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English 2122 critical response topics, spring 2023


Remember from the syllabus that you are required to address five critical responses over the term, so you need not do every topic assigned.

Critical responses have a 200 word minimum (in the body of the response, excluding name, date, header, etc.): responses shorter than 200 words cannot 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. Works cited pages are unnecessary for critical responses, although do still follow the MLA conventions for documenting quotations as explained in Q1-4 on my quotations page.

1.9 Due by Sunday, May 7: Review the schedule of readings we've done this semester, and in two or more paragraphs say which two writers or works I should leave off the syllabus in my next ENGL 2122 class, and why, and also say which two I should definitely keep in future Brit Lit II classes, and why.

On deck:

None. We're done!

Previous critical response topics—no longer valid for submission:

1.1 Due Wednesday, March 22: address either topic:
a) Explore Wordsworth's central ideas about nature in "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," including at least four quotations to illustrate your claims; also note how any of these ideas are borne out in any of the poems we're reading in this unit, following MLA style for citing poetry outlined in Q4.

b) Discuss common beliefs or ideas shared in the poems we're reading by Wordsworth and Coleridge. Include at least one quotation from each poem you mention, following guidelines for citing poetry outlined in Q4.

1.2 Due Saturday, April 1: address either option:
Open assignment: respond to anything that strikes you as interesting or significant in the Shelley poems we're reading (be analytical, avoid summarizing). If you're stuck: you might consider which of the first-generation Romantics Shelley seems to have the most in common with, or you might consider Shelley's view of nature or his evident radicalism. Include at least three quotations from the poetry, following MLA guidelines outlined in Q4.

b) How is Keats's poetry different from all the other poetry we've read thus far?  How is Keats? How is Keats "Romantic" (reread the "Romanticism" page from our last unit)? Quote the poetry at least three times in your analysis, following the MLA guidelines in Q4.

1.3 Due Saturday, April 8: address either option:
Open assignment on Elizabeth Barrett Browning: respond to anything that strikes you as interesting or significant in one or more of the E.B.B. poems we're reading (be analytical, avoid summarizing). An obvious topic would be her progressive and/or feminist views (probably not in the sonnets). Include at least three quotations from the poetry, maybe more.
See MLA conventions for quoting and citing poetry in Q4.

b) Doing your best to avoid repeating comments from others' discussion posts, discuss Tennyson's portrayal of loss in any two of his poems we're reading this week, quoting each at least twice following MLA conventions for quoting and citing poetry as indicated in Q4.

1.4 Due Saturday, April 15: Both A Christmas Carol and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde have remained incredibly popular from first publication to the present day. In fact, both works have become deeply ingrained in our culture even for those who have not read them: nearly everyone knows what a "Scrooge" is and what "Bah, humbug!" means, and seemingly every dictionary defines "Jekyll and Hyde" as a descriptive term almost independent of Stevenson's novella.

Both works, too, are clearly products of the eras in which they were produced: they are quintessentially "Victorian." What makes one or both of these novellas so continually, perpetually "current" or relevant? Think of how the world has evolved many times over since the 1840s (A Christmas Carol) and 1886 (Jekyll and Hyde): we have seen the advent of the automobile, telephone, radio, and television; World War I, the Great Depression, and the cataclysm of World War II; the Nuclear Age; the Internet, cell phones, and even a reality-TV-star U.S. president! Through all this and more, why do both works still so evidently speak to us now? Include at least four quotations from the work(s) to support your claims.

1.5 Due Saturday, April 22: Explore ways the works we're reading this week by any two of the modernist writers (Conrad, Woolf, and Eliot) are dramatically different from the literature we've read earlier in the term. Quote both works you address at least twice (four quotes total). You might consider subject matter and/or literary technique, as you see fit: there are no "right" answers, so trust your own judgment.

1.6 Due Sunday, April 30: Analyze the clash between romance and reality, or the ideal and the real, in Joyce's "Araby," illustrating your observations with at least three quotations from the story.

1.7 Due Sunday, April 30: address one:
Discuss the radically different views of war in Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and Wilfred Owen's "Disabled," including at least two quotations from each poem.

b) Consider how one of the Auden poems and one of Larkin's can be seen to speak more immediately, or with more explicit relevance, to readers today than those we've read by other poets earlier in the term, supporting your observations with at least two quotations from each poem you discuss.

1.8 Due Wednesday, May 3 or Thursday, May 4th (i.e. before you do the final exam): If you had to choose one work from our readings to represent English Romanticism, one that characterizes appreciable differences (or concerns) in Victorian literature, and a third that distinguishes 20th century literature from both periods preceding, what would they be? How is each of these three works important to the trajectory of English literature in the 19th and 20th centuries? Obviously, this topic could fill lengthy volumes, so keep your analysis manageable, limited to three paragraphs and altogether no longer than two pages, two and half at absolute most.