Essay 3

Essay 3 - “Literature Review” #

Due Friday, 4/14, at 22:00; revisions due by 4/28 at 22:00.
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Prompt #

In the fourth and final essay, you will get a chance to spend a longer period of time reading and writing about poem(s) which you admire. Once you choose your materials, the main task will be to figure out what question you’ll ask of the text, and what methods you’ll use to address that question. In order to do this, it can be helpful to get a sense of what approaches other critics have taken in the past. Then, you can build upon the current scholarly discourse. To get started with this process, I’d like you to pick out a secondary text*, i.e. an article or essay which comments on a poem, and write about it, addressing the following points:

P1: What is this article about, on a basic level? Where and when is it from? Who is the author? Why did you choose this article over others?

You don’t have to say much about the author, but if your article happens to be written by an especially famous poet or critic, then it might be worth mentioning.

Obviously, you chose it because it’s relevant to a poem/poet you plan to write about—but if you just say this, then the reader still has to wonder why you’re interested in the poem/poet. You may need to do some explaining on the relevance of the poetic subject matter too, either by appealing to what the author of the article has written, or to external sources (like the poet’s biography, or your own ideas on the appeal of this poet/poem).

And if you didn’t get a chance to read and choose between different articles, then you don’t have to address the second point, but you should try to give a sense of why this article seems worth reading.

P2: Give the reader an overview of the article’s major points, in the order in which they appear. Try to make the logical necessity of each part clear—i.e., why did the author move from Point A to Point B? Finally, which part of the article was most interesting to you?

If the article is especially long and convoluted, you can just address a selection of major points, but be clear about the fact that you're ommitting something.

P3: Discuss that focal point in greater detail. If you think something is “interesting,” it probably means that there’s some level of ambiguity in that thing, that you have a question to ask. So pose a question here. Is the point completely true? Do you think it would apply to another poem by the same poet? Or perhaps you do not even understand or agree with the point at all, and would simply like to provide some kind of a response.

P4: Now that you’ve identified a point of interest and posed a question, try to suggest some possible answers to that question. This will probably involve seeing how that point applies in a slightly different scenario not present in the article. For example, if you wanted to understand why Jonathan Culler calls apostrophe “embarrassing,” you could respond by showing how apostrophe is or is not embarrassing in the case of a poem not discussed in his article. Or, if you feel like you have a firm understanding of the point, you can show how the point would be interesting to apply in another context.

Attachment: Finally, turn in with your essay an annotated copy of the article you wrote about. You may simply highlight lines of interest as you’re reading, or add marginal notes as well. If you prefer to take notes on the article in a separate document, then you can attach that as well, or instead, if your annotations on the article are sparse.

*There is one major exception to the “secondary text” stipulation. You may also choose an essay by a poet that is relevant to the poetry you want to investigate. Many poets have published essay collections or critical writings which may also work (e.g., Wordsworth’s Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, Shelley’s “A Defense of Poetry,” Pound’s “A Retrospect,” Poe’s “An Essay on Composition,” Glück’s “American Narcissism,” etc.). Interviews with poets can also suffice.

Specifications #

  1. Follow the directions given above.
  2. Give the paper a concise and meaningful title.
  3. Revise for unclear, overlong, or overly repetitive sentence constructions.
  4. Make sure the paper is free of typographical, grammatical, and spelling errors.
  5. Use proper MLA formatting and citation style, 1.7 spacing.
  6. The body of the paper should be around 3 pages. Submit to Canvas as a PDF.

Grading criteria #

A: Satisfies all of the above
A-: Satisfies 1, 2, 6, minor issues with 3-5
B+: Satisfies 1, 2, 6, various issues with 3-5
B: Issues with 1, 2, 6, minor issues with 3-5
B-: Issues with 1, 2, 6, various issues with 3-5
≤ C+: At the instructor’s discretion

Learning Objectives #

Identifying an interesting point in someone else’s writing will help you form your own research question or claim. It will also

Last update: 5/22/2023
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