Use the Literary Term Glossary to study the definitions.
Also, don't forget to review the Values of Literature.
François-Marie Arouet Voltaire
- How does Voltaire use plot in this novel to ridicule the "optimistic" philosophy promoted by Pangloss?
- As readers, how can we identify with Candide's movement from naive surrender to "the best of all possible worlds" towards a more practical wisdom: "we must cultivate our garden"?
- In Voltaire's satirical critique of the Enlightenment, what is the problem with reason, if any? What kind of change is he trying to encourage with his satire?
"A Modest Proposal"
- Why does Swift create an extreme fictional persona to deliver the "modest" argument in this essay?
- How does the ironic distance between the literal and figurative meanings of this essay engage the reader on an ethical level?
- What role does hyperbole play in creating satire? How does Swift manage to create content that both disturbing to our sensibilities and clearly recognizable as satire?
- What social philosophy is Swift indirectly attacking by pretending to adopt it? How does Swift manage to expose the flaws of that philosophy?
"Preface to Lyrical Ballads"
- What is the purpose the poems that Wordsworth is introducing with this preface?
- Is the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" enough to create poetry with lasting value? Why not?
- How does Wordsworth understand "taste" in Poetry? Are we all permitted to judge poems however we feel?
- How has the speaker changed during the five year absence? What has been lost and what has been gained?
- What is the value of nature for the speaker? How is that value connected to the mind of the speaker?
- How does the speaker propose to cope with the darker side of human life, the trials and suffering of city life, for instance?
- What is the attitude toward childhood in this poem? Is this attitude straightforward or complex? How so?
- What is the "philosophic mind," and what is its purpose?
- What is more worth celebrating than the "delight and liberty" of childhood? What qualities of human experience replace that childhood condition?
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
- What is the speaker’s attitude toward his own desire to venture out again?
- Does the ending of the poem instill confidence in the heroic ideal?
- On what basis can we critique (if at all) the ambition displayed in the poem?
Notes from Underground
- Why does the Underground man consider consciousness a disease? In what way is he handicapped by his ability to reflect?
- As readers, how do we reconcile what seems to be an inherent paradox of this work: the Underground man claims that he "shall never have readers"?
- In the end, what is the ethical effect when the Underground man accuses his imaginary audience of self-deception?
reason | satire | wit | utilitarianism | compassion | humane treatment | optimism | honesty | deception | naivete | fallacy | faith | free will | fate | providence | heroism | memory | reflection | childhood | maturity | nature | art | ambition | boredom | excitement | discovery | thought | feeling | recollection | restoration | self-consciousness | action | inertia | paralysis | defiance | subjugation | vengeance | self-esteem | writing | salvation | denial | resentment