Tuesday’s Schedule

March 9, 2008

So you can find the link to the side by side versions of the Declaration here. Also, in order to make the review session most valuable to you, I’d like to ask you to look over the syllabus and develop about five or six questions each so that I can address as many of your concerns as possible during the review.  I hope the writing is going well and that you are all enjoying a nice weekend.

See you Tue.


Discussion Questions for 2-19

February 16, 2008

Here are the questions for this week. I want us to begin thinking about how each of us reads and experiences a poem. After working though Swift and Montague, I’d like to begin meditating on poetic inspiration, imagination, innovation, and finally, feeling. In getting at these poems ask yourself, what, if anything, happens in the poem? Are there definable plots? What difference does it make if there is or isn’t? So, to the questions:

(1) What do poems like Gray’s Elegy or Akenside’s Pleasures ask of readers? That is, what is the point of the poem? What does it do? What kind of “work” do these poems suggest is the proper “work” of poetry? How is this different from the “work” of satire in Swift and Montague or Pope’s Rape?

(2) Ask yourself this, do you like a Pope poem better that Collins poem? Why? What does this imply about your assumptions about what a poem can or should be?

(3) If the universe is a “mystic tablet,” how does Barbauld read that text and what is its message? What kind of strange spatial dynamics characterize Barbauld’s “meditation”? How do those dynamics relate to the meditation form as opposed to say an ode (as song of praise or celebration)?

Until next week . . .


Discussion Questions for 2-12

February 8, 2008

Just a quick note about the readings for next week.  Since we moved the paper back to the 12th lets also push Swift’s Tale of a Tub to the back of the line for next week.  So we’ll be focusing on finishing Pope and then the satiric battle between Swift and Montague. Ok, the questions:

(1)  Pope originally wrote the poem to bring two families together again, a nice goodwill mission for a poet.  And clearly the poem involves several scenes of violence, granted its mock violence, but violence just the same.  So the question is, do you think that Pope’s final canto does a good job of discharging the violence that builds up through the arch of this poem?  Or do you feel that readers are somehow left holding the bag while gazing into the starry heavens?

(2) From the arming scence, to the jeweled cross, to the transformation of gold from necklace to bodkin pin, the poem is rife with ornaments.  There are commodities of empire, commodified world religions, reified faces for the faces you meet as T.S. Eliot might have put it. Is this poem a celebration or a critique of ornamentation?  What exactly is an ornament here and what purposes can and does it serve?  What about the poem itself–a highly wrought thing and possibly ornament itself.

(3) Satire is “the literary art of diminishing or derogating a subject by making it ridiculous and evoking toward it attitudes of amusement, contempt, scorn, or indignation … comedy evokes laughter mainly as an end in itself, while satire derides; that is, it uses laughter as a weapon, and against a butt that exists outside of the work itself   . . . [it] has usually been justified by those who practice it as a corrective of human vice or folly” (M. H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms).  Are we laughing at Swift’s description of a ladies dressing room? Is this really satire, if so, what is being satirized–woman, society, idealized love, men, poetic forms themselves?

I hope that’s enough to get the juices flowing–an apt metaphor when it comes to Swift. Good luck with the papers and I’ll see you all next Tue.


Discussion Questions for 2-5

February 1, 2008

(1) What kind of guy is Mr. Spectator, that is, read carefully his list of qualifications and ask yourself something like: what make this Mr. Spectator such a good spectator? Why should I trust him as an observer/reporter? How does what he’s doing in the coffee shops of London have to do (albeit anachronistically) with Kant’s public/private use of reason we discussed in the first weeks of the class? Who gets to play in the public sphere and what difference does it make?

(2) Read carefully the “arming” scene in Canto I. What do you make of the lists and items that make up Belinda’s dressing table? How do you read the confluence of instruments of beauty and imperial products? Is Pope slyly affirming or critiquing British commercial expansion? What other objects of conspicuous consumption inhabit Pope’s little world and what ornamental or other purpose do you see them serving?

(3) Respond to the end of Rape of Lock. What do you think about this ending to a story of violation and mock violence? In thinking about this question you might ask yourself what’s mock about this mock epic?


No Discussion Questions for Tomorrow

January 22, 2008

Well it appears that you will all be profiting from my unusually high level of insanity this week. So don’t worry about a response. However, if you’d like extra credit, or if you’re feeling a little nerdy, then ponder some of the following questions and post. Again, this is for fun, excitement, extra credit, or just cultural capital in the class. Alright, here we go:

(1) Think about Hobbes’s concept of life as “short, nasty and brutish” along with his idea of the social state of mankind as a “war of evey one against every one.” Are these the raving expressions of a man born with his twin Fear, or do his ideas find a certain resonance in the social climate of our late-capitalist economy? Are we still laboring under the war of all against all? Do we all just want Filmer’s “daddy” to save us from ourselves?

(2) What about Locke? Are there certain paradoxes in his treatise on civil government? What happens when you change Locke’s “life, liberty, and the pursuit of property” with Jefferson’s “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? Is property happiness? Is happiness property?

See you all on Tuesday!

P.S. I’d also like to post the cartoon that Manon referred to at the end of class. It is certainly apropos of the kinds of problems associated with Enlightenment epistemology and the status of New Media representations.



Discussion Questions for 1-15

January 12, 2008

1. In reading and interpreting Rochester’s poem, consider point of view. What difference does it make that the poetic voice is called a “Saytr”–that mythic half man/half beast? What interpretive advantage is gained when considering man from outside mankind? What is obscured by this same outsiders view?

2. How does Rochester dismantel the two major players in Enlightenment natural philosophy–theologians and philosophers? What significance does this fact have on your understanding of Outram’s presentation of the Enlightenment in Ch. 7 & 8?

3. Outram suggests that the nature of truth was under inquiry in the Enlightenment as much as the investigation of the external world.  In fact, the ideas that there was a separation between the subject (viewer) and the object (the natural world) is largely connected to Enlightenment epistemology. She writes, “The Scots philosopher David Hume contested the belief held by Descartes . . . that there was an easy way of guaranteeing the validity of any transition from the fragmentary and transient world our sense impressions reveal to us to the orderly and ‘lawful’ world described especially in teh physical sciences” (98).  How might this disturbance between what we see and what we know bear on reading aesthetic productions that purport to be representations of reality or real experiences? Are poems true? Are interpretations true? How might questions such as these relate to our contemporary engagement with representations of reality–poetry, painting, GUI’s, or virtual reality?


Hello English 102!

January 8, 2008

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