Reminder about papers

Hi All,

I’d like to remind you that your papers are due this upcoming Thursday, April 28th. There’s no need to post the revision of your body paragraph on the blog, but I urge you all to incorporate the feedback you received into your final paper.

Also, several people mentioned that they’d posted the thesis paragraph late, but would still like feedback: if so, please email me with your questions, since I won’t be checking the blogs this week. In fact, if anyone has further questions about your thesis paragraph or the paper itself, don’t hesitate to email me. I look forward to reading your papers on Thursday.

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Assignment for 4/14

Hi All,

Just a quick reminder that in lieu of making a new blog post for this week, you should be bringing 4 copies of your thesis paragraph rough draft. Your assignment from last week should give you a good idea of what we’re looking for in an introduction.

In addition to reading my own comments on your revised introductions, have a look at Courtney and Brian’s posts (in addition to the A papers already linked here) for model introductions. Courtney and Brian‘s posts show what a difference revision can make. The new versions 1. articulate a specific argument about the relationship between form and meaning and 2. guide the reader through the features of the argument by pointing to specific details for clarification.

Keep these goals in mind as you move forward on this new assignment. I’m looking forward to workshopping your thesis drafts this Thursday!

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Sample Thesis Paragraphs

Below you’ll find the links to the sample thesis paragraphs from papers that received A’s. Be sure to have a look at these paragraphs, especially as you look ahead to Paper 2.

Malia, Julie, Rob, Chris, Christina, Avi, Mike, and James

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Assignment 4: Enjambment in Paradise Lost

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.

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Assignment 3: Sonnet Form & Meaning

I was really pleased to see how many of you created well-crafted arguments about the relationship between form and meaning in either of the two Keats poems. In fact, I would say that a number of you have demonstrated a good sense of the basic tools you’ll need for writing your first paper. The one point that you should focus on as you transition from writing blog posts to writing papers is making sure that your argument is guided by the progression of your thoughts, not the progression of the poem’s argument. For example, a lot of blog posts devoted one paragraph to the first quatrain, one to the second, and so forth. In a paper, you might instead structure your paragraphs around a particular connection between form and meaning: for example, you could have a paragraph about how enjambment in “When I have fears” supports the idea that the speaker has more to say than he can get down on paper. Similarly, James notes that the delay of the turn represents a sudden break with form that complements the unexpected conclusion that the concerns occupying the first 12 lines are meaningless.

A number of you also demonstrated a good sense of how to read against the grain (another useful paper-writing skill). That is, many folks didn’t take the speaker’s word for granted, but instead thought about how he might undermine his own argument in places. For example, a few of you pointed out how there’s a possibility that although the speaker in “When I have fears” finds that love and fame fade to “nothingness,” there’s still the possibility that they are important to the speaker given how long it has taken him to come upon the turn, and given how the turn doesn’t really solve the problem of the speaker’s mortality (Darcy’s  fantastic blog post makes this point, and several others, very well).

In a similar vein, many students did a good job of really thoroughly working through the complexity of the poems’ arguments or imagery. This is an essential skill because you’ll find that the richest analysis of a poem doesn’t come from reducing the poem to a simply stated conclusion, but instead relies on expanding what’s already there to explain the poem’s thought process.  Greg and Jillian‘s blogs both have nice readings of “On the Sonnet” that offer interesting ways of thinking about how Keats responds to the constraints of form, but could take it a step further to really look at, for example, how the image of Andromeda chained is a negative type of constraint, whereas the sandal binding “naked” poesy is a more supportive and helpful sort of constraint.

As a final note, I want to point out that while I’m pleased that many of you diligently pointed out features like the rhyme scheme and the turn, you’ll also want to think more about the function of these features beyond the most basic “it conforms to/ upsets our expectations”. For example, many of you analyzing “On the Sonnet” struggled a bit to explain the significance of the poem’s unusual rhyme scheme. Brian’s post does a good job of noting how it looks like it’s creating a particular pattern, but then ruptures it with “abc abD”. Going a step further, I would think about why it makes sense that that 6th line in particular breaks the developing pattern, or how inserting the “d” rhyming word there only to pick it up in the final 4 lines suggests resonances across the poem somehow.

I was really pleased to find that I had many blogs that I wanted to single out in my comments for this week– more than I could mention, in fact. Keep up the good work!

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Assignment 2: Conceits in “The Sun Rising”

Looking over the blog posts for this week, I’d say you’ve done a lot of work getting a handle on close reading. Well done! In general, most have gotten the fact that in the poem the bed becomes the entire world and the sun has to revolve within the “sphere” of the room. Several people made note of the peculiar diction used to address the sun in the first stanza (such as James, who notes a change in the way the speaker addresses the sun and nicely works it into a reading of the poem’s conceit). In addition, several blogs effectively work through the logic of one aspect of the conceit, which proved to be an effective means of close reading that avoided simply paraphrasing the poem line-by-line. For example, Cassandra thinks a lot about what it means to have “lovers’ seasons” that aren’t dictated by the motions of the sun. And Mike has a really excellent reading of the way that the sun and the lovers essentially change roles, since the sun’s being addressed as a person and the speaker is implying that his beloved is more blinding than the sun.

For this assignment, the first step was really beginning to focus on close reading the poem line-by-line. Most students have really mastered this skill. For future posts, though, you’ll need to jump off from that point and begin really thinking through the logical connections that emerge in close reading between a single image and the poem’s argument as a whole. Focusing on the logic of just a few images in the poem was a good way of approaching the blog post, since instead of paraphrasing the poem line by line, these writers delved deeply into one point while making reference to how it complicated the argument of the poem as a whole. This method is only effective, of course, once you’ve already figured out what the poem is saying. It can be tricky to start a close reading if you’re not yet sure who, for example, the addressee of the poem is. All in all, though, I’d say you all did a good job with Donne. I hope you enjoyed reading metaphysical poetry as much as I do. Good work!

 

P.S. Danny let me know that I accidentally hadn’t hit the “publish” button last week. Sorry about that! Expect another post to follow tomorrow.

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Reminder

Just a reminder that the blog assignment for this week (due next Tuesday) is posted on the “Assignments” page. I’ll post the new assignment every Thursday after class. Remember, any time you miss section and want to know what the assignment is, check here.

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