engl 322  |  survey of british literature III

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Study and Writing Questions: English 322C
Survey of British Literature from Victorians to Moderns

Week 1
Virginia Woolf, "The Mark on the Wall"
(These questions are to be completed as a class, as a sample of how to answer study questions. You need not write out answers and hand them in.) What is the subject of this essay - beyond simply a mark on the wall? List the things Woolf theorizes may have caused the mark on the wall. What do all these possible causes have in common? Finally, why does Woolf tell us at the end of the essay, "It was a snail"? 

Week 2
Robert Browning, shorter poems
Why does Browning choose to use first-person narrators in so many of his poems? How reliable are these narrators? (Choose at least two to consider in your response.) What aspects of human nature do Browning's narrators seem concerned with? Finally, why does Browning choose to set so many of the poems in Italy, a country very different from his native England? (Hint: there is no simple answer to this question.)

Week 3
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, shorter poems
In many poems, such as "Ulysses," "The Lady of Shalott," and "The Epic [Morte D'Arthur]," Tennyson invokes myths from earlier periods in human history: the stories of Ulysses and Arthur. What do these heroes have in common? What aspects of these myths does Tennyson focus on, and why? 

Week 4
Thomas Hardy, a short story and poems 
and Industrialisation and Human Culture
(answer one of these sets of questions)
What themes do the Hardy story and the poems have in common? Comment on the form of the Hardy poems: what kinds of line-lengths, rhyme schemes, and stanza forms does Hardy prefer? How are these poems different from those of Tennyson and Browning?

Summarize Macaulay's argument. What has Southey argued in the Colloquies, accordingly to Macaulay? What is wrong with this argument, according to Macaulay? Quote specific examples to support your answers. Choose one of the other excerpts. What does it argue about the living and working conditions of the people it describes? Give a few examples of the evidence the author provides to support these claims.

Week 6
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, Vol. I (chapters 1-19).
Explain why Dickens sets the opening scene of GE in a graveyard. What does this choice tell us about Pip, his home life, and his expectations for the future? Compare Pip's sister, Mrs. Joe, and his brother-in-law Joe Gargery. What are their attitudes towards the child they have been given to raise? How do their attitudes seem to be affecting Pip? Accordingly, how does Pip respond when Miss Havisham commands him to "play" at Satis House?

Week 7
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, Vol. II (chapters 20-39)
Give at least three examples of how the villagers respond to Pip's mysterious new "expectations" and planned move to London. How does Pip feel about these expressions? How does Herbert "transform" Pip? Give examples of Herbert's advice and his methods of imparting it. Contrast these with Mr. Pocket's techniques for accomplishing the same aims. Finally, describe Mr. Jaggers: his habits, his reputation, his office, his employees, his ways of conversing with clients. What do these things mean about him?

Week 8
Mini-vacation from study questions! 

Week 9
Oscar Wilde:  "The Importance of Being Earnest"
Look closely at some of the many famous one-line jokes in "The Importance of Being Earnest"  such as
"her hair has gone quite gold with grief."  (Make a list of your favorites.)  What pattern(s) does Wilde
follow in constructing these jokes?  Give examples to support your argument.

Weeks 10 and 11
W. B. Yeats, selected poems (answer one question per week)
In what ways is the poem "When You are Old" like "Sailing to Byzantium"?  Give specific examples to support your argument; be sure to consider form as well as meaning.

What is Yeats's attitude toward the Easter Rebellion of 1916 and the people who were involved with it? (Refer to the biographical headnote if you need more information about the Easter Rebellion.)   Are his feelings positive, negative, or mixed?  How do we know?   How do the images in stanza three of "Easter 1916" relate to the poem as a whole? 

Week 12
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
In her essay "Modern Fiction" (1925) Virginia Woolf asserts that "Life is not a series of gig-lamps
symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the
beginning of consciousness to the end.   Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this
unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little
mixture of the alien and external as possible?"  How does Woolf represent human consciousness?  What aspects of consciousness does she present to us?  Focus on one character, in one scene, and give examples for your assertions. 

Week 13
T. S. Eliot, an essay and some shorter poems
What sort of person is Prufrock? Was does his full name suggest about him? What is he afraid of? In
what ways is his life trivial or meaningless? To what extent is the title of the poem ironic?  Give examples to support your answers.

Week 14
War literature
Review the Breughel painting "Icarus" and study the painting carefully, paying special attention to the relationship of its elements - the plowman, the ship, the sheep and shepherd, the legs of the vanishing boy.  At  "Icarus and Daedalus" , review that myth.  How is Auden's poem "Musée des Beaux Arts" about war?  Pay special attention to the year the poem was published and the world events taking place at that time when you answer this question.

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