Essay Assignments for Romantic Revolutions in Europe
1. The purpose of these essay assignments is to give you the opportunity to engage critically with the writers, texts, and culture of 1790's Britain. Choose one of the following prompts from either the first general topic, Romantic Revolutionaries and their Personae, or the second topic, Revolutionary Violence and Romantic Drama. The first option exercises your creative writing skills and requires you to mimic the techniques of Romantic dramatists. The second option follows a more traditional format and requires you to analyze at least two Romantic dramas.
2. Use creative writing to engage with one to three Romantic texts we have read in this unit. In addition to your creative response, include a critical introduction that analyzes your own writing and explains, analyzes, and interprets your literary techniques and rationale in relation to your understanding of interpretive themes and issues. This cover letter should present a clearly defined interpretation of the work(s) and provide support from the literary texts and/or your own creation for its assertions in a logical and sophisticated manner. The success of this creative response will depend on how well you define your audience. In addition, your creation should show nuanced appreciation for the style of the genre you are recreating.
3. Prompt 1: Write an "Anti-Jacobin" response to either Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Elizabeth Inchbald, or Thomas Paine, taking on the persona of a parson for the Church of England or another persona of your choosing, such as Edmund Burke, Richard Polwhele, or Hannah More.
4. Prompt 2: We have read some examples of dramatic writing from the Romantic era, such as Elizabeth Inchbald's The Massacre or Hannah More's Village Politics. Convert a scene we have read in prose form into a dramatic scene. Suggestions include (but are not limited to) Edmund Burke's description of the royal family's flight from Versailles, Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative, or Mary Prince's History of Mary Prince. Key here will be the audience for your dramatic scene: Covent Garden in the Romantic era, twenty-first century television viewers, etc.. You might also include an "Advertisement" for your play that can double as your critical introduction.
5. Unlike the above prompts, the ones described below do not require a critical introduction because they follow the traditional format of most English essays, analysis and interpretation.
6. Prompt 3: As we discussed in class, Elizabeth Inchbald's tragedy, The Massacre, and P. B. Shelley's tragedy, The Cenci, were never produced onstage. In a thoughtful essay that makes use of close analysis, argue for the benefits and/or the problems of performing these plays for Romantic audiences.
7. Prompt 4: We have read three texts about slavery and abolitionism in this unit: Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative, Mary Prince's History of Mary Prince, and Olympe de Gouges's Black Slavery. Write a comparative essay that argues which of these pieces would make audiences more sympathetic to abolishing slavery. Your essay should consider the role that violence plays in each text. In addition, I expect you to acknowledge the effects of dramatic writing and non-fiction prose on Romantic audiences. In other words, how might visiting an eighteenth-century playhouse differ from reading a text in private?
8. Evaluation: Successful papers will demonstrate not only sophisticated and original thinking, but also linguistic clarity. A central argument or well-developed and clearly articulated main point should shape your response to this assignment. I am also looking for evidence that you understand the major issues of the day (French Revolution, women's rights, abolitionism, debates about democracy) and that you are able to distinguish the features of dramatic writing and non-fiction prose.