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Eng 233: Survey of British Literature 1

Fall 2003 Dr. Janet Wright Starner

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I promised to give you two of the three exam questions in advance so that you could work up some possible responses prior to the exam period. The first question is a general one that you can answer using all of your experiences in the classroom and outside of it. The second question will require a bit of poking about on the Norton web site in order to insure a complete respnse. The third question will be on Milton's Paradise Lost and will appear on the printed exam when you arrive on Monday at 1 pm.

Feel free to talk among yourselves on the web about possible answers to these prompts.

Stay warm and dry this weekend.

1) In the middle of the sixteenth century, Phillip Sidney wrote that "poesy"--by which he meant what we now call "literature"--is a "medicine of cherries." His notion that literature is good for your mind, in the way that vegetables are good for your body, is one that until very recently has been a common foundational assumption for those interested in promoting cultural literacy. But perhaps you sense a change in popular thinking about the value of literary study?

 

Write an essay that argues for the value of reading pre-nineteenth century English literature.  Begin by discussing your general sense of the value of reading itself, then go on to defend the reading of specific texts in a particular educational setting.  Support your claim with examples: What is the reason reading is considered to be important in an educational setting? What is it supposed to "do" to and "for" the student? What is its intrinsic value? If we decide to expose students to early English texts that are neither easily comprehended nor digested, what justification can be made for that pedagogical decision?  What goal should we assign the study of Literature?

 

2) While writers in every era have laid down rules for matrimony, ideas of what constitutes a good marriage have changed radically and continue to change. Compare the seventeenth-century beliefs about marriage that you have gleaned from the texts we have read, in addition to any of the other works collected on this site, with Chaucer's "Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale" (NAEL 1.253√81), a medieval work that was written much earlier.

 

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