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English 4405 critical response topics

Updated 9/12/22

Critical response essays have a 300 word minimum and must be typed. Be careful to 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 unless you are using an edition of the novel other than the one ordered for the class and listed on the syllabus. Even without works cited pages, do still follow the MLA conventions for documenting quotations as explained in my quotations page.

Submit critical responses by email before we meet to discuss the week's readings.

Only FIVE critical responses are required over the semester: no need to do every assignment.


1.8 Due Thursday, October 6: 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 over the semester. Include at least three quotations from the second half of the novel for illustration
.

b) Open assignment. Avoiding plot summary, discuss whatever in strikes you as interesting or significant in our second installment of Frankenstein. Include at least three quotations to illustrate your observations.


On deck:

2.1 Due Thursday, October 13: TBA


Previous critical response topics—no longer valid for submission:

1.1 Due Thursday, August 18: Two parts: a) explain how Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman was completely, utterly radical in 1790s England, and b) consider how some aspects of her Vindication can be seen still to have some relevance today. Include at least four quotes from the text to support your claims.

1.2 Due Thursday, August 25: Choose one, do not address both:
a)
Compare and contrast Blake's conception of "innocence" and "experience." Include quotations to support your observations, and for the mechanics of citing poetry, see Q4.

b) Open assignment on Blake's "Marriage of Heaven and Hell": taking care to avoid summary or simple recapitulation of the poem (see Nugget 1), discuss anything that strikes you as interesting or significant in the poem, including at least three quotations to support your observations (see Q4).

1.3 Due Thursday, September 1: Choose one, do not address both:
a) Give a close analytical explication of Wordsworth's ideas about nature in "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," including at least four quotations to illustrate your claims.

b) Open assignment on either "Ode: Intimations of Immortality" or "Michael." Write about whatever strikes you as significant or interesting in either poem, including at least three quotations to support your observations.

1.4 Due Thursday, September 8: Give a close analytical explication of "The Eolian Harp," "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison," or "Frost at Midnight." That is, identify the central fundamental idea or "message" Coleridge aims to convey in the poem, and explain how he communicates this idea or message, stanza by stanza.

1.5 Due Thursday, September 15: Choose one:
a) Give a close explication, stanza by stanza, of Shelley's "Mont Blanc," including at least five quotations to illustrate your claims.

b) Open assignment on any of the other Shelley poems we're reading this day. Only if you're really stuck: you might consider with which of the other Romantics Shelley seems to have the most in common—explain your choice in full. Include at least three quotations in your discussion.

1.6 Due Thursday, September 22: Choose one:
a) Discuss Shelley's radical political activism as evident in any two poems from the day's readings, including at least two quotes from each.

b) Summarize the most important observations you glean from Shelley's "Defence of Poetry," including at least three quotations.

1.7 Due Thursday, September 29: Address one, not both:
a) Examine points of connection, or parallels and contrasts, between the outer frame in Frankenstein, of Captain Walton and his journey of exploration, and the story of Victor Frankenstein in the first half of the novel. Include at least two quotations on Walton and two on Victor.

b) Discuss Shelley's commentary upon education in the first half of Frankenstein. Include at least three quotations for illustration.