produce a major research essay of minimum 1,500 words
1. Chaucer’s English is a dead language. The only point in reading Chaucer is to learn
about the social, historical and political context in which he wrote.
You must refer to “The General Prologue” and at least one of The Canterbury Tales,
as well as William Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley’s “The Affective Fallacy” in your
2. Titus Andronicus is more significant in terms of its relationship to the tragic genre
than it is as a play in its own right. It raises profound – and historically important –
questions regarding the power of the sovereign through its examination of tragic form.
You must refer to Titus Andronicus and Franco Moretti’s “The Great Eclipse” in your
3. In The Poetics, Aristotle introduces several key concepts that still have currency in
literary studies, including mimesis, catharsis, peripeteia, anagnorisis and hamartia.
Critically evaluate Titus Andronicus vis-à-vis Aristotle’s discussion of tragedy.
In your response you must refer to Titus Andronicus as well as The Poetics.
4. In How to Read a Poem (2007), Terry Eagleton celebrates the playful, noninstrumental
ethos of poetry: “Simply by existing, poetry fulfils a utopian function,
testifying to a form of life which would be less in thrall to labour, coercion and
obligation. Poets, like infants, relish sounds for their own sake.” (58)
Eagleton’s overwhelmingly positive appraisal of the value of poetry offers a radically
different perspective from Plato, who argues that poetry (and poets) should be
banished from the ideal society. In Book X of The Republic, for example, he
condemns “the tragic poet” as “an imitator, and therefore, like all other imitators, he is
thrice removed from the king and from the truth.”
Who is right?
In your response you must refer to at least three poems by either John Donne, or
William Blake, or Christina Rossetti, or H.D., or Ted Hughes as well as Sir Phillip
Sidney’s “An Apology for Poetry.”
5. Poetry offers us language in its most concentrated form, language violently pushing
against the limits of meaning. It shows us what language can – and can’t – do, and
will, therefore, always be worth reading.
Discuss, with reference to at least three poems by either Edmund Spenser, or John
Keats, or William Butler Yeats, or E. E. Cummings or Eleanor Wilner as well as Terry
Eagleton’s “In Pursuit of Form.”
6. The modern “individual” developed alongside the spread of print culture throughout
Western Europe. At the same time, the concept and development of the secular public
sphere would be virtually unimaginable outside of the advent of the printing press and
the accompanying rise of the two most popular literary forms of the nineteenth
century, the newspaper and the novel.
Discuss the connections between the printing press, the Enlightenment and the birth
of the modern individual, with reference to either Moll Flanders or Jane Eyre as well
as Jurgen Habermas’ “Preliminary Demarcation of a Type of Bourgeois Public
7. The novel, as a popular form, offered women a modicum of power in a world of
letters that had previously been the domain of men. The popularity of Charlotte
Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a case in point.
Critically analyse the depiction of gender in either Jane Eyre or Moll Flanders.
You must refer to Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” as
well as one of the novels.
8. In “The Dialectic of Fear,” Franco Moretti suggests that the figure of the monster in
literature always reflects the anxieties of the social and historical context in which it
has been produced.
Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw is one of the most psychologically disturbing
works of fiction in English. What monsters does James create, and what do these
monsters show regarding the context of the novel’s production?
You must refer to The Turn of the Screw and “Dialectic of Fear” in your response.
9. Critically analyse the construction of subjectivity in either Edgar Allan Poe’s “The
Fall of the House of Usher,” or Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” or Franz Kafka’s “In
the Penal Colony.”
How does the reader identify with the text and its characters, and how effective is
this? How does the text, in turn, construct the reader?
You must refer to one of the above mentioned stories as well as Wolfgang Iser’s
“Interaction Between Text and Reader” in your response.
10. The English literary canon – perhaps unsurprisingly – has repressed myriad marginal
voices on the grounds of, amongst other things, class, race, and gender. However,
since the end of WWII, this has begun to be remedied.
Discuss, with reference to either three poems by Jim Morrison or three poems by
Langston Hughes or three poems by Wendy Cope as well as either Franz Fanon’s
“The Fact of Blackness,” or Susan Bordo’s “The Body and the Reproduction of
Femininity,” or Louis Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.”
11. Nicole Aschoff argues in The New Prophets of Capital that stories always contains an
ideological dimension and, thus, always function at least partially at a level of
command and control.
Critically examine this idea with reference to either The Canterbury Tales or Moll
Flanders or Jane Eyre or The Turn of the Screw as well as Max Horkheimer and
Theodor Adorno’s “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.”
12. What is literature?
Discuss, with reference to at least one novel and one poem from the unit, as well as
Terry Eagleton’s “What is Literature?”