1) Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) was a Russian physician, playwright, and short story writer. The misery of his early years gave him a deep empathy with the suffering of others. Even in translation, his works are masterpieces of nuance and the complexities of the human condition.
Read his short story “A Problem” at www.eldritchpress.org/ac/jr/
Answer the following questions:
1) To which social class do the Uskovs belong? How do you know?
2) Give 1 example of the tension between appearance and reality in this story.
3) Why do the Uskovs not send all their servants away for the day?
4) Why are the women excluded from the family meeting, and pretend they know nothing about the problem?
5) One uncle pleads on behalf of Sasha that he was orphaned early, received practically no education, and was left “without guidance and good, benevolent influences”. Whom does this speech unintentionally indict?
6) Using evidence from the text, support, reject, or qualify the idea that 1 theme in this story is the limit of compassion and forgiveness.
7) What does Ivan Markovitch’s use of flattery, the memory of his dead sister, and philosophy tell us about the merits of his argument?
8) Explain how there are no completely good or completely bad characters in this story.
9) What might Sasha symbolize?
10) “Tone” in literature refers to the author’s attitude toward the subject. Describe Chekhov’s tone in this story. Explain your choice.
2) Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was one of the major English Romantic poets (and the husband of Mary Shelley, who wrote “Frankenstein”). He was a political and social radical. Although he was not famous during his life, his works influenced subsequent generations of writers and thinkers, such as Tolstoy, Marx, and Gandhi.
Shelley and his friend, the poet and novelist Horace Smith, had read of a colossal statue of Rameses II (“Ozymandias” in Greek). They competed in writing a poem about it. Shelley’s was published first, in 1818, and Smith’s a month later in the same magazine.
Read Shelley’s poem at www.poetryfoundation.org/
Listen to “Vincent Price Reading Ozymandias” (youtube).
Read Smith’s poem at www.poemhunter.com/poem/
(Note: Avoid the youtube discussions of Shelley’s poem. They are simplistic and ill-informed.)
Answer these questions on Shelley’s poem:
1) Name the 4 speakers.
2) Define “hubris” and relate it to the poem.
3) What is “wrong” with the inscription on the pedestal?
4) Using evidence from the text, name 5 things that Ozymandias could not, ironically, command or control.
5) An overarching theme in the poem is temporality (issues of time). How does Shelley play with notions of past, present, and future in “Ozymandias”?
6) Which version of “Ozymandias” do you prefer? Why?