English 43 Paper Assignment 1

Due Friday the 16th at the start of class, via Canvas.

Bring a full draft of the paper Wednesday, February 14 for peer review and feedback.

Please write a thesis-driven paper of at least 5 pages (double-spaced) on one of the following topics:

1. Different Reading Experiences for Different Kinds of Text. The selections we have read represent a wide variety of reading experiences. Blake's poem was lavishly illustrated, hand-printed, and released in a very limited edition. More's tract was printed in huge numbers on cheap paper and sold for a half penny on the street corners. Bellamy's play was performed (not "read") in a respectable theater by celebrity actors. William Wordsworth's Prelude was not published, but handwritten for his friend Coleridge. Byron's poem was popular and made him an international superstar. Percy Shelley wrote serious, intellectual poetry. Frankenstein was a gothic novel, enjoyed as a guilty pleasure.

How is our understanding of the meaning of a work of literature influenced by the form that we experience the text in? Compare and contrast two or three of the texts we have studied that initially appeared in different forms. How do these different forms change the way you read/interpret/experience the text?

2. British Romantic Literature and the Expanding Frontier. Consider the way some of the authors we have studied so far have valued freedom and the transgression of boundaries. The poetic "spirit of the age" seemed young and expansive and full of new possibilities. Of course, this spirit of expansion went well beyond poetry--colonialism was expanding the bounds of the British nation, the industrial revolution and capitalism had pushed the economy into unprecedented levels of self-sustained growth, and science was pushing at the boundaries of nature and religion. However, expansion and freedom usually come at a cost--sometimes a very real cost in human lives.

Consider how the theme of unfettered expansion plays out in two or three of the authors we have studied. You might want to contrast an author who celebrates colonial expansion with one who offers more of a cautionary tale. You might want to consider authors who are harder to pin down. (Hannah More, for example, is against colonial expansion in the form of slavery, but all for it in the form of religious conversion.)

3. Romantic Attitudes Toward Nature. The natural world was dangerous (Coleridge and Mary Shelley) and motherly (Wordsworth). It was endowed with human sympathy (Mary Prince) and totally alien and a-human (Byron). It was orderly (Hemans), domesticated (Barbauld), and totally bizarre (Blake). Romantic writers used nature, and their perceptions of nature, as a way of exploring humans' place and purpose in the world.

Consider how nature is used by two or three of the authors we have studied to make a statement about the place and purpose of humans in the natural world.

4. Your Own Topic. I invite you to develop your own topic for this paper, especially if you want to explore something that is not covered by the topics above. You must check with me before you do this though, and I will need to approve your topic. If you want to do your own topic, let me know by the 18th at the latest.