ENG 350 Final Essay Questions

Three of the following five questions will be on the final. You will choose two of those and write an insightful, cohesive essay in response to each.  Be sure to have a clear thesis and support it with specific textual examples and careful analysis.

  1. “April is the cruellest month,” begins T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland.” While that may seem counterintuitive, it’s a sentiment shared by many of the authors we’ve read. William Carlos William’s “Spring and All” and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Spring” express a similarly harsh view of springtime, and Faulkner and Hurston both probe the connotations of innocence, purity, and rebirth contained in a blossoming pear tree. Drawing on Eliot’s poem and at lest two other texts, develop an argument that explains the apparent preoccupation modernist authors have with spring.
  2. Many of the novels and poems we’ve read exhibit a fractured or fragmented form, yet such disjuncture is used for differing effects. Compare and contrast the form of any two texts we’ve read, making an argument regarding the purpose such forms serve.
  3. Even in an increasingly secular society, the literary authors we’ve read continue to draw on religious or biblical rituals: communion, baptism, prayer, confession, icons. Some authors, like Cather, place these in the context of faithful religious communities, but other authors seem to evacuate these practices of their content. Drawing on at least three authors, consider how these rituals function in an increasingly pluralistic society.
  4. Are metanarratives oppressive or liberating? Cather’s priests and Faulkner’s Dilsey are examples of characters who faithfully embody a religious metanarrative, but the communist narrative in Steinbeck seems oppressive, and many characters in the other texts we’ve read can no longer believe in any universal story. Develop an argument that draws on at least three authors and explains the role of metanarratives.
  5. The “lost generation” left their home country in the wake of World War I (they were also, perhaps, motivated by Prohibition) and wandered through many countries and cultures, while authors like Anderson, Cather, Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Hurston turned to particular local communities in out-of-the-way places. Are these cosmopolitan and local orientations opposed, or do they stem from similar roots? Answer this question and describe their conflicting or similar origins with reference to at least three texts.