Suggestions for Discussion Questions

Discussion questions should be challenging yet open ended, encouraging your fellow students to interpret texts in a more nuanced and complex fashion than they might have otherwise.  For example, you might ask your peers to do one of the following:

1.     Debate an ethical issue raised by the events in the literature or ideas in the criticism;

2.     Compare and contrast the texts with other texts or films already covered;

3.     Analyze unusual symbols or images that recur throughout the narrative (“motifs”);

4.     Pinpoint the conscious or unconscious motivations of the author, culture, or readers;

5.     Connect some of the situations in the literature to circumstances currently in unfolding in our own era;

6.     Do character sketches of main or marginal characters (or both), considering their motivations, conflicts, reliability, development, or lack thereof;

7.     Consider how the events in the narrative would be perceived differently by different characters, by different readers, or by different cultures (women/men; rich/poor; slave/free);

8.     Re-evaluate the text with a suggestive quote in mind, a quote from a contemporary author, from a critical theorist, or from any other interesting and pertinent source;

9.     Examine the text from a feminist, deconstructionist, Marxist, formalist, or new historicist point of view, or from the point of view of any other theoretical school, giving helpful pointers on how to do so for those unacquainted with that particular paradigm. 

Examples of discussion questions may also be available in the “Class Handouts” folder of the Electronic Reserves.