CRITICAL WRITING RESPONSE #1 PROMPTS
1.      It is possible to look at Whitman and Dickinson as opposites in several ways – the prosody and word choices that each poet prefers, and also the idea of who the poet is, whom he or she is speaking to or for, and where a poem or a set or cycle of poems needs to go. What about similarities between Whitman and Dickinson? Can you find Dickinson poems that seem Whitmanesque in mood or theme? In rhetorical daring? What do they have in common?
2.      Discuss Whitman’s poetry as a culmination in the development of American identity. How does Whitman contribute to the ongoing evolution of self-reliance? Of human freedom? Of concepts of democracy? Discuss two or three of Whitman’s poems and how they fit in with the image of Whitman as America’s poet and the vision he held for the changing America of his time.
3.      In two of her poems about grief, Dickinson hints at the possibility of a greater truth coming from sadness. In “There’s a certain slant of light,” she writes that the “Heavenly Hurt” gives us “internal difference/ where the meanings are.” In “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain –”, she writes that it seems “That Sense was breaking through –” Read these two poems together. What kinds of “sense” or “meaning” might she be suggesting?
4.      Much of the humor in Mark Twain’s “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” comes from Twain’s use of situational irony. Explain how his use of elements like exaggeration, vernacular, humor, and/or irony serve to express a critique of society and the class system of Twain’s time.
5.      Explain how Kate Chopin uses symbolism and imagery to underscore the themes and meanings in “Desiree’s Bab
y.” For example, her use of lightness/darkness, color, and elements like fire and water build character development and also add to descriptions of emotional intensity. Discuss some of the symbols or images Chopin uses and how they impact readers’ understandings of the text.
6.      Do a close reading of the female protagonists in Kate Chopin’s “The Storm,” “The Story of an Hour,” and “Desiree’s Baby.” Calixta, Louise, and Desiree – are these distinct women with their own personalities, attributes, and characteristics, or are they basically versions of the same woman? Does Chopin write about unique individuals in each of her stories, or is her goal to identify the common concerns of women of the author’s day? What constitutes a more effective social critique, a writer who values her characters as individuals, or a writer who uses her characters to explore the structures of inequality at work in the world?
7.      Write an essay in which you argue for a particular symbolic interpretation of the wallpaper in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-paper.” As you develop your thesis, pay attention to the narrator’s vivid descriptions of the paper’s pattern and to her changing ideas about and attitudes toward the paper.
8.      How would you describe the setting in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”? How and why is the setting significant? Compare “internal” (female) and “external” (male) spaces in the story. What is Gilman saying about each as places for both women and men to live?Discuss the metaphor of the window in relationship to “getting out.”
9.      Discuss any of the authors we have read so far and their texts in light of what you know (and information you can get from the documents posted in our course) about realism, naturalism, and/or regionalism. Do a close reading of two or more texts and discuss how they fit into one or more of those categories.  NOTE: Do NOT discuss Twain, Chopin, and Local Color for this paper, since you cannot get credit for simply rehashing information that has already been discussed on the discussion board. The Critical Response Writings need to show your independent thinking and original insights into the texts under discussion.

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