Renoir Young Girl Reading

Directions:

More details, with sample questions and answers, can be found on the Discussion Board itself, under the heading "Info on Discussion Questions." Please read this carefully so you know how to get the most points for the discussions.

We will be using the Canvas Discussion Board for this class. Click on the link below to get to the Canvas portal, sign in, and then click on the box for this class. You will find the "Discussions" link on the left side of the screen:

Discussion Board


Blake Link

Some critics feel that the Songs of Innocence are better crafted poetry than the Songs of Experience, because the satire in them is more subtle and thus more powerful than the outright anger in the Songs of Experience. Based on the poems we read, do you agree?

  1. In "The Chimney Sweeper" (Innocence), how does Blake evoke sympathy for the little chimney sweeper at the beginning of the poem?
  2. How does he increase your sympathy, both for the speaker and for Tom Dacre, in the second stanza?
  3. Why does Blake choose to end the third stanza with a reference to coffins? Why not include the Angel with the key in that stanza?
  4. How are the coffins symbolic in the poem?
  5. How are black and white used in the poem?
  6. How does the ending of the poem evoke even more sympathy for the chimney sweeps?
  7. What point(s) is Blake trying to make in this poem?
  8. In "Holy Thursday" (Innocence), how does Blake contrast the children and the adults in charge of them?
  9. What sort of imagery does he use to portray the innocence of the children?
  10. How is color used symbolically in this poem?
  11. What point is being made in the last line of the poem?
  12. In these poems, how does the singsong meter contribute to the satire?
  13. Why does Blake begin "Holy Thursday (Experience) with questions, instead of statements?
  14. In the second stanza, Blake refers to a "song"; who is singing?
  15. In the third stanza, Blake uses quite a bit of imagery, but very little specific detail about the daily lives of the poor children; why?
  16. What is the tone of the last stanza?
  17. Look at the meter of the poem; how does it compare to the meter of the Innocence "Holy Thursday"?
  18. How does Blake use color in "The Chimney Sweeper" (Experience)?
  19. The child in the Innocence version of the poem cries "'weep! 'weep! 'weep!" too; is that line used the same way in both poems?
  20. What is the tone of the last stanza of the poem?
  21. In general, what is Blake's attitude toward organized religion, as it is revealed in these poems?

Wordsworth Link

1. Some critics have argued that Wordsworth unrealistically idealizes childhood. Based on "Tintern Abbey" and "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," do you agree?

2. Critics disagree about the message of "Ode: Intimations of Immortality." Dean Sperry sees it as "Wordsworth's conscious farewell to his art, a dirge sung over his departing powers." Lionel Trilling disagrees; he believes that Wordsworth, who was 32, and a month away from his marriage to Mary Hutchinson in April 1802, when the poem was written, was in an optimistic mood. Trilling sees the poem as a dedication to new powers, about the value of felicity and order which nurtures vision and wisdom. What is your opinion on this issue?

Note: "Tintern Abbey" was composed at the end of a happy trip through Wales with Dorothy. "No poem of mine was composed under circumstances more pleasant for me to remember than this." He composed it, he says, in his head, recited it aloud, and wrote it down when he got to Bristol.

  1. The form of the poem is basically blank verse; but the rhythms are unpredictable. Why would Wordsworth choose to make the meter irregular in places?
  2. What tension or conflict is the speaker exploring in the poem?
  3. What specific ideas are opposed or contrasted in the poem?
  4. Does Wordsworth use contrast and opposition in the same way that Blake does?
  5. What role does Nature play in this poem? How is it a catalyst for the poet? How does it serve to heighten contrasts or teach lessons? What role does it play in evoking ideas and insights?
  6. What does the speaker feel he has lost as he has grown past childhood? What does he feel he has gained?
  7. At the end of the poem, he invokes Dorothy, his sister; why does he mention her? How does she serve as both a real, concrete person and as a metaphor?
    Note: "Ode: Intimations on Immortality" was composed in two phases. The first four stanzas were written during Wordsworth's time at Grasmere, in March 1802, and the rest was written in March 1804. In an 1815 letter to Catherine Cookson, Wordsworth says that the "Immortality" ode "rests entirely upon two recollections of childhood, one that of a splendour in the objects of sense which is passed away, and the other an indisposition to bend to the law of death as applying to our particular case." In other words, like most of us, Wordsworth couldn't imagine himself ever dying, even though he knew, rationally, that it happens to everyone.
    The "Immortality" ode inspired Coleridge's "Dejection: An Ode." It's interesting, if you have the time, to read both poems together and see how differently the two authors treated the same subject.
  8. Is the tone of the "Immortality" ode different from the tone in "Tintern Abbey"? If so, how?
  9. What oppositions or conflicts appear in the poem? How does the speaker set up those oppositions? Are they ever resolved?
  10. The poem is written as an irregular Pindaric ode; why are the meter and rhyme scheme so irregular? How does that lack of "neatness" complement the content of the poem?
  11. What role does Nature play in this poem?
  12. Some critics feel that the poem is complete after stanza 10, and that stanza 11 is unnecessary. Do you agree? If so, why? If not, what do you think it contributes to the poem?

Coleridge Link

1. In what ways do the Ancient Mariner and his journey in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" serve as a metaphor for any poet and the writing process?

2. Coleridge calls "Kubla Khan" a fragment; do you think it is really unfinished, or is Coleridge deliberately misleading the reader? Explain.

  1. What "Gothic" elements do you find in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"? (I.e., how are magic and horror mixed in the story the Mariner tells?)
  2. How do the natural and the supernatural overlap in the story?
  3. In a letter to his brother George, written in March 1798, Coleridge wrote, "I believe most steadfastly in original sin; that from our mothers' wombs our understandings are darkened; and even where our understandings are in the light, that our organization is depraved, and our volitions imperfect, and we sometimes see the good without wishing to attain it, and oftener wish it without the energy that wills and performs." Do you see this point of view in the poem?
  4. The Mariner never seems to give a reason for killing the bird; why do you think he did it?
  5. How is the Albatross, and the Mariner's killing of it, symbolic?
  6. How is the color "white" symbolic in the poem?
  7. What is the symbolic implication of the fact that the Mariner wears the Albatross around his neck?
  8. What is the symbolic significance of the fact that the Mariner is doomed to wander forever, telling and retelling his tale?
  9. What is the symbolic significance of the fact that he tells the tale to a wedding guest?
  10. Coleridge uses the traditional ballad form in this poem, but includes some irregularities in its rhyme and meter; how does this form complement the message and content of the poem?
  11. How does Coleridge's use of similes enhance the drama of the story?
    Note: The last lines of "Kubla Khan" allude to Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, specifically to the passage Dorothy Wordsworth had used to describe her first sight of Coleridge:
    The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
    Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
    And as imagination bodies forth
    The form of things unknown, the poet's pen
    Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
    A local habitation and a name.
  12. "Kubla Khan" is written mostly in lines of 4 stressed syllables, although the meter is irregular, as is its rhyme pattern. How does the form of the poem complement its content?
  13. The poem does not seem to tell a story or follow a logical progression. Does it have a logic of any sort which orders or shapes it?
  14. In "Kubla Khan," Coleridge uses a lot of repetition; why?
  15. What role does Nature play in the poem?
  16. The poem is full of allusions to travel literature of the time, and also alludes to the Book of Revelation. How do those allusions contribute to the content or message of the poem?
  17. Most of the descriptions of the landscape in the poem are inspired by the area between Coleridge's cottage and the Somerset coast. He merges the actual English landscape with exotic locations described in books. Why does he choose to merge the real and the imaginary?
  18. Many critics see this poem as a metaphor for artistic creation, as a vision of the inspired poet. What elements and lines allow them to interpret the poem in this way?
  19. How are opposites and contraries used in the poem?
  20. In "Frost at Midnight," Coleridge does not use the supernatural in nearly as dramatic a way as in his demonic poems; but how does he imbue the physical objects around him with a sense of the mysterious?
  21. How does Nature influence memory in the poem?

Byron Link

A number of critics feel that as a poet, Byron, although talented, is inferior to Wordsworth. They argue that even in his masterpiece, Don Juan, his gift is storytelling rather than illumination or insight, and that the style and depth of his lyric poems can't compare favorably with Wordsworth's. Do you agree? Explain.

  1. In "She Walks in Beauty," what rhyme scheme and meter are used? How does this style complement the subject matter of the poem?
  2. How does Byron use light and dark imagery in the poem?
  3. How does Byron use nature imagery in the poem?
  4. Is there any irony implied in the poem? If so, where?
  5. In "January 22nd. Missolonghi," what rhyme scheme and meter are used? How does this style complement the subject matter of the poem?
  6. How is nature imagery used in the poem?
  7. How are images of death and imprisonment used in the poem?
  8. What is the speaker's attitude toward death?
  9. What is the speaker's attitude toward the battle?
  10. What is the speaker's attitude toward love?
  11. In "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," what rhyme scheme and meter are used? How does this style complement the subject matter of the poem?
  12. In early Arthurian legends, the knight is a virtuous, brave hero. Is that the case with Childe Harold (at least, in Canto 1)?
  13. Why does Childe Harold choose to leave England?
  14. How does Byron use wit and humor in "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"?
  15. How does the style of Canto 3 differ from the style of Canto 1? Do you find it more or less effective?
  16. How has Childe Harold's attitude about himself changed from Canto 1?
  17. How is nature imagery used in Canto 3?
  18. Compare the ideas about aging and wisdom in Canto 3 with the ideas in Wordsworth's "Immortality" ode; how are they similar? How are they different?
  19. In what way is Childe Harold meant to be an analogy to the poet? (See stanza 6, especially.)
  20. What is this Canto saying about poetry, then? What is it saying about the poet? About the act of composition? About the purpose of poetry?
  21. What does line 72 ("And life's enchanted cup but sparkles near the brim") mean?
  22. Why does Byron choose to show Childe Harold at Waterloo?
  23. How do Byron's revolutionary views appear in this poem?
  24. Does Childe Harold seem to see any redemption or hope for himself or human beings in general?
  25. How does Switzerland affect Childe Harold?
  26. Why does Byron choose to end Canto 3 by speaking to his daughter? What is the effect of this approach on the reader?
  27. In Canto 1 of Don Juan, what is the narrator's attitude? How is the tone established?
  28. Don Juan contains a great deal of humor and wit; what purpose do they serve in this poem?
  29. How does Byron satirize the old chivalric heroes of legend?
  30. How does the style (rhyme scheme, meter) complement the subject matter of the poem?
  31. Who are the women in Don Juan's life? What are they like?
  32. What is Don Juan's education like? What is Byron implying about the ate of education in England? About British attitudes toward education and knowledge?
  33. Why, in stanzas 202 and 203, odes the narrator insist that his account is accurate?
  34. In stanzas 204-206 and 222, what is the speaker's attitude toward the other Romantic poets?
  35. In stanza 207, the speaker defends the morality of his work; is he serious or satiric?
  36. In stanzas 213-220, he laments the loss of his youth; is he serious or satiric? Do you hear any echoes here of Wordsworth's "Immortality" ode?

Shelley Link

A number of critics feel that Shelley's poetry appeals mostly to adolescents, because, as J. A. Symonds said, "...the larger bulk of his poetry is...immature." Others disagree. George M. Ridenour, for example, defends Shelley, arguing that it is the critics themselves who are at fault: "But what we call maturity often seems to be made up of equal parts of cowardice and exhaustion. We finally give up our own insistence that the world be a human world and then make fun of people who are still working at it. We tell them they are immature...One of Shelley's great values for us is a fine childlike intransigence, an unwillingness to settle quickly for less than what men really want." Based on the limited number of poems by Shelley that we have read in this class, which side of this argument appeals to you more?

  1. In "Mutability," what rhyme scheme and meter does Shelley choose? How does this style complement the subject matter of the poem?
  2. How does Shelley use dark and light imagery in the poem?
  3. How does Shelley use nature imagery in the poem?
  4. Is the tone of the poem happy? sad? melancholy? optimistic?
  5. According to the poem, how do one's memory, imagination, and perception affect events?
  6. According to the poem, how does the past influence the present?
  7. In line 13, Shelley says, "It is the same!" What is the same?
  8. In "Mont Blanc," how does Shelley establish, at the beginning of the poem, the relationship between material things and the mind?
  9. When Shelley says, " ...where from secret springs/The source of human thought its tribute brings/Of waters,--with a sound but half its own," what does he mean?
  10. What rhyme scheme and meter does Shelley choose for "Mont Blanc"? How does that style complement the subject matter of the poem?
  11. What purpose is served by the nature imagery in this poem?
  12. What is Mont Blanc's "power"?
  13. When Shelley looks on Mont Blanc, he does not see the work of God; in fact, the sight confirms his atheism. What lines tell you this?
  14. What is the relationship between the mountain and Shelley's imagination?
  15. When, at the end of the poem, Shelley refers to "The secret strength of things/Which governs thought..." what does he mean?
  16. What is the tone of the poem?

Keats Link

One of the most debated passages in English literature is the ending of "Ode on a Grecian Urn":
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,"--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
Some critics argue that Keats is being sarcastic; others argue that he really means that truth and beauty are synonymous. How do you interpret the poem's ending? And are truth and beauty synonymous?

  1. In "Ode to a Nightingale," what is the speaker's state of mind at the beginning of the poem? How does the song of the nightingale affect it?
  2. How is the speaker's imagination affected by the nightingale?
  3. How are sorrow and joy aligned in the poem?
  4. What other "opposites" does Keats use in the poem? How does he use oppositions to make his points?
  5. What does the speaker imagine is the difference between human life and the bird's life?
  6. What is the role of the poetic imagination ("Poesy") in the poem?
  7. How does imagery of color, light, and darkness function in the poem?
  8. What is the relationship between the material world and the imagination in this poem?
  9. Why does the speaker say, in line 55, "Now more than ever seems it rich to die"?
  10. When the speaker calls the bird "immortal," what does he mean?
  11. How, in this poem, are the material and the immortal related?
  12. What does the speaker mean when he asks, at the end, "Do I wake or sleep?"
  13. What are the rhyme scheme and meter of the poem? How does that style complement the subject matter of the poem?
  14. What are the rhyme scheme and meter of "Ode on a Grecian Urn"? How does that style complement the subject matter of the poem?
  15. What "opposites" does Keats use in this poem? How do the oppositions help him make his points?
  16. How, in this poem, does Keats explore the potential and the limitations of poetry and the poetic imagination?
  17. Why does the speaker ask so many questions in the poem, and then leave them unanswered?
  18. What does the speaker mean when he says, "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard/Are sweeter"?
  19. How is the inanimate nature of the urn both its weakness and its strength?
  20. How are time and immortality related in this poem?
  21. What is the relationship between sound and silence in this poem?