Guidelines for Paper #4

ENGLISH 102 -- Nel

Due Date:
Friday, March 23 (Complete draft of your 3-page paper)
Friday, March 31 (Final version Due)

For your paper, choose one of the following poems, and formulate a thesis about how the poem's diction, tone, imagery, sound, etc. develop the poem's theme or themes. Choose from: William Carlos Williams' "Spring and All," Emily Dickinson's 328 ("A Bird came cown the Walk--"), Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays," Michael McFee's "In Medias Res," William Matthews' "Misgivings" [X], Larry Levis' "The Poem You Asked For" [X].

As you work to formulate your thesis, here are a few hints. First, there may be more than one tone at work in the poem - or the tone may shift. Your thesis will want to take into account any shifts or ambiguities. Second, when addressing the formal elements of the poem (diction, tone, etc.), think about how they work together in the poem as a whole. It's less important that you focus on each element individually and more important that you use these formal elements as tools to assist your analysis.


Getting Started…

1. Read and Reread. Read and reread the poem you've chosen to write about, with a mind to your present topic, the poem's theme. Make use of the "What Is Close Reading?" handout as you take careful notes and underline all relevant words, phrases, and images. In the margins and on separate sheets of paper, explicate the poem, going through it line by line.

Writing the Paper…

1. Formulate a thesis. Make sure your thesis is specific enough to be covered adequately in the space of your discussion. Do not simply list techniques that develop a theme: In "A Description of the Morning," Swift uses diction, tone, and imagery to develop the speaker's disgust at the morning scene. That is as much as to say, Swift writes a poem that develops the speaker's disgust with the morning scene. Instead: The disgust of Swift's speaker calls attention to the class differences upon which London society depends. To demonstrate this, the writer would discuss the elements of the poem (such as diction, tone, and imagery) that establish this action. Refer to the handout titled "Thesis vs. Topic." When you're writing the paper, the thesis will fall at or near the end of your introductory paragraph.

2. Provide support. To persuade your readers to your position, you will need to provide some evidence in support of your claims. A quotation from the poem should be used as evidence to prove your assertions.

3. Analysis and explanation of evidence. Be sure to analyze the quotation and discuss its significance. Explain for your reader how your evidence supports your claims. Do not summarize the "plot" of the poem. Instead, analyze how the language works, how it proves your thesis.

4. Conclusion. Your last paragraph should synthesize, not summarize. You should resolve - and not merely repeat - your argument.

And, after you finish your draft…

1. Revise and edit. Read your paper out loud to yourself. Often you will hear what your eyes will miss.

2. When in doubt, get help. My office hours are on the syllabus, and by appointment. My email address is Also, please make use of your Bedford Handbook and the Writing Lab at 216 Education Center. The phone number is 953-5635, and their hours are 9 to 4 and 6 to 8, Monday through Thursday, and 9 to 12 on Fridays.

Paper #4 |
Thesis vs. Topic | Syllabus for English 102
This page was last updated on 21 March 2000.