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ALTERNATE FINAL ESSAY TOPICS 2000
SHORTER ESSAY: Toward the end of this page
are the topics for the shorter Hoffmann essay assigned in 1999.
FINAL PROJECT: Write a six to eight page essay
- or compose a similarly sized project - on one of the following topics.
I have re-listed most of the topics that I suggested for the 1998 and 1999 versions of this course,
and you are welcome to use one of those. However, it is likely that some will wish to consider the topics on Jane Austen's Persuasion (topics
A, B, and C as listed below the numbered topics) or on De Quincey's writings.
Remember that, for the final essay or project, you may select your own
topic, but in that case
you should check with me if you need to make
an appointment for consultation. For those of you planning to
go to graduate or professional school, I advise the use of some collateral
books or essays: literary criticism, cultural studies, biography, letters,
or essays written in the Romantic Period. In your essay, try to balance
your in-depth analysis with scope of analysis. Several of you might elect
to have your essays, with images and sounds, placed on the Internet (even
if restricted to our Intranet).
1. The Height of Imagination in the Sublime
View and Vision: Chamounix Group -- Scenes of the Alps Mountains. Shelley's
"Ode on Mont Blanc," Turner's mountain paintings and watercolors, other
odes by Keats or Coleridge, Frankenstein sections, and so on.
2. The Myth of Self-Creation: Mary Shelley's
Frankenstein, Aeschylus Prometheus, Nietzsche's Thus Spake
3. Various critical approaches to the "contraries"
in William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In his prose
poem, Blake states, "Without Contraries is no Progression." Consider also,
in your essay, what Blake may wish us to progress towards.
4. Satanic Freedom: Romantic views of Satan
and Milton's Satan as the source. This study should include Frankenstein
and various Romantic notes and essays on Milton. (For someone who has read
a good amount of Paradise Lost.) Milton's Satan is not the consciously
created Satan imagined by the Romantics. How, then, is their analysis brilliant
though differing from Milton's intent and his accomplishment?
5. "The Opiate of the Imagination": De Quincey,
Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," Homer's "Lotus Eaters, " and so forth, possibly
Freud's cocaine papers. Meyer Abrams has written an introductory book on
6. Witches, Snakes, Women, and Imagination:
Variations on a Theme -- Homer's Circe, Christabel, Keats's "Lamia," Heinrich
Heine's "Lorelei," and Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter:
7. The Eternal Quest for Redemption: Coleridge's
"Rime of the Ancient Mariner"; the medieval Fisher King legends (Arthurian
Romance: Jessie Weston provides fine background concerning the myths and
legends. Eliot used her book in writing his Waste Land), T.S. Eliot's
Waste Land; the recent film, The Fisher King. This topic provides
occasion to contrast Modern and Romantic concepts of, or studies in, redemption.
8. The Romantic Artist as Hero: Shelley, Byron,
Berlioz (Symphony Fantastique and Lelio), Delacroix (French
painter, friend of Berlioz) or (more accessible) Turner. Richard Wagner's
life and many of his main heros also illustrate this theme. A Wagner opera
could be studies in relation to this course's main themes.
9. Turner's paintings (or water colors) as
painterly expressions of the Romantic Sublime. Compare with lyric poems
of Byron, Shelley, Coleridge. One possibility is Byron's Childe Harold
and Turner's depictions of its scenes. Incidentally, Berlioz's symphony,
Harold in Italy, is loosely based on Byron and strongly based on Berlioz's
own experiences in Italy.
10. Constable's landscapes as a painterly expression
akin to Wordsworth's philosophy of nature in the "Immortality Ode,."' early
sections of The Prelude, etc.
11. Women as creators and beholders of the
sublime vision: Mary Shelley and Dorothy Wordsworth: Frankenstein,
journals, letters, recent literary criticism and biographical analysis.
12. A study of Turner watercolors and/or paintings
at the British Art Center. Pick a theme or stylistic tendency in Turner
which offers a parallel to theme or style in Romantic literature we've
read or which you would like to read. Turner's Staffa, Fingal's Cave,is
one of the important paintings at the BAC. This topic needs a much finer
13. The Romantic Critical Imagination: Thomas
De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater (part One) looked
at for its understanding of and social criticism of drugs and other specific
aspects of early nineteenth-century British society. You may wish to read
in Siegmund Freud's Opium Papers for a comparative study of two fine minds,
one Romantic the other modern, thinking about drugs.
14. Analysis of the frozen imagery and related
themes in Franz Schubert's Die Winterreise (The Winter Journey),
composed in 1827, based on Wilhelm Muller's cycle of poems. No musical
knowledge needed. I can supply the CD or tape, and, if you wish, an analysis
of the original Muller poems.
15. De-Romanticizing Frankenstein: Consider
what Romantic concepts are lost in one or both film versions directed by
James Whale (1931) and Kenneth Branaugh (1995) respectively.
16. Frankenstein lives! -- a study of
modern short fiction based on Mary Shelley's novel.
17. Romantic Demon Figures: Victor/the Creature
(Frankenstein), Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights), General Tilney
(Northanger Abbey), Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre), Geraldine
18. Write the next chapter of Frankenstein,
imitating features of Mary Shelley's style, imagery, characterizations,
etc. In other words, assume that Volume Three did not end where actually
it does end. Then, analyze the details of what you have written, discussing
the techniques you have used in writing your chapter. Within this analysis,
you should discuss how your chapter connects with themes in Frankenstein
and with Mary Shelley's life, biographical details concerning her, P.B.
Shelley, or Byron. Views of select literary critics, or selections from
letters or journals might be used within your analysis.
19. Likewise, write a prose version
of the conclusion to "Christabel" or an addition to "Julian and Maddalo"
(an project similar to number 18).
20. Earlier we read Thomas De Quincey's essays
on Macbeth and on "Literature of Knowledge and Literature of Power."
Study the ways in which his Confessions of an English Opium Eater
embodies ideas discussed in those two essays. Included in your essay might
be a consideration of imagination and its manifestations or perversions.
21. An Internet Project: In addition to the
fact that any of your efforts might be placed on the Internet, this particular
project would involve placing images of Turner or Blake or other paintings
or water colors on the Internet, providing their credits, and writing short
paragraphs or essays on them, separately, and then as the work of one artist.
You would include a short biography of the artist, discuss his relationship
to writers and artists included in our course, and provide links to other
relevant Internet sites.
TOPICS ON JANE AUSTEN'S PERSUASION:
A. The social conventions and restrictions
of early nineteenth-century society were secure and yet are troubling to
the contemporary mind. The lime-tree prison enclosure of Coleridge's
poem, as a metaphor, may not be so far from the sweet security of the households
through which Jane Austen's young women move. Discuss Austen's critique,
in Persuasion, of social restraints women face.
B. Romanticism often presents prisons and castles
as infinitely fascinating puzzles and mazes through which young women need
to pass with safety. What similarities are there between these and other
forms of imprisonment within Jane Austen's society as depicted in Persuasion?
C. In all of Jane Austen's novels, marriage
is the inevitable promise for the woman, for the clear minded and intelligent
woman as well as for those less endowed with good sense. But is the
seemingly mild-mannered Jane Austen a subtly dark Romantic in seeing marriage
and human relations as a trap? Can Persuasion be read as a
Romantic critique of social conventionality and the restrictions it places
SHORT ESSAYS ON E.T.A. HOFFMANN'S TALES:
This short essay is due before the Thanksgiving
break, thereby leaving you with sufficient time to work towards your final
course essay or project.
I. E.T.A. Hoffmann as a Unique Romantic: Identify
first what are the Romantic elements in select tales by Hoffmann. Then,
establish what is unusual and unique in his tales, as set against some
of the other Romantic literature we have read this semester. In your essay,
you might consider Hoffmann's styles of narration, his characters, his
metaphors, his themes, and so forth.
II. The Mechanical Element in E.T.A. Hoffmann:
In addition to the character of Olympia in "Sandman," we find several uses
of the figure of "The double." In what ways do the mechanical woman and
the double provide similar critiques of human foibles? Study Hoffmann's
use of these figures as means to proble the darkness of the human mind,
and/or to provide social criticism.
III. E.T.A. Hoffmann as a Critical Romantic:
As imaginative as Hoffmann is, he provides a devastating critique of the
Romantic vision, and perhaps of imagination itself. How so?
* Please use MLA parenthetical format, which
you use in all composition and literature courses. The general feature
of parenthetical quotation are:
for prose: ..." (138-39).
for poetry: "as we went along
/ But sang a song of love" (ll. 178-80).
for drama: "as we left the gate" (I.iv.27).
For English majors who want it, the MLA Guide
is available for purchase in paperback. In addition, to understand format,
you can look at any PMLA essay in the QC library or in my office, where
I also have sample student essays in that format.
* Concerning documentation for electronic sources,
please visit the following site:
The Columbia Guide to Online Style by Janice R.
Walker and Todd Taylor
The Columbia Guide to Online Style by Janice R.
Walker and Todd Taylor (Columbia UP, 1998) presents a guide
to locating, translating, and using the elements of citation for both
a humanities style (i.e., MLA and Chicago) and a scientific style
(APA and CBE) for electronically-accessed sources. The unique
element approach used makes this a useful reference book for
citing electronic sources regardless of the specific bibliographic
style you may be required to use.
* Images on the Internet can be downloaded
onto a disk, and then inserted into Word or Word Perfect for integration
within your essays, or - generally with permission, as needed - placed
within your Web project. Images can also be scanned for use within a word
processor or other programs. Once more, educational use only and accurate
attributions must be observed.
* For those working at the British Art Center
(only during a weekday, remember), there is an art library that includes
the journals, Blake Studies and Turner Studies.
* I will appreciate it if those using the Internet
clue me in to good literature sites.
* In addition to the books on Turner and Blake
that are in my office, I own CD's and/or cassette tapes of the musical
works listed above. I'm delighted to loan them as well as various books
in my office that you may find relevant, challenging, indispensable, or
just plain fun.
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Last modified: 11/25/2000
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Emeritus Stephen A. Gottlieb