Topics for Final Paper for English 32 (Semester II, 1997-1998) Survey of English Literature, 1750 to the Present


The essay should be 5-6 pages, double-spaced, Palatino or Times New Roman, 12-pt type. Use specific quotations from the texts to illustrate your ideas, and be sure to include parenthetical source documentation with each quotation. NO title pages, please.

Due date: Friday, April 24 by 4:45,in section leaders' mailboxes, Horace-Mann.


Write an essay in response to one of the following topics:

1. Discuss the ways in which at least three Victorian writers incorporate specific aspects of nineteenth-century religious belief, unbelief, or skepticism. Perform a reading -- that is, an interpretation -- of the texts you choose that demonstrates ways in which form opens up, or reveals, or emphasizes the religious element or vice versa.

Hint: Consider developing a thesis that isolates one poetic device or one aspect of form to guide your discussion of a specific argument, belief, trend, or event of religious significance to the Victorians. An interesting and thorough response to this topic will provide (1) a concise definition or description of the chosen religious element and (2) a well-supported, brief account of its historical and cultural contexts.

2. Women play a variety of roles in Victorian poetry, appearing as artists and as art, as symbols and emblems, as muses and inspiration, as traps and challenges. Using Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh and at least two other poems, explain a specific relationship between women and art (or literature) in the nineteenth-century, English poetic imagination.

Hint: A successful essay will do more than string together three separate discussions of women and art in three separate poems. Instead, find a pattern for your argument: you might use Aurora Leigh as a response or challenge to the other poems, building an argument around the function of a specific image, metaphor, or motif the poems share; or, make an overlooked element of the historical and cultural context a way into discussing the works.

3. Describe and explain the ways in which Great Expectations and two or three other texts read in this course comment upon the effects of industrialization in nineteenth-century England.

Hint: Be sure that your argument compares specific literary forms, devices, and techniques. How, in other words, do the writers use particular literary techniques to respond to, say, hunger, housing shortages, orphans, crime and incarceration, or pollution? Formulate a relationship among the writers on some common and specific basis but will not limit itself to a pattern of simple coordination: Dickens does A while Hopkins does B while Ruskin does C leads to an overly compartmentalized, disjointed discussion. Instead, look for a pattern wherein one or more writers respond to the attitudes of another; or, find ways in which one author's work enables the reader to locate contradictions in the responses of other writers; or, zero in on the employment of a specific image or metaphor, or the use of a certain kind of diction or of assonance and dissonance.

4. According to a recent study of Victorian art criticism, pathetic episodes, idealized characters, and syrupy dialogue all taught an emergent middle-class proper ways of feeling and of expressing feelings. Excluding materials covered on the midterm, address the role of emotion in at least three nineteenth-century poems, works of fiction, or works of cultural criticism.

5. Choosing two Victorian texts (one of which must be Great Expectations) and two Modernist ones from the following list, compare the role of desire -- and the ways it is portrayed: Heart of Darkness, :The Dead," "The Prussian Officer," "Mary Postgate," "The Blessed Damozel," "Haystack in the Floods," In Memoriam, and "Cleon."


Some Hints on Improving Your Writing
 English 32 Syllabus Postcolonial Literature Postcolonial Literature

Incorporated in the Victorian Web July 2000