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ENG 347: 20th Century British Literature: Suggested Topics 1-10

Professor's Suggested topics:

Course texts:

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. 1902.

Eliot, T.S. "The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock." 1917.

Eliot, T.S. Murder in the Cathedral. 1935.

Eliot, T.S. "Tradition and the Individual Talent." 1919.

Eliot, T.S. "The Waste Land." 1922.

Forster, E.M. A Passage To India. 1924.

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. 1916.

Longman Anthology of British Literature Vol. 2C: The Twentieth Century. 4th Edition.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs Dalloway. 1925.

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. (1929)

NB you don’t have to use any of these topics! They are just to help get the juices flowing. And, of course, you may choose to write on one of the texts we haven’t yet reached in the course.

1. Defend Conrad’s Heart of Darkness against charges of racism.

2. Consider The Waste Land, as a parodic rewriting of traditional western myth.

3.  The critic Richard Ellmann writes, "The archetypal scene in a Hardy poem is a man meditating on his losses, surrounded by ghosts of what he has loved or hoped for, preserving his identity in a friendless landscape only by the momentary intensity of his feeling."  Consider Hardy as a poet who is energized by a sense of loss.

4. “The mind has an old groveling fear of the body and the body’s potencies. It is the mind we have to liberate, to civilize on these points” (D.H. Lawrence). How does Lawrence’s writing set about achieving this end?

5. Consider Yeats as a “symbolist” poet. In what different ways does symbol function in his poetry?

6. Look at Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in terms of the questioning of race, religion, and/or personal identity.

7. What happens to the traditional journey or quest motif, in modernist literature, and why? Focus particularly on A Passage to India.

8. Consider the notion of “impersonality” in the poetry of Eliot and Yeats. What does this notion contribute to their poetry? Does it ever seem unhelpful?

9. Look at the issue of “gender politics” in one of the texts we are studying, e.g. Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own.

10. Consider how Conrad makes use of the symbol of the river in Heart of Darkness.

N.B. Writing a” research paper” in English usually means researching what other critics have said about your text;  it will  also involve finding out about the historical and cultural background to the text.  You need, then, to read several critical articles, preferably ones that have different opinions, and then come up with your own thesis in response to them. You can agree with one or all of them, or disagree with one or all of them, but you should be able to show from your textual analysis and critical reading why your own perspective seems to you preferable.

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