First of all, I want to commend you all for tackling such a difficult assignment. Not only were you focusing on a very particular formal feature, enjambment, but we also asked you to frame those local observations into a larger argument about Satan’s character in the poem. Usually, when you’re writing, you’ll be able to draw on a number of formal features that we’ve discussed to illuminate your argument. Here, the goal was to get you to close read in a very specific way, locating particular moments where an enjambed line or lines illustrate your argument.
One thing that you will want to work on when writing your papers is achieving balance between making a specific close reading and moving from there to a general argument. You’ve already demonstrated that you can provide insightful, detailed close readings. But in this case, although many of you have offered great ways of thinking about how enjambment functions generally– “enjambment imitates Satan’s thought process,” “enjambment gives the sense of rushing through ideas”– in the future you’ll want to make sure that you illustrate these points by focusing on specific lines that clarify the argument. That is, you can start out with a general claim, but afterwards you should find a specific example and analyze how it supports your argument.
A number of you focused on some really compelling moments of enjambment in Satan’s speech, such as the line where Satan declares himself “only supreme/ in misery” and built your argument up from there. For example, James picks up on this enjambment to suggest that the lines start by suggesting one thing, but offer a surprising ending in the end. In particular, his claim that Satan’s lines “deceive” us could easily open up into a larger discussion of his function in the poem. And Courtney looks at the how the enjambment in the lines “powers as great/ fell” actually simulates the action being described; it encapsulates the pride that led to Satan’s destruction.
In a longer assignment, these posts would be good paragraphs to demonstrate how, for example, Satan’s speech confirms his fallen state, which would be supported by other paragraphs looking at other formal features like meter, imagery, diction or syntax. Of course, another way of organizing your thoughts would be to pick out a particular moment from the poem and to look at all of these features as demonstrated in that moment.
You’ll note that close readings above offer the possibility of further complicating the initial claim, allowing the writer to go beyond the general observation that enjambment illustrates Satan’s thought process to start to illuminate some features of those thoughts. The best way to develop a complex, interesting thesis for your papers is to try and account for puzzling or unique moments in the poem, rather than beginning with a general claim about the entire thing (which would be nigh impossible for Paradise Lost, especially given that you’re only looking at a small fragment of it). So as you move forward toward writing your first paper, I want to emphasize that you shouldn’t abandon the close attention to detail you’ve developed so far, but try to make it fit within your broader claims.