters." What serious social criticism does Wilde offer in this so-lighthearted play (meaning what commentary upon his society does he present in the play)? Include at least three quotations in your response.

2.8 Due Wednesday, October 25th: Discuss Hardy's pessimism in any two or three poems we're reading: do his speakers seem to be deeply bothered by their negative outlooks? Discuss, including at least two quotations from each poem you discuss.

2.9 Due Monday, October 30th: Explore the imagery and symbolism of lightness and darkness in Conrad's Heart of Darkness.  How is the "darkness" particularly "modern," or "twentieth-century"? Include at least four quotations to illustrate your claims.

2.10 Due Wednesday, November 1st: Open assignment. Respond to Yeats's poetry however you like so long as you avoid simply summarizing what the poems say and so long as you as you include quotations from at least two different poems, at a minimum of two quotes from each poem you discuss.

2.11 Due Monday, November 6th: Choose one:
a)
Discuss the stream of consciousness in Woolf's "The Mark on the Wall": how does the flow of thoughts proceed in a natural, convincing fashion, portraying how the human mind often really works?  Include at least three quotations to illustrate your claims.

b) Discuss the clash between romance and reality, or the ideal and the real, in Joyce's "Araby," illustrating your observations with at least three quotations.

2.12 Due Wednesday, November 8th: Respond to the "Lestrygonians" chapter of Joyce's Ulysses (the readings handout): how is the writing experimental? What is Joyce trying to accomplish here, and do you think he succeeds?  Explain, quoting the text at least four times to illustrate your observations. 

2.13 Due Monday, November 13th: Address one option only, not both:
a) T. S. Eliot reportedly once said The Waste Land is not so much "an important bit of social criticism [as it is] the relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life; it is just a piece of rhythmical grumbling." If we believe this assertion, what is it specifically about life that Eliot finds to grouse and grumble against? On the other hand, how might the poem be seen as important social criticism?

b) Write a character analysis of J. Alfred Prufrock: quoting from the poem at least six times, say what kind of man he is, describe his personality.