1. From Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, discuss the main character’s self-image, how he sees himself in relation to both the Yahoos and his Houyhnhnm hosts. Is he self-deluded? Why?
2. Discuss the Swiftian creation, the Houyhnhnms, as a species or “race.” What are the key characteristics of this species? What do you see as their particular strengths or weaknesses, from the human view? Make sure to add a definition and description of a Yahoo in your analysis.
3. Discuss Swift’s “A Modest Proposal for Our Time.” How does it reflect the history of the time, as it relates to England’s treatment of Ireland? In what way(s) does it foreshadow the events of the 20th Century?
4. On Voltaire’s Candide: Discuss the philosophical concept of “the best of all possible worlds” as propounded by Dr. Pangloss. How do the events of this anti-providential, anti-clerical satire strengthen or weaken a belief in this view? Does Pangloss himself still believe it in the end? Or does he believe in a closely related philosophy at that point?
5. Considering Candide again: How does the novel by Voltaire reinforce the conclusions of the New York Times columnist, Michael Johnson, in his op-ed from Jan. 23, 2010 “Voltaire the Survivor.” Keep in mind what he and others see as Voltaire’s central lesson, “Dare to think for yourself, outside of conformity and orthodoxy.”
6. Discuss Sor Juana’s quest to be accepted as an intellectual in the New World, circa the late 17th century. How does her Reply to Sister Filotea support this idea? If you like, include ideas from Judith Drake’s “An Essay in Defense of the Female Sex,” from 1696, to reinforce your argument. (Both women criticized the sexism in the society of their time, and the hypocrisy of men.)
7. Discuss Rousseau’s Confessions. Is he an honest autobiographer? Or does he shift events to place himself in a more positive light? Provide specific examples of this.
Note from the Professor:
Remember: the best essays should note the question being answered. They should be 3 to 3.5 pages in length, plus source page. They should be double-spaced, and set in 10 or 12 pt. font. Content should be well organized and include quotations from the work(s) in question to support your argument. Please follow MLA style in your writing and use of citations. (Examples of this style may be found on the CSN Library web page.) Good luck in your writing!