English 2613 critical response topics, spring 2007
Format your response according to MLA guidelines for margins, spacing, name, date, etc., headers, etc. as outlined on my "simple stuff" handout.
4.1 Due by midnight, Saturday, May 5th: follow the link and be as helpfully critical as you can: critical feedback.
Previous critical response topicsno longer valid for submission.
1.1 Due Wednesday, January 10: Focusing specifically on the play's depiction of women, explain why or how the play Trifles seems either relevant for women today or "dated" (i.e. "out of date"). Identify similarities or differences between the lives of the women in the play and the lives of women today.
1.2 Due Monday, January 22: What themes or issues developed in the first act of A Raisin in the Sun (through p. 1968) relate specifically to black Americans in the 1950s, and what themes or issues extend beyond race to address the human condition more generally? At this point of the play, do you think Hansberry focuses more on racial issues or universal issues that apply to Americans of all races? Explain.
1.3 Due Wednesday, January 24: Explore Walter's notions of what it means to "be a man." Then consider why Mama says of Walter at the end of the play, "He finally come into his manhood today, didn't he? Kind of like a rainbow after the rain" (2002). Are Mama's ideas of manhood and Walter's different? Explain.
1.4 Due Monday, January 29: Discuss different ways that the first thirty pages of Pygmalion are still relevant for Americans in 2007. Give specific examples from contemporary American life to illustrate your claims. You might consider the emphasis on "correct" English (British) speech (pronunciation and grammar), but other aspects are fair game as well.
Due Wednesday, January 31 : Choose onedo
not address both:
a) Rent the video of My Fair Lady and compare the play and the movie, paying special attention to added and deleted scenes and the different endings of the play and the movie. Which do you like better and why? More importantly, how is the movie as a whole either more effective or less effective in delivering Shaw's intended "message" about his society? Explain fully.
b) Open assignment: respond to the last three acts and the epilogue of Pygmalion however you like (so long as your response is analytical and avoids plot summary). You might consider the implications of Eliza's partial success at Mrs. Higgins's "at-home day" and her complete success at the ambassador's partywhat commentary is Shaw making on his British society here? Or you might discuss the epilogue's effectiveness in further elaborating Shaw's "message" or social criticism in the five acts of the play: any analytical topic is fair game.
1.6 Due Monday, February 5: Respond to three of the poems on the schedule for Monday's class: say what you think the main point of each of these poems is and explain how the poet goes about conveying that point. You might comment on each poem's strengths and weaknesses. Quote from each poem at least twice in your discussion, following the guidelines for quotations of poetry outlined in QD4. Also see QD1-2.
1.7 Due Wednesday, February 7: Respond to any three of the poems on the schedule for Wednesday's class dealing either with love or sex (separately or together; that is, each poem doesn't have to treat both love and sex: one might deal mainly with love, another mainly with sex, the third with both, etc.). Choose the three poems that strike you most powerfully as being accurate in what they portray or "say," and explain how each poet communicates his or her "message" so powerfully, or why the poems impact you so forcefully. Include at least one quotation from each poem, following the guidelines for citing poetry as outlined in QD4.
1.8 Due Monday, February 12: Discuss how two or more of Monday's poems illustrate different stereotypes or cultural expectations our society places upon women and then explain how the poet in each case conveys his or her attitude towards those stereotypes or expectations. Quote each poem you discuss at least twice, following the guidelines for quotations of poetry outlined in QD4.
1.9 Due Wednesday, February 14: Open assignment on any two of Wednesday's poems that are 14 lines or longer: say what you think the essential message or "point" of each poem is, quoting each poem at least twice to illustrate your claims, following the guidelines for citing poetry outlined in QD4. Note: If you address the Paradise Lost excerpts, "Kubla Khan," or "Diving into the Wreck," you may write about only one poem, incorporating at least three quotations.
2.1 Due Wednesday, February 21: Each of the male characters in Death of a Salesman has a troubled life. In at least three paragraphs, and quoting the play at least once per paragraph, explain what is the matter with the three Loman men so far as we can tell in the first twenty-five pages of the play. What problems do they have in their lives, and what do you think may be the causes of these problems?
2.2 Due Monday, February 26: Respond to Willy's visit to Howard's office and then to Charley's. How are these two scenes significant? Quote the play at least three times in your response.
2.3 Due Wednesday, February 28: Open assignment: respond to the conclusion of Death of a Salesman however you like (so long as the response offers analysis and avoids plot summary). You might consider how the play's final twenty pages support the play's most central themes, or statements about life beyond the world of the play. Quote the play at least three times to substantiate or illustrate your claims.
2.4 Due Monday, March 5: Write an in-depth character analysis of Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire: quoting specific details from the play's first three scenes three times or more, with at least one quote from each scene, say as much as you can about Blanche's personality. What kind of woman is she? Why do you think she behaves the way she does? Explain.
Due Monday, March 12: Choose onedo not
a) How does Blanche's past explain her present? Quote the play at least three times to illustrate your claims.
b) After reading scenes 4-7 (pp. 1563-84), consider whether Blanche deserves the audience's sympathy. Explore both sides of the issue: why should she have our sympathy, and why not? Include at least three quotations from scenes 4-7 to illustrate your claims.
2.6 Due Wednesday, March 14: Open assignment: respond to the final scenes of A Streetcar Named Desire however you like (so long as your response is analytical, of course, and avoids plot summary). Focus on particular scenes or issues that seem especially important or interesting to you, and include at least three quotations in your discussion.
2.7 Due Monday, March 26: Discuss either irony or symbolism in any two of our three stories for Tuesday ("The Story of an Hour," "A Rose for Emily," and "The Yellow Wallpaper"), quoting each story at least twice to illustrate your claims. (See the definitions of irony and symbolism on the "elements of fiction" page).
2.8 Due Wednesday, March 28: Open assignment on any two of Wednesday's stories: avoiding plot summary and incorporating at least two quotes from each story, explore whatever thematic issues (statements about life or humanity) strike you as interesting or noteworthy in each story. Note that you do not need to make specific connections between the two stories: you can treat each one as an entirely separate entity without reference or relationship between the two.
Due Monday, April 2: Choose onedo
not address both:
a) Discuss the several different relationship problems the couple has in "Shiloh," avoiding plot summary and quoting the story at least four times to illustrate your claims.
b) Discuss the glamorizing or romanticizing of war in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." Be sure to include the story's conclusion in your discussion; avoid plot summary and include at least three quotations in your discussion.
2.10 Due Wednesday, April 4: Open assignment on the two Flannery O'Connor stories: respond in analytical fashion, avoiding plot summary, to whatever strikes you as interesting or significant in both stories, quoting each at least twice. If you prefer specific guidance and are up to a challenge, you might consider the difficult question of how both stories present a particularly religious point of view. O'Connor once said that in her stories she puts her characters in extreme situations, violent situations, so that they might receive the gift of God's "grace." Can you see how Julian in "Everything That Rises Must Converge" receives any kind of "gift from God" at the end of the story? or how the grandmother does in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?
3.1 Due Wednesday, April 11: Examine Austen's portrayal of Eliza Bennet in the first twelve chapters of Pride and Prejudice. In particular, consider what makes Eliza such a vivid and realistic character, one that most readers tend to enjoy and care about or identify with closely. Quote from at least three separate chapters to illustrate your claims.
3.2 Due Monday, April 16: Focusing only on chapters 13-23 (pp. 59-125 in the Barnes and Noble Classics edition), discuss Austen's satire, her mockery of specific situations, characters, or character-types. Quote from these chapters at least three times to illustrate your claims.
3.3 Due Wednesday, April 18: Open assignment on Volume 2, Chapters 1-12 (pp. 129-92 in the Barnes and Noble Classics edition). Discuss whatever strikes you as interesting or significant in these chapters? Avoid plot summary, and include at least three quotations to illustrate your claims.
3.4 Due Monday, April 23: Discuss Elizabeth's and/or Darcy's maturation or growth following Darcy's rejected proposal of marriage. What important lessons does either or both learn, and how are these lessons likely to change their characters? You might also discuss growth or significant positive change in other characters as well. Include at least three quotations to illustrate your claims.
3.5 Due Wednesday, April 25: Point out and discuss any two passages of a paragraph or more in length from the novel's last twelve or thirteen chapters that are particularly significant in illuminating or illustrating important aspects of the personality of any two of the following: any member(s) of the Bennet family, Darcy, Lady Catherine, or any of the Bingley bunch. Explain what important insights into each character the different passages reveal.
3.6 Due at the exam, Monday, April 30: Review our schedule of readings and point out four works we've read this semester that have the greatest relevance for modern readers: explain what specific characters, situations, or events in these works make them still "speak" to readers today.