This task requires you to develop a discussion paper, made up of three questions, that relates to the topic of one tutorial. You will be allocated a week for your discussion paper by your tutor in your first tutorial. You will need to submit your paper via Turnitin by 5pm the day before your tutorial takes place. For example, if your tutorial takes place on Wednesday, your paper must be submitted by 5pm on Tuesday.
Your paper should consist of three well-developed questions, totalling 500 words. These questions should demonstrate your understanding of the specific literary (or filmic) text set for that week’s discussion and be informed by critical perspectives on that text.
Learning how to pose questions about a literary text is a crucial aspect of becoming a critical reader. In asking you to formulate questions about the literary texts we read this semester, I encourage you to think of them as ‘open texts’ that present readers with a multiplicity of contradictory meanings. The purpose of critical reading is to explore these contradictions. Each reader will ask different questions of, or draw different conclusions from, a literary text. While no interpretation is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, it is important to learn to discriminate between approaches or ideas based on your own understanding of the text. It will be your work to develop an informed reading of each fictional text in conjunction with the critical reading set for the tutorial or chosen independently, and to figure out where you stand in relation to the thoughts and ideas of others. In other words, this assessment requires you to engage with critics and challenge or build on their interpretations.
You may directly refer to the supplementary reading set for the tutorial, but this is not a requirement of the task. Instead, you are encouraged to use the set reading as a starting point for your own research. Just like the other assessment tasks in the unit, you are required to adequately reference the articles and books that you refer to in your discussion paper.
What constitutes a good question? A good question highlights an important or puzzling aspect of a literary text and suggests a meaningful framework in which the issues it raises can be discussed. Here is an example of a successful and unsuccessful discussion question posed in relation to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Marilyn Butler, in Jane Austen and the War of Ideas (1975), argues that Austen is a “conservative” writer. Butler finds Pride and Prejudice “baffling” because the reader can’t help sharing in Elizabeth’s rebellious “wit and satiric vision.”1 However, in Pride and Prejudice, there are suggestions that Elizabeth’s seemingly subversive wit is actually grounded in conventional, widely held beliefs. For instance, Elizabeth’s approval of Wickham and disapproval of Darcy agrees with the town’s opinion of the two gentlemen.2 How subversive is Elizabeth’s behaviour in the first half of Pride and Prejudice? Does it problematize or support Butler’s reading of Pride and Prejudice as a “conservative” novel?
Why does Elizabeth prefer Wickham to Darcy at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice?
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