Topics for the essay (25%)

ENGL 262 (Fall 2014)

The questions below are general prompts; your essay should take one of these and narrow it considerably in order to ensure that your thesis is specific and defensible using textual evidence. If you prefer, you may write on a topic of your own devising, but for this you must have permission from your TA.

Evaluation will be based on clarity and persuasiveness of the argument; on effective use of textual evidence to support that argument; on the quality of the writing; and on originality and insight. Referencing: You are encouraged to use reference works (dictionary, encyclopedia, etc), which must be cited if used, but you are neither required nor permitted to use secondary critical literature. As in any literature essay, you should be quoting from and correctly citing the primary texts you are writing about.

Deadline: November 19, 2014


  • Length should be between about 5 and 6 pages;
  • Font must be 12-pt Times New Roman;
  • Lines must be double-spaced;
  • Double-sided printing is acceptable;
  • References must conform to MLA style.

Note on essay-writing: see the links on the Writing Resources page, particularly “Papers, Expectations, Guidelines, Advice and Grading.”

1. Discuss how one or two authors question or subvert notions of gender and gender roles.

2. Compare how two authors depict sexuality and sexual behaviour, and explain the differences and similarities.

3. Discuss how one or two works treat the concept and practice of authority.

4. There are similarities between Pope’s “great chain” and Darwin’s “tree of life,” but the two metaphors reflect radically different visions of Nature. Based on any two works covered this term, discuss the concepts and representations of fixity and development.

5. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Wollstonecraft hopes to “trace what we should endeavour to make them [women’s manners] in order to co-operate … with the supreme Being” (BABL 106). With reference to either Milton or Pope, discuss how and why Wollstonecraft focuses on cooperating rather than justifying or vindicating God’s ways.

6. In Frankenstein, the Monster’s sense of self is based on his reading of Paradise Lost Books I (the fall of the rebel angels) and VIII (the creation of Adam). Is the Monster more like Satan or more like Adam? Support your argument with evidence from the novel.

7. Discuss redemption is represented in two different works.

8. Discuss representations of the everyday in two works.

9. Discuss the relationship between the individual and community in one work.

10. Is rebellion heroic or evil? Answer this question focussing on one work.

11. Discuss the relation between faith and knowledge (or doubt) in Paradise Lost and one other work.

12. Discuss and compare the representation of female characters in any two poems or novels covered in this course. (You may relate this representation to Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication, but the essay should focus on the poem or novel.)

13. Compare the role and representation of the natural world in two of the following works: Robinson Crusoe, Frankenstein, The Origin of Species and Silas Marner.

14. Focusing on one poem, discuss the relationship between form and content.

15. Discuss the appeal of the past or former times in any one or two

16. Discuss the attitude toward love in any two works.

17. Compare how two authors adapt or subvert the conventions of the epic or the sonnet.

18. Paying close attention to one poem, discuss how the poem reflects or contradicts the main ideals associated with its period. For example, you might read Essay on Man in relation to Neo-Classicism, a poem by Keats in relation to Romanticism, or a poem by Meredith in relation to Victorianism.

19. Discuss the Romantic hero in both Paradise Lost and one of the poems by Coleridge, Byron, Percy Shelley, Tennyson and Arnold. Alternatively, you could examine the Romantic hero in relation to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in Walter Pater’s “Conclusion” or in Oscar Wilde’s Decay of Lying.

20. Discuss agency and power in Aphra Behn’s  “The Disappointment” and Christina Rossetti’s “In an Artist’s Studio.”
21. Discuss travels away from England in one of the works we read. What functions do other places and peoples play in the work?


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