Assigned: "The Haystack in the Floods" (1614-18), "How I Became a Socialist" (1619-21).
"The Haystack in the Floods"
1. Look up the term "romance" in a good dictionary or a guide to literary terms. What are the major features of romance literature?
2. What romance characteristics does this poem contain? In what sense might Morris, who is of course part of the nineteenth-century "medievalist revival," be distancing himself from naive acceptance of chivalric assumptions?
3. How does the narration prepare us for the central act of violence near its end? Why does Godmar kill Robert? How exactly does Morris present the violent act of Godmar — would you describe his language as realistic? Explain.
4. Jehane the Frenchwoman is the most important character in this poem. How much insight do you find in the poem concerning her inner response to what she witnesses? Is Morris' poem about psychological response, or does its emphasis lie elsewhere? Explain.
"How I Became a Socialist"
5. On 1619-20, Morris writes that since he isn't a member of the working class, he came to socialism by means of an ideal. What is that ideal, and how does Morris contextualize the frame of mind ("group of mind," to use his termon 1620) that led him to formulate such an ideal?
6. On 1620, how does Morris describe the society that so easily contents the average "middle-class" British citizen? What accusations does Morris level against this status quo?
7. On 1621, what relationship does Morris assert should exist between art and more obviously practical affairs? Why should artistic representation and objects of art matter, in his view, when so many working people are without the necessities of life?
Edition: Abrams, M. H. et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vols. 2A-C. 7th ed. New York: Norton, 2000. ISBN 2A = 0393975681, 2B = 039397569X, 2C = 0393975703.