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English 2122 critical response topics, fall 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.

1.6 Due Saturday, September 23: Do one, not both:
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.

On deck:

1.7 Due Saturday, September 30: A Christmas Carol has remained remarkably popular from first publication to the present day. In fact, Dickens's "Christmas book" has become deeply ingrained in our culture even for those who have not read it: nearly everyone knows what a "Scrooge" is and what "Bah, humbug!" means. A Christmas Carol is very much a work of its time—it's quintessentially "Victorian." What makes this novella so perpetually "current" or relevant? Think of how the world has evolved many times over since the 1840s: 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 does Dickens's Christmas book still so evidently speak to us now? Include quotations from at least three "staves" to illustrate your claims.

Previous critical response topics—no longer valid for submission:

1.1 Due Saturday, August 19: Address one option only, not both:
Can you relate closely to any of the Blake poems we're reading? How so?
Include quotations from each poem you discuss (minimum of three quotations total). For the mechanics of citing poetry, see Q4.

b) Is Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman entirely dated? Do some of her ideas still apply to women today? Quoting the text at least three times to support your claims, discuss the potential relevance of her argument to our contemporary society.

1.2 Due Saturday, August 26: address either topic, not both:
a) Explore Wordsworth's central ideas about nature in "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," including at least four meaningful 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 two quotations from each poem you mention, following guidelines for citing poetry outlined in Q4.

1.3 Due Saturday, September 2: address either option:
Open assignment: respond to anything that strikes you as interesting or significant in two or more of 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 does the Keats poetry we're reading differ from the other poetry we've explored thus far? How is Keats "Romantic" (reread "Romanticism")? Quote two or more poems at least twice in your analysis, following the MLA guidelines in Q4.

1.4 Due Sunday, September 10: Discuss Shelley's commentary upon the nature of isolation or alienation in the first two volumes 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. Quote both from Vol. I and Vol. II.

1.5 Due Sunday, September 17: Address one, not 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.