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The main themes of Caryl Churchill's "Top Girls"

Seminararbeit 2013 12 Seiten

Didaktik - Englisch - Literatur, Werke


List of contents

1 Lecture – Answers to the questions of the lecture series

2 Seminar
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Main Themes
2.2.1 Travelling
2.2.2 Motherhood and the loss of children
2.2.3 Conclusion and stylistic devices

3 Bibliography
3.1 Web sources

1 Lecture – Answers to the questions of the lecture series

Question 1: Why should we read literary texts before 1900?

We should read literary texts before 1900 because it is part of our subject (history of literature) and contemporary literature is not easier or easier understandable. Distance is important for the understanding. The understanding of contemporary literature is only possible with the help of old texts – contemporary literature often refers to old texts. Furthermore, dealing with old texts is a good training for us and you miss a lot if you don’t deal with old texts. History is always important because you will always learn something new. If you live without history you live a naïve life.

Question 2: Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is a story-collection with a frame tale – what does this mean and who/what was Chaucer’s literary model?

The homogeneous group of aristocrats (same age, same social standing) in Boccaccio’s Decameron vs. heterogeneous groups of men and women (different estates) in the Canterbury Tales represents a structural innovation. There is a high level of competition between the storytellers (extradiegetic and pilgrim narrator). The term Canterbury Tales is connected with specific characteristics like being highly organized and being known for a measured storytelling. “A frame story (also frame tale, frame narrative, etc.) is a literary technique that sometimes serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, whereby an introductory or main narrative is presented, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories. The frame story leads readers from a first story into another, smaller one (or several ones) within it.”(

Question 3: How is the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s works referred to, who produced it, and when was it published?

The first collected edition of Shakespeare’s works was published after his death in 1623. There are no substantial surviving manuscripts of Shakespeare’s works. They are known only from various printed versions, so we have only various editor texts. Moreover, there are no texts corrected by the author (Shakespeare) himself. Finally there’s also a discussion about the claim that Shakespeare himself would have never been able to write so many plays on his own.

Question 4: What is the central theme of Milton’s Paradise Lost ?

The epic poem Paradise Lost deals with the biblical story of the fall of man and with “the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden.” ( Milton wants to justify the ways of god to men and looks at the way man was created by god. According to Milton’s Paradise Lost, god and man are basically good, man is created with reason, man is truth, man has reason to do the right thing and man has always to choose the right thing. You are not free in paradise but after the fall of man there is freedom. Women stand for softness and women have no direct access to god – so she needs a him, a husband, to get access. According to Milton’s God, the man himself is responsible for the Fall of Man, because God has created Man with reason and a free will. Man can decide what to do on his own: what is right and what is wrong. He only has to choose the right thing freely. Obviously Man decided himself to eat the Forbidden Fruit and this sin caused the Fall of Man. In the end of Paradise Lost man is making history.

Question 5: Which literary forms have contributed to the marketing of Robinson Crusoe ? Name at least two!

There’s a dominant role of novels in the 18th century and the significance of Neoclassicism in the first half of the 18th century.

Question 6: Comment on William Wordsworth’s thesis that “all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (“Preface” to Lyrical Ballads).

As William Wordsworth was a romantic poet, his thesis refers to romantic poetry. There’s a strong stress on feelings and passion. The “overflow of powerful feelings” refers to the break with traditional poetry. Good poetry should remind people of what they had actually lost and should include incidents and situations of normal life (low and rusty life, country life). People shall find their pure human nature – making careers is not everything. Harmony with the world, with the nature and with other people is significant. If we are nice, other people will also be nice. The poet has to search for a deeper essence of sense.

Question 7: What is the relevance of Mary Wollstonecraft and Enlightenment feminism for the interpretation of Jane Austen’s Emma ?

“Enlightenment feminism, which includes such writers as Catherine Macaulay and Mary Wollstonecraft, is a tradition of thought that claims that women share the same moral nature as men, ought to share the same moral status, and exercise the same responsibility for their conduct.”( Emma is a “Bildungsroman”, a novel of development in which Jane Austen connected Emma to the ideals of enlightenment. Emma represents a confrontation and stands for the desire of independence and knowledge. Nonetheless male characters are much more mobile in the novel and Emma has a static situation. The opposition between the protagonist and the social context is significant. Conduct books, which were mostly written in the 18th century, are an important topic. They give advice for young people how to behave. Women are stressed weaker – the duty of a wife is to love, to honor and to obey. Mary Wollstonecraft was against conduct books and was also known for the claim for equality between men and women. Emma does undergo a development of herself – she knows what to do to ensure her own future. In the end her social integration, the marriage, took place.

Question 8: Briefly sketch out key features of the narrative structure of George Eliot’s Middlemarch (narrator; construction of plot).

The town Middlemarch itself is the protagonist. Middlemarch is known as her best novel and is a study of provincial life containing a mystery plot as well. She refers to the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1867 and the Poor Law of 1834. The Reform Act of 1832 enfranchised the industrial north and the cities and gave the right to vote to men further down the economic scale. The Reform Act of 1867 extended the right to vote further. George Eliot’s realist novel is full of political debates and deals with conflicts of the individual and the society. Realism reveals a meaning to reality and has with regard to this novel also a function of art. The narrator is an omniscient authorial narrator. There’s also a significant contrast in the novel, namely the contrast of sympathy and selfishness.

Question 9: Explain Joyce’s concept of epiphany.

By an epiphany he meant a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself. He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments.” (Joyce, Stephen Hero).

Question 10: Name two structuring principles of Mrs. Dalloway.

Virginia Woolf puts emphasis on the subjective perception of time. This time does not always have to coincide with the actual time. The disorientation of the reader (Who is Lucy? Who is Mrs. Dalloway? What is remembered, what is forgotten? ) is quite significant. There are no character descriptions and no explanations – only questions and there’s no structured conclusive plot. Furthermore the discourse time (time that is needed to read the book) exceeds the story time (time of the story itself), e.g. when a moment is amplified over several pages. Furthermore time also structures the story. In her book the Big Ben rings several times which guides the reader through the story.

Question 11: What are the meanings of “fundamentalism” in The Reluctant Fundamentalist ?

The title refers to the protagonist, who refuses to take part in this capitalism. We don’t know and we’ll never find out whether he’s a reluctant fundamentalist or not.



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
412 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin – Institut für Anglistik & Amerikanistik
Top Girls Caryl Churchill



Titel: The main themes of Caryl Churchill's "Top Girls"