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334-Reading Assignment 3

Page history last edited by Eric Leonidas 4 years, 5 months ago

Reading Assignment 3


Question: Due Monday, May 2

Written Assignment: Due Wednesday, May 4

  • Length: 2-3 pp., with works cited and proper citation


Your third reading assignment is to be completed in preparation for our “roundtable” discussion, which will focus on the theme of redemption in our last two texts, The Changeling and Samson Agonistes


Question:  The first step is to write a discussion question.  This should be an open-ended question about whether, and how, we can consider an element in a text to be redemptive.  For example,

“In Ben Jonson’s Cary-Morison Ode, the speaker insists that we can be redeemed from the threat of (early) death by valuing our lives not by the number of years we exist but by the quality of ‘acts’ we accomplish: what sort of acts does the poem suggest make up a ‘full’ life?”


Written Assignment:  Basically, you will use Middleton and Rowley’s play, and another short text of your choice, or Milton’s play, also paired with another short text, and argue that these do or do not present something redemptive.  By “redemption,” I mean a recovery of what is lost, a recompense for suffering, or a general sense that something of value can be found or granted, whether in this world or the next.


Redemption can come literally in the sense of Christian salvation, but it can also come in the form of important knowledge (of the self, others, or the world); in meaningful expression; in a vision of social or political improvement; through invocation of “nature” or some other benevolent order; or in figures or ideas that run counter to the errors, sins, and depredations committed in the texts.


If you intend to argue that there are redemptive elements in these texts, you will need nonetheless to identify what characters need to be redeemed from.  And if you intend to argue that the texts offer little redemptive possibility, you will need to show that the characters left on “stage,” or the words and events concluding a text (or perhaps ideas introduced along the way), are not enough to counter the darker currents that run through the works.


Finally, I would like you to place your discussion within an identifiable 17th-century context: literary/aesthetic; religious; or political.  The first would be the genres and concerns that we covered in the first part of the course: human (especially artistic) autonomy; the role of the artist; the power of linguistic expression; the search for a “private” space or community.  By “religious” context I mean the Protestant Reformation, with its intense concern for personal salvation, its severe sense of personal inadequacy and utter dependence on God, and its search for signs of Grace within and without.  The political context is of course the strife with an autocratic king, who associates himself with rural traditions and sees continuity between the English Established Church and the “old” religious beliefs and practices (a much more prominent issue in Milton than in The Changeling).


Your first paragraph should identify the texts you intend to examine and suggest the context.  For instance, I might decide to argue that, for all of the violence unleashed by intemperate desire in The Changeling, the text remains committed to the idea that the world is fundamentally orderly, and any disturbance to such an order will eventually be exposed and transgression preserved in an enduring "record" (5.3.180) [idea about redemption].  The play is fundamentally conservative, then, and serves as a warning to those who would force abrupt social or political change [context].  In its commitment to a stable and meaningful social order, finally, the play recalls the stability that Marvell promotes in his “Horatian Ode.”


I can imagine completing this assignment in 3 sections: 1.  An introduction; 2. Paragraphs examining your play text; and 3. An exploration of the problem and/or redemptive element in a second text.  However, in many cases it would probably be more useful to discuss the “second” text before or even within discussion of the play, as a means of introducing the problem the play builds on or its source of redemption. 



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