British Literature 2X (Classical)
Instructor: Michael Thornton
March 18, 2009
Synthesis Essay for X Credit
A synthesis essay looks at several different readings or books, and makes a point by assembling references to these sources. You have the choice of reading either (1) Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and auxiliary materials, focusing on Romanticism; or (2) Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, and comparing it to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté. In order to get an A in this X-credit class, you must complete this assignment. This essay should be three pages, double spaced, plus a works-cited page, and is due April 13, 2009.
For the first option, you must read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; a selection of poems by the English Romantics of the late 18th and early 19th centuries; and “In Search of a Definition”, the first chapter of Isaiah Berlin’s Roots of Romanticism, available via a link on the school website for this class: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s6544.html
In his book, based on a series of lectures, Isaiah Berlin attempts to define romanticism as an artistic and intellectual movement that originated in Europe during the 18th century and eventually spread to America in the 19th century. In the first chapter of his book, he states how important he believes the movement was:
The importance of romanticism is that it is the largest recent movement to transform the lives and the thought of the Western world. It seems to me to be the greatest single shift in the consciousness of the West that has occurred, and all the other shifts which have occurred in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries appear to me in comparison less important, and at any rate deeply influenced by it.
In an essay that integrates references to Frankenstein, English romantic poetry, and Berlin’s opening chapter, discuss the ways that Shelley’s Frankenstein can be called a romantic piece of literature. You should refer to Berlin’s examples of what constitutes romanticism, but you should also craft your own definition of this term. Refer to at least five poems as sources to support your position. (We will be reading some of these romantic poems in class – make sure that others you choose to incorporate as part of your analysis are poems from this period of British Literature, around 1800. You would also do well to use some of the more renowned poems, for which scholarly criticism might be easier to come by.) Your analysis should be central; the sources should support your thesis. Remember to attribute both direct and indirect citations.
Wide Sargasso Sea Option
Jean Rhys’ wrote Wide Sargasso Sea in 1966 – this was its publication date, but she had worked on the manuscript for many years prior. Most of Rhys’ writings date from the 1920s and 1930s, the time when expressionism and modernism signaled new stylistic developments in the arts and literature. Women’s suffrage rights encouraged advances for women in the workplace and social standing, eventually leading to the feminism that evolved during the 1970s. Jean Rhys lived and wrote through many of these movements.
In comparing Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté, focus on the structure and style of each, and analyze how that contributes to a distinctly feminist viewpoint, unique to the time period in which each was written. Analyze Rhys’ book in terms of its modernist structure, compared to the Victorian volumes used by Bronté. Define what you mean by each construction – the chapters, volumes or divisions, points of view, diction, and anything else that contributes to their definitions as autobiographies, journals, or novels. Then look at how these structural and stylistic devices enhance the perspectives of female protagonists who demand their own ways in the world.
You must include at least four references to each novel, and two other critical references that support your thesis regarding the style of the books, or their feminist points of view.