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English 2111 critical response topics

Turn in critical responses either in hard copy or D2L, and be sure to exceed the 200 word minimum (in the body of the response, excluding name, date, header, etc.): 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, headers, etc. as outlined on my "simple stuff" page. Works cited pages are unnecessary for critical responses. Even without works cited pages, though, do still follow the MLA conventions for documenting quotations as explained in Q1-4 on my quotations page.


2.2 Due Tuesday, October 4: Address onenot both:  
a)
Discuss Roland's refusal to blow the horn for help when the French rearguard are first attacked and then his decision to blow the horn after all at the end of the battle: explore different possible motivations in both cases, including at least two quotations from each episode to illustrate your claims (
see Q4).

b) Point out and discuss the French values and cultural ideals revealed in the latter half of The Song of Roland, including at least three quotations to support your observations (see Q4).


On deck:

2.3 Due Thursday, October 6: TBA


Previous critical response topics—no longer valid for submission:

1.1 Due Thursday, August 18th: Choose one—do not address both:  
a) Epics typically convey a variety of core ideals from the nation, culture, or people depicted in the work. Quoting 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 the poem. 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.

1.2 Due Tuesday, August 23: Choose onedo not address both:  
a)
Compare the relationship between gods and humans, or the involvement of the gods in the lives of mortals, in Gilgamesh and the first few books of the Odyssey. Include at least three quotations from two or more "books" to illustrate your claims. For the mechanics of citing verse in a multi-part (or "book") poem, see Q4, and especially Q4mp.

b) 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 "book") poem, see Q4, and especially Q4mp

1.3 Due Thursday, August 25: Explore the continuing development of Odysseus's character or personality in Books VII-XII, including at least one quotation from two separate "books" to support your observations.  Basically, discuss leading traits or qualities in Odysseus demonstrated through his adventures in Books 7-12.  For the mechanics of citing verse in a multi-part (or multi-"book") poem, see Q4, especially Q4mp

1.4 Due Tuesday, August 30: Choose onedo not address both:
a) Being careful to avoid plot summary (
nugget 1), discuss the use of deception in Books XIII-XVIII (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) Open assignment: respond analytically to anything that strikes you as interesting or significant in any two or more different "books" in Tuesday's reading (XIII-XVIII), including at least three quotations, at least two coming from different books.  Be careful to avoid plot summary (
see nugget 1). For the mechanics of citing verse in a multi-part (or multi-"book") poem, see Q4, especially Q4mp

1.5 Due Thursday, September 1: Choose onedo not address both:
a) What are we to make of the ancient Greeks' attitudes about women, at least as far as they are conveyed in the Odyssey? You may discuss events from anywhere in the entire epic, but do quote from Books XIX-XXIV at least twice in your response (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 XIX-XXIV at least three times to illustrate your claims (see Q4, especially Q4mp).

1.6 Due Tuesday, September 6: 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 how the experience pity and also 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). 

1.7 Due Thursday, September 8: 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).

1.8 Due Tuesday, September 13: Choose onedo not address both:
a)
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!

1.9 Due Thursday, September 15: Discuss Catullus's portrayal of powerful emotions in any three or four of the lyric poems we're reading (pp. 904-21): what makes his portrayal of particular emotions so powerful?  Explain, quoting each poem you discuss at least once.

1.10 Due Tuesday, September 20: Choose onedo not address both:  
a)
Compare Aeneas with Odysseus as an epic hero: what qualities in Books I-IV does Aeneas share with Odysseus, and even more, how is Virgil's Aeneas a radically different character from Odysseus? Include at least three quotations, and don't forget the mechanics of citing verse in a multi-part (or multi-"book") poem: see QD4, and especially QD4mp.

b) Discuss Virgil's portrayal of the relationship between Aeneas and Dido in Book IV, citing the text at least three times to illustrate your claims; here, too, don't forget the mechanics of citing verse in a multi-part (or multi-"book") poem: see Q4, especially Q4mp

1.11 Due Thursday, September 22: Discuss the Roman cultural values and ideals suggested in our second day's readings from 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

2.1 Due Thursday, September 29: Discuss the code of chivalric (knightly) honor presented in our first installment of The Song of Roland (pp. 220-51 in Volume B), being careful to avoid plot summary and here including three or more quotations to support your observations (following the MLA guidelines for quotations of verse as outlined in Q4).