English 455 Indiana State For a Father English Poetry Paper

ASSIGNMENT:

This one should be 1500+ word essays, roughly 6-7 pages. Students should feel freer to incorporate more than one or two main works, though depth is far more important than breadth. Again, as stated in the syllabus, the essay should develop a strong thesis around a theme, idea, or issue firmly rooted in one or more of the assigned texts. I recommend limiting your substantive engagement to no more than 2 works; indeed, focus on one work is really ideal for this kind of paper. However, you may, of course, mention other relevant or related texts to demonstrate the breadth of your thinking. As before, the paper is fundamentally an extended close-reading project that requires no outside research. Context, biography, history, theory may be useful, but as secondary emphases. Of course, any material included on Blackboard or in the course anthology may be utilized. Just remember that, when exploring your chosen text, the words themselves are the most important evidence you have for your points!

It remains true that an essential key to this assignment involves making observations about what is happening in the work/passage in question (what the work is doing)—and then inquiring into the implications (the meaning or significance) of those observations. In the first paper, I was struck by the number of people who stopped short of making both bold and fascinating argument—obviously rooted in the evidence of the text—opting instead to be safe with readings. This is an opportunity to test yourselves, to press your limits, and to really immerse in an instant of language and thought. As I have also said before, the “obvious” in a given reading is vital, but pursuing the implications of your observations means not settling for merely the first thought. Keep plumbing the text. Ultimately, you are working towards a reading that explores what the text means to you. Your creative faculties are essential in any academic interpretation. Just remember that this is not an exercise in creative writing per se; all your assertions must be rigorously tied to the evidence of the text itself. Again, the literary text is your evidence.

Furthermore, to avoid vast, nebulous, generic, and banal openings that merely tread water and serve no real purpose, I strongly suggest that all papers begin with well-selected epigraphs that articulate the issue or question to be analyzed. Explanation of what the epigraph means and how it applies to the larger thrust of the paper will facilitate the movement into a thesis that is specific and thoughtful. HOWEVER, this time, be sure that if you use an epigraph it is from a text that means something to you—that you have a connection with. This may be a passage that is from the actual text you are working on or some other text you know from another context. I would strongly urge you all to avoid quotation books/sites as the quotations drawn from these banal sources have not connection to you as a writer, student, or person.

Quoting generously from the primary text/s is essential. Please use the MLA parenthetical format for citations. This will mean listing author (Hardy, Yeats, etc.) and page number in the Norton. In the event that you are quoting or paraphrasing from multiple works by the same author, you will need to abbreviate the title and include it in the parenthetical citation. Remember that you do not need to repeat the author’s last name in every parenthetical citation after the first—unless you switch works or authors. Then, you have to start from the beginning effectively. Each paper should have a Works Cited listed at the end of the essay—though this should not be a separate page. (Don’t waste the paper.) NB: Regardless of what any official MLA guidelines state, do not cite poems by line numbers unless you are citing books/cantos and line numbers from an epic. In the real world, no publisher uses line numbers for citations of lyric poems; publishers use page numbers from actual texts.

Several seemingly minor points that make a difference:

  • Include a word count at the end of the paper.
  • Include page numbers in the upper right corner of all pages after the first page.
  • Include an original and creative title that speaks to your topic and thesis.
  • Staple all papers. I do not want paper clips or loose pages or dog-eared pages.
  • Avoid sentence fragments; every sentence must have a subject and a verb.
  • Avoid fused sentences, semicolon problems, and run-on sentences as well.
  • Limit any use of first and second person pronouns. Keep the language objective and scholarly for the most part—yet, do not be afraid to use a first person pronoun if you find such use strategically beneficial. Every word, punctuation mark, quotation… is there for a purpose!