ENGL 203: Major British Authors
- What happens in this poem? What events does it mention?
- What is Deor's own situation?
- What kind of consolation do you find in this poem? How do you read
the refrain ("That evil ended. So also may this")?
What does "this" refer to?
- What is the "moral" of the poem? That is, what advice does it
- What title would YOU give the poem?
•What is the dramatic
situation in the poem?
- •What actions are described?
- •What is the setting?
- What problems with comitatus does the poem illustrate?
- Outline the poem: what organization emerges? What label
would you affix to each section?
- What responses to life's hard knocks does the poem suggest?
- How many speakers are in this poem? Why do you think so?
- In the middle of the poem is what critics call a "dream sequence."
It consists of memory, dream, and hallucination. Do you critique it
positively or negatively?
"The Battle of Maldon"
- How would you outline this poem? (Hint: It breaks
nicely into three sections.)
- Regarding Figure 3, what is the significance of the elements of the
setting, particularly the causeway and the woods?
- What happens in lines 1-10? What is the significance? What
is the conflict?
- Who wrote the poem? Was it written by someone who survived the
battle? Why or why not?
- Who are Byrhtnoth's men? What groups do they fall into? And
what do they represent?
- Do the Vikings want to fight? How do you know?
- Why does Byrhtnoth allow the Vikings to cross the causeway? See
- Other than English vs. Vikings, what is the essential conflict in "The
Battle of Maldon"?
- What parallels do you see between "Maldon" and the section about the
slaying of the dragon?
- What conflicts do you find here in the Anglo-Saxon heroic code? Is
there something more than we found in "Maldon"?
- What do you make of Beowulf's final wish on page 89?
- Which thanes in "Maldon" and Beowulf best represent comitatus,
and why do you think so?
"The Dream of the Rood"
- How would you outline the poem?
- How does the Anglo-Saxon heroic code work (or not work) in this poem?
Chaucer, "General Prologue"
- What points arise from a comparison of Chaucer's opening lines with
- How does
"Western Wind" illuminate Chaucer's opening?
- What is wrong (or not) with the following characters: Prioress,
Monk, Friar, Parson, Summoner, and Pardoner? Is one of these
characters actually an exemplary person?
- Which characters reflect physical love, and which characters reflect
Chaucer's Wife's "Prologue" and "Tale"
- What do we know about the Wife's life? What is her economic
situation? What is her zodiac sign? What is its significance?
What is her appearance?
- What is the purpose of the Pardoner's interruption at lines ("Prologue,"
lines 167ff.)? Or is it gratuitous?
- What is ironic about the Wife's "Prologue"?
- How does the Wife's "Tale" fit the teller? In other words, how is
the portrait of her that emerges in the "General Prologue" and in her own
"Prologue" in accord with the story that she tells?
- How do you reconcile the rape with the fact that the knight gets a
young, beautiful, faithful wife out of the deal?
Chaucer's Pardoner's "Prologue" and "Tale"
- What do you make of the relationship between the Pardoner and the
- Should we believe what he says?
- Where might the Pardoner be when he tells his tale? What is the
significance of the setting IN the tale?
- Does the Pardoner's self-revelation violate dramatic law? Why
would he reveal himself to the other pilgrims?
- How would you characterize the rioters? What warnings do the
- How does the Pardoner characterize the Old Man? Who IS he?
- At the end of the tale, is the Pardoner totally culpable? He says,
"'That, sirs, is how I preach,'" etc. at lines 459-62. Why does he
then try to seel relics and pardons to his fellow travelers?
Marlowe's Doctor Faustus
- What is Faustus saying in his opening speech?
- What is the order of events?
- What is the role of delight and/or of habit in F's damnation?
- What warnings does F receive?
- How is F cheated? What point follows?
- How do F's achievements measure up to his intentions? What points
- Why did Marlowe include Wagner, Robin, and Dick? Is the middle of
the play irrelevant?
- Why does Marlowe include all the allusions to Helen of Troy?
- What is up with F's weird comment on page 897/397?
Sidney's Defence of Poesie
- What is ironic about Plato's criticism of the poets (637)?
- What is a poet (638)?
- What is poetry (639-41)?
- What is history's relationship to poetry and philosophy?
- What is the function of poetry (639)?
- What are the objections to poetry to which Sidney responds (643)?
- How does Sidney reply to these objections?
- What does Sidney mean on 638 when he writes, "Nature never set forth,"
- What is Sidney saying about the artist on 638-39? The key passage
begins, "Neither let it be deemed." (This question is suitable for a
- What romantic situation do the sonnets depict?
- In what romantic situation does Shakespeare find himself?
- What kind of love does Shakespeare have for the young man?
- Is it the same as the Dark Lady's love for the two of them?
- Sonnet 73: To whom is the poet speaking? What are the major
images? What is the significance of their order? What is the
duration of each image? Why does Shakespeare say "yellow leaves, or
none, or few," instead of "yellow leaves, or few, or none"? How is the
nature of the third image different from that of the other two? What
is strange about the third image? How does the structure act out the
poem's meaning? What is the difference between "That time of year thou
mayst in me behold" and "In me thou see'st"? Again, how does the poem
act out its meaning? How would you paraphrase the final couplet?
To what or whom does "that" refer? Who will do the leaving? What
part of speech is "well"?
- Sonnet 116: How do you paraphrase the first two lines? What
are "true minds"? How can love not be love? Can you hear an echo
of the marriage ceremony in the opening lines? How would you
paraphrase lines 4-8? How would you paraphrase lines 9-12? What
are the important images in this poem? What do they suggest? Are
there any sexual references here? What is their purpose? Why
does the couplet seem especially forceful?
- Pay close attention to places where water is mentioned. In what
settings does it appear? What about fresh water versus salt
water--which is better? Is there water in heaven? What is Milton
doing with H2O in this poem?
- Try to construct an outline of the poem.
- How does time work in the poem? What temporal references does it
include? What is the timeframe here?
- What criticisms does Milton level against death and the clergy?
Why is Milton thinking about his own death?
- At lines 115 and 118, how does Milton allude to scripture? See
John 10:1 and Matthew 22:8.
- What does the phrase "Blind mouths!" suggest about the clergy?
- What do you make of "that two-handed engine" at line 130? What
might it be?
- What do Alpheus and Arethusa signify?
Milton's Paradise Lost
- Invocation, 1-47:
- What is the tone here? How is it different from the
tone in Book 1's invocation?
- What does Milton say about his blindness? About
- Adam and Eve's quarrel, 205-385:
- Why does Eve want to "divide [their] labors" at line
214? If you really want to be high tech, have a look at Milton's Areopagitica, which Eve paraphrases in her argument. The key statement
is "I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue."
See the point of work at 4.325ff.
- What words are ominous between 248 and 385?
- Satan, 500ff.:
- What is up with Hermione and Cadmus?
- What kind of imagery is Milton using to describe
- Eve's fall, 385ff.; and Adam’s, 952-59:
- What are the temptations in lines 567-68?
- How does Satan get Eve to eat the apple?
- Why does Adam eat the apple?
- The Fall's results, 790-1131:
- In a nutshell, what do Adam and Eve say to each other?
- What happens to nature?
- In what instances do Donne's metrics make his poems sound
- Can you find examples of how they are dramatic events?
- What paradoxes do you find in Sonnet 10 ("Batter my heart")? You
can also write an excellent paper about how this sonnet relates to Robert
Oppenheimer and the first nuclear test (a little bit of research will be
- How are Donne's poems anti-Petrarchan?
- What conceits (extended metaphors) do you find in Donne's poems?
The best one is in "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning."
- Re. "The Good Morrow": How do the three stanzas correspond to
past, present, and future?
- Find examples of how Donne sees the world in small things.
- How does the structure of the sonnets reinforce their meaning?
Note: They are Petrarchan/Italian sonnets.
- What mixture of sacred and secular elements do you find in Donne's
poems? "The Relic" is probably the best example.
- Paraphrase "The Flea."
Swift's "A Modest Proposal"
- Who is the speaker of this "proposal"? Is it Swift? Or is it a
character he invents? What aspects of the speaker's character emerge?
- To what audience does the proposal seem to be addressed?
- To what "previous proposals" does the speaker refer?
- What is the "modest proposal," exactly?
- What advantages and disadvantages to the proposal emerge?
- Near the end, what other proposals for solving the "Irish problem" does
the speaker mention in passing? Are these sound? Why have they been
- Where does Swift seem, in this piece, to lay the blame for Ireland's
- What problem(s) is Swift criticizing?
- How does this essay work as satire?
- How does Pope mock the epic tradition?
- What is the function of Ariel, the sylphs, and the
- What's going on in the card game?
- What does the language at I.121-48 suggest about
- How is chastity portrayed?
- What is the poet saying about virtue and especially
about the way it gets trivialized?
- Do you find any allusions to Paradise Lost?
- What do Thalestris and Clarissa represent? What do
they say in their respective speeches?
Swift's Gulliver's Travels
- Where do you think Gulliver falls on a continuum
between Yahoo (total passion) and Houyhnhnm (total reason)?
- One would think that the Houyhnhnms are an ideal
worthy of emulation. Is that true or not? In what ways are they less than
- What does Gulliver do with his realization? Think, in
particular, about his relationship with Pedro de Mendez and his reactions
once he arrives home.
- To what extent may Gulliver's problem be that he
cannot distinguish between surface and depth?
- How does the concept of Contraries (page 35, plate 3) illuminate Blake's
- How do the introduction poems differ from each other? What other
pairs of poems can you identify--one from each part of Blake's book?
- What is "The Sick Rose" about?
- Re. "London," various questions are possible: What things in the
first two stanzas suggest restriction or control? What things relate
to blackness? What do "blast" and "blight" mean? What parallels
are there? Why "hearse"? What role does prostitution play in
this poem? How are contraries at work here? What is the poem's
Wordsworth's "Preface to Lyrical Ballads"
- What is poetry's subject?
- What is poetry's purpose?
- What is poetry's objective?
- What kind of language should poetry use?
- What is a poet?
- How did WW compose his poems
- What is the nature of poetry?
- What is WW critical of?
Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey"
- What is the poem's main subject?
- What connections are there between WW's "Preface" and "TA"?
- What situation does the poet describe in lines 1-22? What
impression do these lines create?
- What has WW gained from his experience with nature here? See
especially lines 23-49.
- Regarding lines 49-57, compare what WW says to his poem "The World Is
Too Much With Us" on page 174.
- In lines 58-111, what temporal divisions are present?
- Why is Dorothy, WW's sister, in the poem? What does WW want her to
do for herself and for him?
Wordsworth's The Prelude
- What features of the epic does this poem have?
- What is the "correspondent breeze"?
- What difficulty do the first few pages report on?
- What does WW consider as possible subjects for his poem?
- Find references to the same stages of cognitive development that WW
describes in "Tintern Abbey."
- What are "spots of time"? Identify and comment on the nature of
the two "spots" that follow on pages 223ff.
- Re. the stolen boat episode (a spot of time): What type of images
do you find here, and what sort of reading of this episode emerges?
- In Biographia Literaria, What does Coleridge say about the
following: two sorts of poems, "the willing suspension of disbelief,"
the characteristics of poetry, and the nature of the imagination.
- What are the primary imagination and the secondary imagination? To
what things in WW do they relate?
- How is "Frost at Midnight" organized? How does the image of frost
illustrate what Coleridge says about the imagination?
- How does "Kubla Khan" illustrate Coleridge's notion of the secondary
imagination? What "opposite and discordant qualities" are synthesized
- Why does the Ancient Mariner kill the albatross? See page 241,
line 82. Consider Col's phrase in reference to Shakespeare's Iago in
- What does killing the albatross signify?
- How is the A.M. redeemed? See line 286. What does he realize
here? See Blake: "Everything that lives is holy."
- What does the A.M.'s glittering eye suggest?
- Why is the church an appropriate setting? Why does the A.M. speak
to a wedding guest?
- What is the moral of the poem? See especially lines 612-17.
See "The Eolian Harp' on page 237, lines 26-31 for a similar statement.
- Why is the wedding guest sadder but wiser (last stanza)? See
Ecclesiastes 1:18 for a possible connection: "For in much wisdom is
much vexation, / and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow."
does the poem relate to Dante's Inferno, Canto 26?
2.How does the
poem relate to Milton's Paradise Lost, I.105-09?
3.In what way is
Ulysses a typical Victorian man?
Achilles and Telemachos parallel to Tennyson's late friend Arthur
5.Do you view
Ulysses as positive, negative, or some combination of both?
6.How do you
read the lines "Yet all experience is an arch where through / Gleams
that untravelled world, whose margin fades / For ever and for ever
when I move"? Is this an image of purposeful imagination or of
the dramatic situation in the poem? What is happening?
2.What do we
know about the duchess?
3.What is the
overall structure of the poem? In other words, how might you divide
it into sections.
4.What does the
poem say about art?
things reinforce the meaning of the poem?
8.Why does the
duke conclude with the image of Neptune taming a seahorse?
9.How is "My
Last Duchess" parallel to "Porphyria's Lover"?
the poem's setting?
Arnold say about the sea?
3.How does he
connect the sea at Dover to the Sea of Faith?
this poem, what is the solution to alienation?
Beach" similar or different from the following poem by Yeats?
6.How is "Dover
Beach" similar to "Tintern Abbey"?
Beach" a Greater Romantic Lyric?
8.In "The Dover
Bitch," what is the speaker's criticism of Arnold? Is it a fair
- What is the relationship between Arnold's poem and the following one
The Nineteenth Century and After
Though the great song return no more
There's keen delight in what we have:
The rattle of pebbles on the shore
Under the receding wave.
- What do "Tintern Abbey" and "Dover Beach" have in common?
- How does Mill view human nature?
- According to Mill, what is the source of personal happiness?
- What does he realize about reason and emotion? How does he change?
- What is the role of Marmontel's Memoirs in Mill's life?
- What does Mill suggest about balance in one's life?
- What connections can you make between Mill's Autobiography and
WW's "The World Is Too Much with Us"?
- Does Mill endorse WW's poetic theory? See page 892.
- Does Mill favor the liberal arts?
- What types of utility are mentioned?
- What type of education does Newman favor?
Mill's "On Liberty"
- What does Mill favor?
- What does he condemn?
- What does he think about governmental interference?
to women appear on 1623, 1624, 1626, 1630, 1655, 1665, 1671, and
1675ff. Do you agree with Johanna M. Smith that "the whole of his
[Marlow's] story is seen to be a manful effort to shore up
imperialism through patriarchy, through the nineteenth-century
ideology of separate spheres"? (The quotation is from her essay
"'Too Beautiful Altogether': Patriarchal Ideology in Heart of
Marlow, how does one overcome darkness?
3.What do you
make of Kurtz's report on 1656-57?
4.What does the
presence of the Russian add in section III (1658ff.)?
5.What do you
make of "The horror!" on 1672? What does Kurtz mean? Is Marlow
right to call it "a moral victory“ on 1673?
6.Marlow lies to
Kurtz's fiancée, the Intended. What do you make of this?
Marlow learned from his experience?
- What is Eliot's point on page 2014 in the par. that starts, "Yet if the
only form of tradition..."?
- What happens in this poem? In the literal sense, what does
- What allusions did you notice in the poem? Think, in particular,
about Dante, Lazarus, Michelangelo, and Hamlet.
- Why is the epigraph appropriate? What connection can you make
between Guido and Lazarus (line 94)?"
- Regarding the first stanza: To whom is P referring when he says
"you and I"? What kind of associations do you have with "a patient
etherised upon a table"? What is P doing here? What is P's
problem here? How is this a love song gone wrong? How does the
poetry act out its meaning?
- What things in the poem suggest that P's problem involves the conflict
between energy and restraint? Which wins?
- "The Lake Isle of Innisfree": What do we know about the speaker?
Do you hear echoes of WW here? Of Thoreau? What about the Bible?
What does the poem say about time?
- "The Song of Wandering Aengus": What Romantic poems lie in the
- "Among School Children," "Sailing to Byzantium," "The Wild Swans at
Coole": What does Yeats have to say about mortality?
- What examples of "antinomies" do you find in Yeats's poems, especially
in "Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop"?
- What is the moral of "Crazy Jane"?
- How does "Leda and the Swan" enact or act out its meaning? Do you
see any antinomies here? What kind of poem is this? What marks
the major break in the poem? What creates a sense of violence and
motion? What is the relationship between the poem and classical myth?
What is the answer to the final question?
- How does "The Magi" differ from Eliot's "The Journey of the Magi"?
- "The Second Coming": What is the key image here? What is
"Spiritus Mundi"? What connection might there be to WWI?
- See the separate handout of questions on A Room of One's Own.
- How does Krapp's Last Tape illustrate the characteristics of the
- Are there comic elements in this play?
- From a technical standpoint, does Beckett's use of the tape recorder
make good sense?
- Is the play's vision of human life totally bleak?
- The final paragraph ("Here I end this reel") can be spoken by either
Krapp or the tape. What difference would it make if the statement were
- Can you make connections to the Camus piece in the HMXP anthology?
- Is Krapp's situation tragic or pathetic? If it is merely pathetic,
might the play still be tragic from the audience's point of view?
Consider Arthur Miller's claim that tragedy "brings us [the audience] not
only sadness, sympathy, identification and even fear; it also, unlike
pathos, brings us knowledge or enlightenment."