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English 2111 critical response topics, summer 2018

Note that critical response essays have a 200 word minimum and must be typed: 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.

Submit critical responses by uploading them, preferably as MS Word documents, in the appropriate critical response dropbox in D2L.

Unit 6, Due by midnight Thursday, June 21st: Choose onedo not address both:
Citing at least four passages from Lysistrata, explain how the male and female choruses support and illuminate the play's central theme(s).

b) It has been said that comedy often presents a scenario that the author could easily have made tragic, if he or she were so inclined. In no more than 350 words (and no fewer than 200), re-plot and retell the story of Lysistrata's rebellion as it might unfold in a serious tragedybe sure to indicate her tragic flaw directly. Note: This is a rare opportunity for purely creative writing in a non-creative-writing course. If you are creative and enjoy the challenge, this is all to the good. But do keep your word count in tight reinregardless of how much you write, I'm going to read only your first 350 words!

On deck:

Unit 7, Due by midnight Monday, June 25th: Discuss contemporary relevance in any events, situations, or specific passages in our readings from Books I-IV of The Aeneid. Include at least three quotations to illustrate your claims, following the guidelines for citing verse in a multi-part (or multi-"book") poem outlined in Q4, especially Q4mp.


Previous critical response topics—no longer valid for submission:

Unit 1, Due by midnight Monday, June 4th: Choose one—do not address both:  
a) One general feature of the epic is that it conveys a variety of core ideals from the nation, culture, or people depicted in the work. Quoting from Gilgamesh at least twice to illustrate your claims, explain what traits, qualities, or ideals this epic reveals as important to the ancient Babylonian society depicted in Gilgamesh. For the mechanics of citing poetry, see Q4.

b) If you had to pin down one theme as the central overriding "message" of Gilgamesh, what would this message be?  Identify the most important plot elements or events that help the author deliver this message, and back up your assertions with at least two quotations from the poem itself. For the mechanics of citing poetry, see Q4.

Unit 2, Due by midnight Thursday, June 7th: Choose one—do not address both:
a) Discuss the cultural or personal qualities or ideals The Odyssey suggests were important to the Greeks in the time of Homer, including at least three quotations from different "books" to illustrate your claims. For the mechanics of citing verse in a multi-part (or multi-"book") poem, see Q4, especially Q4mp

b) Explore the development of Odysseus's character or personality in Books 1-12, including at least one quotation from three separate "books" to support your observations. Basically, discuss leading traits or qualities in Odysseus demonstrated through his adventures in Books 1-12. For the mechanics of citing verse in a multi-part (or multi-"book") poem, see see Q4, especially Q4mp.

Unit 3, Due by midnight Monday, June 11th: Choose onedo not address both:  
Being careful to avoid plot summary (
nugget 1), discuss the use of deception in Books 13-24 by Odysseus, certainly, and others as well.  Identify different types of deception and analyze the different motives behind each instance of deception you discuss. Include quotations from at least three different "books" to illustrate your claims. For the mechanics of citing verse in a multi-part (or multi-"book") poem, see Q4, especially Q4mp

b) The traditional epic, by definition, focuses on a central character of great significance to his people or nationa king, or a mighty warrior, or a champion of his people in different important respects. And most of the central characters in epics tend to be of high social standing (royalty, nobility, "upper class" in whatever social system the epic portrays). Discuss the thematic importance of common characters in the conclusion of the Odyssey ("common" meaning essentially "working class"). Note that you must speak on matters of theme here: it would be a matter of plot to say that certain common characters "help Odysseus," e.g. Concentrate on how the common characters help convey one or more of the work's overriding "messages." Quote from Books 19-24 at least three times to illustrate your claims (see Q4, especially Q4mp).

Unit 4, Due by midnight Thursday, June 14th: Choose onedo not address both:
a) Frequently one of the most difficult and widely debated elements in the Aristotelian conception of tragedy is the catharsis. According to his Poetics, Aristotle believed that a tragedy should arouse pity and fear in the audience for the purpose of purging these emotions in the members of the audience themselves. How do you think readers of Oedipus are supposed to feel "better" after reading this play? Focusing specifically on pity and fear, explain how viewing or reading a tragedy a positive experience for the audience.

b) Discuss the play's opposing philosophical or religious views involving fate or destiny vs. humanity's responsibility for our own lives. While the play expresses views on both sides of the debate, which side does Sophocles seem ultimately to endorse? Discuss, offering at least two quotations supporting each viewpoint on the issue (four quotes total, see Q4). 

Unit 5, Due by midnight Monday, June 18th: Identify and explore two or three different ways the ancient Medea still holds great relevance for readers today. Address different avenues of relevance in separate paragraphs, and include at least two quotations in support of each main point (four total, minimum).