Alexander Pope’s “Epitaphs. Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside.

1. Alexander Pope’s “Epitaphs. On Two Lovers Struck Dead by Lightning” and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s “Epitaph on John Hughes and Sara Drew” both explore the longstanding and still familiar idea that only the good die young, evident, for example, in Billy Joel’s song “Only the Good Die Young.” What are your thoughts on the significance and persistence of this theme historically and how would you compare the treatment of it in these two poems from the eighteenth century and the Joel song?

2. Montagu and the anonymous Miss W. clearly both had very strong but different reactions to Jonathan Swift’s poem “The Lady’s Dressing Room.” In your opinion, which poem, “The Reasons that Induced Dr. S. to Write a Poem Call’d the Lady’s Dressing Room” or “The Gentleman’s Study,” more effectively refutes Swift’s apparent claims regarding the dirty personal habits and moral failings of women and why?

3. William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Dejection: An Ode,” written in response, both explore the relationship between childhood, nature, and poetic inspiration. How would you compare what these two poets have to say on this subject?

4. Lord Alfred Tennyson’s “Lady Clara Vere de Vere,” Henry S. Leigh’s “The Answer of Lady Clara Vere de Vere,” Rudyard Kipling’s “The Vampire,” and Felicia Blake’s “A Woman’s Answer to The Vampire” are all engaging with a literary type, that of the femme fatale, defined by The Oxford Reference Dictionary as “a dangerously attractive woman” (296) who causes harm, and, sometimes even death and destruction, to those with whom she becomes involved, although she cannot be resisted (or only with great effort). How do these poems each contribute towards the development of the femme fatale as a literary type? What do you make of these various examples of the femme fatale?

5. In their own ways, Pablo Neruda’s “Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks” and Suzanne Frischkorn’s “The Mermaid Takes Issue with the Fable” can be seen as retelling the famous fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen. How do Neruda and Frischkorn both rework this story and what use are they making of it in their own poems?

6. Yannos Ritsos’ “Women,” Sue Standing’s “Men,” Langston Hughes’ “Theme for English B,” Afaa Michael Weaver’s “Theme for Intermediate Chinese,” Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays,” and Patrick Phillips’ “Those Georgia Sundays,” all draw inspiration from the material of ordinary life and the way in which identity politics (gender, class, race) and power dynamics of different kinds play out in ordinary day-to-day experiences. Selecting from this group, compare what these different poems have to say about how politics related to gender, class, or race (or a combination of these) manifest in everyday life and the effect that they have on those who experience them.

7. With his poem “The Golden Shovel,” Terrance Hayes invents what has become an influential formal innovation in poetry. Essentially, “The Golden Shovel” takes

Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “We Real Cool” and builds lines using Brooks’ poem to provide the last word for each new line. Hayes uses the same method to create “Last Train to Africa” from Elizabeth Alexander’s poem “Ladders.” What does this formal innovation bring to Hayes’ engagement with the work of these other poets?

8. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is an interestingly metafictional piece of writing, drawing attention to its own fictionality most obviously in its use of the play-within-the-play device. It is Hamet who arranges the performance of the play within the play (which he titles “The Mousetrap”) at court, in order to determine the possible involvement of his uncle Claudius and mother Gertrude in the death of Hamlet senior. We know what kind of reaction Hamlet hopes to provoke in Claudius, who cuts the performance short with his dramatic and guilty exit. Less clear is how Shakespeare intended members of his own audience to respond to this reminder that they are watching a dramatic performance, and other similar reminders throughout Hamlet, including the scenes in which Hamlet interacts with the players and instructs them on acting. What are your own thoughts on how the device of the play within the play and other metafictional scenes impact the audience’s experience of Hamlet as a whole?

9. In different ways, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead can be seen as experimenting with tragedy as an established literary form, Stoppard evidently to a much greater degree than Shakespeare. What are your own thoughts on how Stoppard is challenging a traditional conception of tragedy that centres on the fall of a great man, who suffers due to a fatal error and blindness to consequence directly leading not only to his own downfall but also to that of many of the characters around him. In your view, what does Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead finally say about what constitutes the essence of tragedy?

10. Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun deliberately fixes its action at a single location, the Younger family’s living room, in an apartment on Chicago’s South Side. Hansberry describes this setting in minute detail at the very beginning of the play. How does she use this setting to establish and develop central themes in her play and how exactly do you think setting functions in relation to the unfolding events in the action of the play?

11. As a reworking of Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park makes a number of interesting formal choices. Notably, the action of Act 1 and Act 2 takes place in the same house but fifty years apart and features different characters (albeit four of them played by the same actors). Howard Shalwitz, the artistic director for a 2011 Woolly Mammoth Theatre Washington, DC production of Clybourne Park, notes how the play explores a “complex reversal around race and gentrification” over a five decades in the same Chicago neighbourhood. What story does Norris’ Clybourne Park tell around race and gentrification in late twentieth-century and early-twenty-first century America, into the presidency of Barack Obama (Norris apparently writing parts of his play shortly before and other parts shortly after Obama’s election)?

12. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre generated controversy among Victorian readers for various reasons, most notably for its perceived treatment of religion. At least once reviewer characterized the novel and its heroine as ungodly and unchristian. In your view, does the novel have an essential spiritual and moral message or not, and, if so, is that message one that you consider to be Christian or not?

13. In Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, there are many appearances by non-human animals (horses, snakes, moths, rats, and crabs, to name a few). What do you think that Rhys is exploring through her references to these various animals? How is she relating non- human animals to her human characters, especially the two main characters, Antoinette and the unnamed husband?

14. You may also choose to write on another topic, to be approved by the instructor no later than March 19, 2024. This topic must centre on either a selection of poems or on one of the plays or novels on the course outline.

Note: The essay should conform to the latest standards of MLA (Modern Language Association) formatting. If you do not have an MLA guidebook, you can find guidelines for MLA at uide/mla_formatting_and_style_guide.html.

In addition, the essay should have an introductory paragraph (including a lead-in, thesis statement, and map points clearly outlined), a main body (including paragraphs that correspond to the map points set out in the introduction), and a conclusion (including a restatement of the thesis and some attempt to take the essay in a new direction). As required by the MLA formatting system, there should also be a Works Cited page that includes an entry for each poem discussed.

The essay should be around seven to eight double spaced pages in length or 1750 to 2000 words and is due April 6, 2024, to be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Nexus under Assessments/Assignments. Going a little over is acceptable. Essays that are too short may be penalized.

One peer-reviewed secondary source listed in an electronic database such as the MLA database is required for this particular assignment (and both primary and secondary sources need to be included in the Works Cited).

To complete the requirements for this assignment, you will also need to submit an outline. The outline needs to be printed and brought to class March 26, 2024. There will be designated time in class for you to exchange your outline with a peer, with whom you will each discuss your essay progress and provide and receive feedback, making written comments on the outlines you receive to review. You will then hand in the outlines to the instructor, who will return them next class, March 28, 2024.

The outline should include the following elements:

1) a working title for your essay;

2) a tentative thesis statement;

3) a bullet point for each paragraph you are planning to include in the main body of the essay.

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