English 220 Summary of my favorite works and what I liked about the course

Hmm… I would like to talk about one piece of work in the course, but I’m not sure exactly which one, so in the aftermath of the exam, I’m going to talk about…. well the highlights.

Coming into English 220 I had the benefit of being lectured by Professor McNeilly in Arts One.  Moreover, I was practiced in writing literature papers that examined specific themes.

In English 220… I came across some works I really hated, but some works I surprisingly liked.  I also returned to works that I had studied in Arts One, the Tempest and Beowulf.  Beowulf was particularly one of my favorites, but while I perhaps admired it in Arts One, English 220 only deepened my respect for the work.  The in depth discussion and later opportunity to really close read and then interact with the work in the form of my first essay and term paper really opened my eyes and gained me greater appreciation for both Beowulf and its translator, Seamus Heaney.

The Tempest, was a bit of a different experience.  The discussion of Shakespeare, and message on performance, art and the function of spectacle was intriguing, since I was a theatre orientated person… the colonialism undertones didn’t really stand out to me.

Now these works weren’t the only ones I was also exposed to during the course.  There were some new works, some I liked, some I didn’t and others I’m not so sure of.

Take Oronooko… I liked Behn.  I really liked her very persuasive writing style that while occassionally long winded, had a sort of reasonableness to it.  The character of Oronooko, and his wife Imoinda, stood out to me as one of the most tragic couples I’ve ever read about.

Yet, I hated Paradise Lost with a passion and oddly enough, I’m religious.  Perhaps it was the time of year, but I couldn’t read through Milton’s… almost…end on end… colliding sort of writing style that had me constantly guessing on who was speaking what.  The themes and description was good, but I could never appreciate the work so well… perhaps I should return to it in time.

Surprisingly enough, the works within the course, which I consistently liked were found in Metaphysical Poetry.  Two favorites I had were John Donne’s Elegie and Marvell’s The Garden.  I used to hate poetry… now I actually kind of like the metaphors, the conceits, underlying themes of sexuality and gender roles.  The poems that we looked at this year, were… really just good, beautifully sounding, perhaps odd, but still intriguing poetry.

Canterbury Tales and Gulliver’s Travels are the two works I have difficulty thinking about.

On one hand, I expected to like Gulliver’s Travels… recalling the old childhood stories, but I was rather… surprised to say the least at the dark themes and discussions of the ugliness of human nature within the tale.  Not to mention, I just didn’t really like Gulliver’s character… he was gullible.  Still, I admire Swift’s satire, which was explained in great detail by Professor McNeilly.

As for Canterbury tales.  I initially couldn’t make head or tales of the Middle English, later, I was able to, but I still sometimes had to refer to or look up an English translation for reference.  But once I understood or came to grasp with the themes in the General Prologue and Wife of Bath’s Tale and Prologue, I actually found I liked Chauser’s work.  Its funny, discussive, and yet highly intelligent and stimulating to read and think about.

Now, the lectures themselves… its difficult to say on what exactly I learnt from the lectures.  They were very enlightening, although, I admit I sometimes lost track of what was being said.  There was a lot of density in the discussions in class… and powerpoints, which probably would have made the class more rigid (a bad thing because I liked the class’s flexibility and the fact you’d learnt something new or interesting/unexpected every time you’d enter it), but would have made it easier to track and follow the lectures, were lacking. However, I found talking to Professor McNeilly over specific topics after class very enlightening and informative, and often were able to answer any issues I had after the lectures.

All in all, I liked English 220.  I liked it was writing intensive, I liked the works in general.  While I would have preferred it for the lectures to be well not structured, but at least more directed along a very specific theme/topic that could be grounded, the lectures were informative and did provide me with some interesting topics to think about.  It was a fun course to attend.

Thanks Professor McNeilly for a great 1st term of second year,



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Oronooko… staged so that it really hits you when you least expect it.

My feelings for Oronooko is hard to pinpoint.

At first glance I thought it was a tragedy set in the scenes of the age of European Empires.  I did notice its critique on the crime of slavery, and frankly I liked Oronooko as a character.

The lectures shed light onto the story in a way that took me aback.  I did notice something odd about Behn’s way of telling the story… it was as if it was personal, for she keeps inserting herself into the narrative, but at the same time distance, critical of the things she sees, but not actually critical.  The explanation on how Behn is satirizing and dramatizing the scenes and the people in Oronooko revealed quite a bit on why she chose this narrative approach.  It is able to stage the scene very well, like a theatre, and yet like some types of theatre like Brechian theatre, it works to distance the audience from the scene, and force them to ask questions about race.  For, when Oronooko speaks, its as if he is speaking to us, the audience about the crimes of slavery.  And yet, this is Behn’s account of what he speaks… it isn’t really Oronooko’s and it is Oronooko’s.  It still hits you, but the story first gets you into this mode of questioning, that finally forces you to asks the questiosn Behn is wanting you to ask….

Then, when you finally start asking the right questions, Oronooko really hits you when you least expect it to…

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