Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
Heart of Darkness
- Why does Conrad have Marlow be a speaking character in the story instead of the narrator? What is Marlow's motivation in speaking?
- Given that this book highlights the ACT of telling, the power of voice, how does it challenge your idea of reading? What is the connection between reading and LISTENING?
- Thematically, this novel seems to critique imperialism, but does it uphold the value of civilization? Are not civilization and imperialism rooted in the same human desire?
- Conrad mentions "complete, unswerving devotion to the perfect blending of form and substance" as a responsibility of the artist. What is the distinction between form and substance--why are both necessary?
- What is the task that Conrad is "trying to achieve"? What is the significance of the word "trying"?
James Joyce (1882-1941)
- What is free indirect discourse, and how is this technique crucial to characterization in "The Dead"?
- How does Gabriel's view of his wife develop from the end of the party until his final thoughts about "the dead"?
- How does this story dramatize the idea of being "thought tormented"? Does Gabriel find a way out his paralysis by the end?
T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
- What kind of journey does the speaker of the poem want to take us on? Why?
- Consider that the poem is Prufrock's attempt to be a poet. Does he have anything important to tell us?
- What is an "objective correlative"? Does Prufrock manage to achieve this standard of poetry?
- What is the historical sense, and why does Eliot place so much emphasis on it?
- Explain the significance of the shred of platinum in terms of writing poetry?
- What is Eliot's "impersonal theory of poetry"? Why does it need to be impersonal in this way?
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
"How Should One Read a Book?"
- To what extent are we responsible for the experience we have with a book? What role do we play in letting the artist's intended effect happen?
- If the act of reading does in fact require us to judge, what kind of judgments are we making?
- Can the act of reading have value as an end in itself? How so or how not?
Albert Camus (1913-1960)
- The novel is clearly told from a first-person point of view, but exactly whose point of view is it? How does the novel make us question the use of first-person?
- On what grounds might we sympathize with Mersault? Does he plead for sympathy, or are we invited to offer it regardless, in a more indirect way?
- Why does Mersault have such a problem with execution by guillotine? How does his explanation help explain the detached tone of much of the narrative?
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