Renoir Young Girl Reading

There are no Discussion Questions due for this week, as you have a paper due. However, if you have comments on the reading, as always, feel free to post a message to the board. I've provided discussion questions below, if you would like guidance for the Modernist fiction and Stoppard's play.

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

Discussion Board


Woolf Link
Joyce Link
Lawrence Link
Auden Link
Thomas Link

  1. One of the complaints people frequently make about Modern fiction is that nothing happens in it. Do you think this is a valid criticism of the three stories we read (Woolf's "The Mark on the Wall," Lawrence's "The Horse Dealer's Daughter," and Joyce's "The Dead")?
  2. Dylan Thomas, in "Fern Hill," is reminiscing about his youth, just as Wordsworth often does. Is "Fern Hill" a Romantic poem, then?
  3. Now that you've read a bit of Romantic, Victorian, and Modern literature, which, personally, do you prefer? Why?
  4. In Woolf's "The Mark on the Wall," how does the narrator use specific, concrete details as an aid to her memory?
  5. How does the narrator let you know her memory may be flawed? Why is this important?
  6. How does the narrator let you know that her imagination colors what she thinks and sees? Why is this important?
  7. How are human relationships presented in this story?
  8. She says, "...what an accidental affair this living is after all our civilisation..." What does she mean? How is the mark on the wall symbolic of that idea?
  9. Why does she not just get up to see what the mark is?
  10. Why does the narrator list all the things she has lost?
  11. What does the narrator imagine about the afterlife?
  12. She says she wants to "sink deeper and deeper, away from the surface..." What does she mean? Why does she want this?
  13. What does she say about how one likes to think of oneself, and how one protects one's own image in one's mind?
  14. What, according to the narrator, would happen if that image were smashed? Of what value, then, is the image?
  15. What does the narrator say about the rules that used to exist? What was their value? What now takes their place? What does she say about freedom?
  16. Why does the narrator keep evoking the past?
  17. When she says, "No, no, nothing is proved, nothing is known," what does she mean?
  18. What does she say about knowledge? How does knowledge compare with imagination?
  19. Why does she say, "Wood is a pleasant thing to think about"?
  20. She says, "Everything's moving, falling, slipping, vanishing...There is a vast upheaval of matter." To what is she referring?
  21. What does the mark on the wall turn out to be?
  22. Why are the characters in this story never named?
  23. In Joyce's "The Dead," how does Lily upset Gabriel at the beginning of the evening? Why does such a small remark upset him so much?
  24. How, in "The Dead," does the reality of what people are thinking and feeling conflict with the images they portray to others?
  25. How does Joyce emphasize the gulf between the social milieu of the people in the story and their internal thoughts and feelings?
  26. Why does Joyce choose to make the party in his story so old-fashioned?
  27. Of what does Miss Ivors accuse Gabriel? How does this surprise and offend him?
  28. What does Gabriel think of saying in his speech? Why does he think of saying it?
  29. What do his aunts represent, symbolically, in the story? What does Miss Ivors represent?
  30. What does Gabriel say about tradition and the new generation in his speech?
  31. When Gabriel is standing in the hallway, looking up the stairs at his wife, what does he see and feel? Why is he suddenly so happy?
  32. What does he imagine it will be like when they get home?
  33. Is Gretta thinking the same things?
  34. Who is the person Gretta is thinking of? Why does this make Gabriel so angry?
  35. Why does Gretta think that Michael Furey died for love of her? Did he?
  36. How does Gabriel's mood change after Gretta goes to sleep? What sort of kinship does he feel with Michael Furey?
  37. In "The Horse Dealer's Daughter," how does Lawrence equate each of the characters with animals?
  38. What is each of the brothers going to do with his life, now that their business has been taken away? What is Mabel going to do?
  39. Why does the doctor come to their house at the beginning of the story? How does the doctor feel about Mabel at this point?
  40. Why has Mabel decided to kill herself?
  41. Why does she enjoy tending to her mother's grave?
  42. How do the doctor's feelings about Mabel change when he sees her at her mother's grave?
  43. Why does Dr. Ferguson save her?
  44. Why does the relationship between them alter? Why does it alter in this way? Why is he so attracted to her?
  45. Why does she say she loves him? How does it affect him when she does this?
  46. What are his feelings for her by the end of the story? How does she feel?
  47. What picture of human relationships does Lawrence seem to be painting in this story?
  48. In "Musee des Beaux Arts," what is Auden saying about human suffering?
  49. Why does he choose Breughel's Icarus as his example?
  50. What is he saying about isolation in this poem? About the significance of individual lives?
  51. In "Fern Hill," what is Dylan Thomas saying about youth and age? About innocence and wisdom?
  52. How does he portray his memory of his youth? What imagery and form does he use to emphasize those feelings?
  53. How does he feel about his youth now?
  54. When he says, "Time held me green and dying / Though I sang in my chains like the sea" what does he mean? What does he know now that makes that time of his youth even more precious?

Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Link

1. Critic John Simon says that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern "tend to overlap and blur," and sees that as a deficiency in the play. Do you agree?
2. In the traditional theater of the absurd, it is impossible to feel any real sympathy for the characters. In your experience, is that the case with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead?
3. When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern finally read the letter in Act 3, and find out their fate, how do they react? Is there any nobility in their actions?
4. In the traditional theater of the absurd, wrong and right are often nonexistent. Is that the case in this play?
5. In this play, is the action "off-stage"--i.e., the actions of Hamlet and the King and the other characters--more important than the "action" onstage?
6. How does Stoppard give Hamlet an appearance of absurdity?
7. There are two varieties of absurdity:

Where do you see each of these in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead?
8. There are two views of death: the traditional tragic view, where there is a reason for sadness, and the absurdist view, in which a human being simply fades away. Which do you see in this play?
9. During the coin-toss game at the beginning of the play, Guildenstern details a number of logical arguments and syllogisms. Why does he do this? Do they help either of the characters make any sense of what's going on?
10. Why are the characters so often unable to remember what happened to them earlier?
11. What is the point of the "unicorn" story Guildenstern tells?
12. What do the Tragedians do for a living? How does the Player help to underscore the themes of the play?
13. What role does Alfred play? How does his character help to reflect the themes of the play?
14. How does Guildenstern treat Alfred? Are we, as the audience, supposed to have any sympathy for Alfred?
15. Why are the characters so often lost?
16. Do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern love each other?
17. Why does Rosencrantz so often forget his name?
18. Why does Hamlet confuse the two of them?
19. In Act 2, the Player upbraids Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for leaving before their performance was over. Why is he so upset? How does his speech, and his later conversation with Guildenstern, sum up the principles of absurdism?
20. In Act 2, what do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern say about death?
21. According the the Player, what is the "dumbshow" for, in Act 2? What is any drama for? And why does death not seem real in the drama?
22. Do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern die in the end?