Essay 1

Essay 1 - “Forms of Repetition” #

Due Friday, 2/17 at 22:00; revisions due in two weeks (3/3, 22:00). Conferences between 2/20-2/24: sign up using calendly.

Prompt #

Choose a poem and investigate how it employs repetition or a repeated structure, such as a refrain, a rhyme scheme, or a metrical structure. First, spend some time thinking about the poem’s meaning—what it communicates to the reader, what makes it powerful to you. Then, consider how the structural patterns you notice relate to the poem’s meaning. Finally, review the secondary readings and the notes you’ve taken on the poem, and think about how other scholars’ ideas about rhyme and repetition might enrich or complicate your initial reflections. Your task is then to write an essay which convinces a reader of the poem that paying attention to your formal object of analysis can deepen their appreciation of the poem.

Further instructions #

  1. Your essay should demonstrate clear intent to respond to the prompt—it should aimed at convincing the reader that your analysis of rhyme, lineation, or meter in the poem is meaningful and worth reading.
  2. The introduction should give us a good sense of why you chose the poem and why you are focusing on a particular form or motif within it. You may do this by providing background context (what is the poem about, what is its form, who wrote it, when, etc.), providing a few "teasers" (favorite quotes from the poem), quoting a relevant secondary source that establishes its interest or importance, and/or including a personal anecdote which frames your motivations for writing about this specific text.
  3. You must provide a clear definition for the structural terms you're working with (rhyme, repetition, line, or meter) by citing one of the texts discussed in class or any of the recommended secondary readings not discussed in class. In other words, highlight something specific or surprising about "rhyme" or "repetition" that you have learned by considering someone else's perspective on these terms.
  4. In the final paragraph, you should delineate one or several possible routes for further inquiry. The most natural way to come up with this is to first recapitulate the argument of your paper and see if you can identify an unexplored perspective or question based on that: what lies outside of the "silhouette" of your investigations?
  5. Reread your essay to make sure that the sequencing of ideas makes sense.
  6. When making a general claim, remind the reader of precisely what you are referring to by quoting directly from the text. Feel free to block quote from the poem liberally—three or fewer may be quoted inline, with each line separated by the virgule (/), and five lines or more become a block quote. Use the ellipsis ([...]) to selectively quote only what's necessary if quoting from a longer portion of text, or from discontinuous sections.
      If you're writing about meter, denote meter-markings below a quoted line from a poem using u (unstressed) and ' (stressed) to denote the syllables. Separate feet, if applicable, using / or // for a caesura.
  7. Make sure that your sentences flow well—they should employ contrasts in sentence length and structure to help the reader stay engaged. Edit out any unwanted repetitions of words or phrases. Split up sentences that are too long, i.e., those which are difficult to follow or a mouthful to read.
  8. Think carefully about the words you choose—do they accurately represent what you're trying to say? Employ a dictionary (like the OED) or a websearch to make sure that you're really using a given word correctly.
  9. Use subject-driven sentences with active verbs. Avoid the pronoun "it" unless the antecedent is clear. Avoid the passive voice where an active verb would work instead. A good way to check for this is to search for the verbs "is/has/has been" in your paper.
  10. Use the appropriate tense (mostly present, as in "the author states," NOT "the author stated") and person (mostly the first-person singular "I" or the indefinite pronoun "one"). These are conventional practices in academic writing. You may occasionally use the pronouns "we" or "you," though the latter is exceedingly rare. Just be consistent.
  11. Include proper in-text, parenthetical citations.
    • If you are making multiple, adjacent citations from the same source, do not include the author/title in every parenthetical citation. Just include the page number or line number.
    • If you mention the author in the sentence, do not include their last namem in the parenthetical citation again.
    • If there are multiple sources by the same author, include the second item in the works cited entry (usually title of the piece) in the parenthetical citation.
    • If you are quoting from the poem as copied in your appendix, the parenthetical citation should be (Appendix n), where n is the appropriate line number.
  12. Transcribe the poem and include it in the Appendix of your paper (before the Works Cited page). If it is more than 14 lines long but less than 50, then you should include line numbers (copying the poem into a table with invisible cell lines is a good way to do this). If it is much longer, you can refer to page numbers rather than lines. The template on Canvas may be helpful.
  13. The body of the paper should be around 4 pages, with a descriptive title, MLA formatting, 1.7 spacing, and a Works Cited page.

Grading criteria #

A: Satisfies all of the above.
A- Satisfies 1-4, some issues with items 5-13.
B+: Some issues with items 1-4, satisfies everything else.
B: Some issues with 1-4, minor issues with 5-13.
B-: Some issues with 1-4, various issues with 5-13.
≤ C+: At the instructor’s discretion

The final grade is assigned based on the last revision you are able to turn in before the revision deadline. You can submit multiple rounds of revisions prior to that date. If you have even the smallest question don’t hesitate to ask.

Learning Objectives #

This exercise will help you identify an important formal element of poetry, and will also require you to provide a description of a poem’s meaning. The process of connecting structural patterns to your impressions of a poem’s overall insights will prepare you for future analytical essays in this course.

Last update: 5/22/2023
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