Essay 4

Essay 4 - “Final” #

Due Friday, 5/12 at 22:00; revisions due by 5/19 at 22:00

Prompt #

Find a poem you admire or find interesting and think about why you are drawn to it. Imagine a situation in which you want to share your thoughts on the poem with a friend who doesn’t necessarily “get” the poem or read much poetry, but who would like to understand why this poem matters to you. You can also write about a poet, a set of poems, a topic that arises in poetry, or even a poetic form (e.g. meter, lineation, voice, apostrophe), but ultimately your essay should focus on one or two poems.

Then, reflect on what we’ve discussed and written about in this class, and write an essay in which you use some of the methods or ideas you’ve encountered thus far to discuss the poem’s qualities with your friend.

Since this essay is supposed to be twice as long as the previous ones—at least 8 pages—you should incorporate some research on the poem or poet. This means discussing the poet’s background, reading an article or two that someone else has written on the poem or poet, or discussing a theory text or method that you will be using to read the poems in some detail.

You can write this in an epistolary format, with an explicitly named addressee (this doesn’t have to be a full or real name), but essays which appear to be written to a general audience can easily fulfill the prompt.

Other Suggestions #

  • Write a poem in response to another author’s poem and write about the choices you made as you composed and revised it. Reflect on how this creative act has deepened your understanding of that poem or of your own values. You may wish to reconstruct and respond to the author’s ethos, compositional practices, or a topic addressed in their poetry. You can also do this prompt with a translation—i.e., by translating a poem into English and discussing your process.
  • Write an essay discussing the relationship between a poem and a non-poem, like a painting, piece of music, scientific discovery, organism, or natural phenomenon.

Specifications #

  • 8-12 pages, 1.7 spacing, 12pt, Times New Roman, MLA style
  • Grade: 40%. Rubric will be released a week in advance.
  • Submit: On Canvas as PDF; include poem(s) in Appendix

Grading #

I will provide an assessment at the draft stage based on the following items:

  1. Argument
    Is the argument easy to follow? Is the argument interesting? By "interesting" I mean falsifiable and somewhat unexpected—the reader will not want to read about something that seems obviously true.
  2. Language
    Clarity, simplicity, and concision are preferred, but vibrant, complex, eclectic language is often necessary when dealing with poetic materials. You may have to do some work to find the right words to describe something. Use contrasts to your advantage. Longer sentences are punctuated by shorter ones. Objective language is interwoven with subjective language, etc.
  3. Typography
    Lack of typos, adherence to MLA formatting rules, quality of sources. Very important as many of your future professors, employers, and peers will glance at your work and not take it seriously if they immediately find "careless" mistakes. Guard yourself against bias!

The final grade is based on the rationale outlined in “Process.” The letters will be converted to numerical percentages following the standard grading scale, and weighted as 40% of the final grade.

  • A: The essay produces intrigue at the outset and impels the reader to follow through from beginning to end. Suggested revisions are minor, rare, and could be fixed in a few minutes; they are more accidental than systematic.
  • A-: ---. Suggested revisions are minor but systematic, and impede what would otherwise be a very interesting and pleasurable reading experience.
  • B+: An argument is explicitly stated, but the paper does not follow through with the argument effectively in its body paragraphs. Issues of language at the sentence level are minor or accidental and could be fixed quickly and easily.
  • B: ---. Issues of language at the sentence level are fairly minor but systematic.
  • B-: ---. Issues of language at the sentence level are widespread and significantly obscure the reading process.
  • C-range: Paper lacks an argument and is difficult to follow due to issues with language at the sentence level.
  • F: Was not turned in, or was completely unrelated to course content.

Learning Objectives #

Being able to design your own prompt or expand on previous work is an essential skill for future research, where you will be responsible for framing the parameters of your own project. I hope this class also gives you some tools for reading poems and other kinds of texts—visual, musical, etc.—and learning from them.

Last update: 5/22/2023
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