Literary Masterpieces Questions Worksheet

ENG/106 Survey of Literary Masterpieces Assignment Worksheet

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Answers must be at least words in length, and grounded with the citing/referencing of at least one relevant and credible source according to APA standards.

1. Beowulf is another epic poem, such as the Iliad. How does Beowulf compare as a hero to the heroes of this earlier epic? To be specific, what qualities do you think make him heroic, and what qualities made earlier heroes heroic?

2. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an explicitly Christian tale, but it starts by tracing Arthur’s lineage back to Rome and Troy. Why might a writer trace a character’s linage, and what effect does it have on you, the reader?

3. Dante is a committed Christian, but in his epic poem, the Divine Comedy, he chooses Virgil to guide him through the early stages of his spiritual journey. What does this paradigm suggest about the relationship between Christian and pre-Christian literature? Provide examples to support your response.

4. Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” might be considered bawdy, even crude. In what way does this work deserve the title of literature? Of a masterpiece? Do you think its raciness helped to make it a masterpiece? Provide examples to support your opinion.

5. Petrarch and Shakespeare both wrote about individual love in their sonnets. How do their representations of love differ from earlier representations—from Dante’s evocation of Beatrice, for example? Petrarch and Shakespeare are also known for, among other things, writing shorter, lyric poems rather than extended epics. What do you think are the reasons for this shift in form? Is there an historical reason? An effect? Provide examples from these works to support your response.

6. Renaissance means “rebirth” and refers to the reawakening of classical knowledge. What elements of Greek or Roman culture do these Renaissance works revive, and how do their authors change those elements? For example, how does Milton use elements of Classical culture for his Paradise Lost?  Provide examples from this or other Renaissance works to support your response.

7. Jonathan Swift was a satirist, using humor and sarcasm to skewer social practices he found undesirable. What specifically do you think he is objecting to in “A Modest Proposal”? How do Swift’s satirical techniques compare to other period satire, such as Voltaire’s? Select another period writer who uses satire, identify at least one way in which these writers use similar techniques, and relate these similarities to the content of their work. Do they use similar techniques because they have similar goals or beliefs? Provide examples from your reading to support your answer.

8. How do Keats’ lyrics differ from Shakespeare’s in the poetic techniques used? How do the differences in poetic technique relate to the differences in subject matter? Whose lyrics do you prefer? Why? Provide examples to support your response.

9. As a writer, Voltaire had serious political and philosophical goals. He also, however, incorporates a great deal of humor into Candide. How does the humor relate to any of his political or philosophical points?  Do you prefer this type of writing to others you have read in this class from earlier periods? Why or why not? 

10. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is another nested or framed narrative. It is told by a narrator about a story that someone   else—Marlow—tells. That story includes accounts told by other people, such as Kurtz. How does this layered structure affect the story? In particular, how does it relate to Conrad’s themes?

11. T. S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” refers back to figures from earlier literature (Hamlet, the Fool, and others) and history (Michelangelo, Lazarus, and so on). How does Eliot use the past differently from earlier writers? Do you think Eliot’s use of the past is effective? Why or why not? Provide examples to support your response.

12. Just as a path plays an essential role in Dante’s Divine Comedy, it plays one in “The Garden of Forking Paths” by Borges. However, Borges offers a different perspective on fate. What would you say this perspective is? Which of these two works do you prefer? Why?

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