English 314

Fall 2006


Paper #1:  Paper Topics



These are clearly fairly open questions; my hope is to give you guidance but not to direct your answers too much. However, you should keep to the questions as stated here. It is your responsibility to create a sustained, coherent interpretive argument (i.e., an essay that sets out to present a fresh interpretation based on an initial thesis with which it is possible to disagree); to anchor your interpretation in close reading of the text (i.e., based on careful attention to and interpretation of the details); and make clear the implications of your reading (i.e., answer the question "so what?").  If you're engaging with another (critical) writer, make sure that you make clear with what you're arguing and also that your own interpretation of the work is clear.

You need not use outside sources.  If you do—including any guides to texts you might find on the internet—cite them.

I encourage you to make use of the Writing Center (see syllabus for more details).  I am also available for discussion of papers during office hours and by appointment.  Don't forget to review my guidelines for papers and grading on the Blackboard website.

And remember:  at least one of your papers this semester needs to be on (one or two) poem (s). 


1.  Does Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" support (or complicate) any of the ideas presented in Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"?

2.  Does Joanna Baillie's "London" represent the picturesque, as described by Ruskin (59-62) or Burke (33-39), or Gilpin (40-46)? You should probably pick one of these theorists of the sublime, the one who provides the most interesting juxtaposition with the poet. Do you agree with the critic's description?  What is interesting or significant about it?  What is important about how Baillie uses the notion of the "sublime"?

3.  Gustave Dore illustrated "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (see for instance http://ssad.bowdoin.edu:8668/space/Gustave+Dore+Ancient+Mariner+illustrations)  What kind of interpretation of the poem do they provide? You should consider the larger issue of the relationship between illustration and text in your argument.

4. Compare the representation of women in Keats's "La Belle Dame Sans Mercy" and either Keats's "Eve of St. Agnes," Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," or Shelley's "To Jane."  What are the implications of the differences and similarities?  What, for instance, do the poems suggest about the relationship between women and the imagination?  About men and the imagination?  About women and men? About desire and poetry? etc.

5. Read one of the essays on Jane Eyre written by students on "Charlotte's Web": http://www.umd.umich.edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/charweb/ . Find one in which you are interested but with which you have a disagreement, either major or minor.  Write an essay responding to the essay you choose. 

6. What does Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1043-1073) suggest about the power of the imagination?  Does he suggest we have control of it?  Is it a hopeful vision of the imagination?  How does he construct it? Why is opium important to our understanding of the imagination? You might compare De Quincey to another writer we've studied,  such as Coleridge, Blake, or Shelley; or you could focus on his works alone.  You may use the introduction to the work as a starting point for your argument, especially if you disagree with its reading.

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