English 314
Fall 2006


Although as before you are allowed some room to make the question your own, please use the questions I've provided. 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 what's important about  your reading (i.e., answer the question "so what?").

I encourage you to make use of the Writing Center (see syllabus for more details), and to give yourself time to REVISE.  Also, if you haven't yet, consult my guide to paper grading on the Blackboard website (under Course Documents).

A final reminder:  at least one of your papers this semester needs to treat (one or two) poem (s). 

1. Read the excerpt from Wilde's "The Soul of Man Under Socialism." Is it consisent with his "Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray"? Why or why not?  Include an analysis of the significance of the forms in which he has chosen to write.  Alternative version:  compare the former to The Importance of Being Earnest.

2. Explore the instances of the word "thread" in Mrs. Dalloway.  Examine the places in which the word occurs and see how it works as a metaphor .  Think not only about what the word means in context, but also 1) why it's significant that she use this particular metaphor, and 2) how the metaphor works to create meaning in the text.  You may find yourself engaging with other metaphors that work with or against that of thread.

(An easy way to find instances of the word 'thread' is by going to the text at http://www.linux.ime.usp.br/~celso02/dalloway.html  .  Then, in your browser, going to the 'edit' menu; click on 'find in page,' and type the word.)  
Alternative version:  explore the word "motor car" as above.

3. Septimus Warren Smith, in Mrs. Dalloway, at one point says "beauty, that was the truth now" (69). Does Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" help us to understand Septimus?  If so, how? If not, why not?

4. Take one page from Finnegans Wake--either the excerpted version from the Longman, or the full text itself--and explicate it.  You can go a bit over or a bit under a page if you want; you could also choose a paragraph, if that makes more sense.  You can, as long as you cite them, use any supplemental sources you would like; Roland McHugh's Annotations are particularly helpful at the word level.  Focus on close reading, but then try to draw larger conclusions from your close reading.  Another alternative:  take a few lines and compare the earlier versions of the text (available at the Spencer Library), and explore the significance of the changes Joyce made.

5.  Take any of the works we've read since the midterm, and find a single word that seems at the crux of a particularly compelling, confusing, or interesting passage.  Look it up in the Oxford English Dictionary, available online through the library (http://infogateway.ku.edu/index.cfm?type=dbs&sid=38) and examine all of the definitions of the word.  How do those definitions enrich our understanding of the text?

6. Auden had ambivalent feelings about "September 1, 1939," saying that it was "infected with incurable dishonesty."  Take on this statement and, through a close reading of the poem, show how Auden's comment is or is not apt.

7. Auden writes that “'The unacknowledged legislators of the world' describes the secret police, not the poets" (2677).  How does Auden's poetry respond to Shelley's?

8. Nuala ní Dhomhnaill's poem "As for the Quince" is actually titled "The Tree" in Irish (as Gaeilge:  "An Crann").  The poet Paul Muldoon changes a number of things, including the title and the nature of the tree:  in the original Irish version of the poem, there are no quinces.  How do you think that changes the meaning of the poem?  And how might those changes speak to the larger issue of translation?  (You might consult ní Dhomhnaill's essay in treating this last point, but you don't have to.)