Choose one of the following:
Option 1, Option 2, or Option 3.
Guidelines for Paper #5, Option #1

ENGLISH 102 -- Nel

Due Date:
Thursday, April 13 (draft due)
Friday, April 21 (revision due)

Write a three-page paper in which you compare and contrast two of the eight poems listed below. The thesis may foreground similarities and differences between the poems' formal elements (e.g.: meter, rhyme, diction, tone, and imagery) in order to discuss their themes, or you may choose to address the poems' formal qualities during a discussion that compares and contrasts the poems' themes. That is, do not feel compelled to account for any or all poetic devices in your thesis statement; instead, make use of them during the discussion itself.

Choose two poems from the following eight: Brooks' "my dreams, my works, must wait till after hell" [X], Milton's "When I Consider How My Light Is Spent," Wordsworth's "The World Is Too Much with Us," Keats's "When I Have Fears," Jarman's "Unholy Sonnet," Rossetti's "Some Ladies Dress in Muslin Full and White," Millay's "I will put chaos into fourteen lines," and Collins' "Sonnet" [X]


Getting Started…

1. Read and Reread. Read and reread the poem you've decided to write about, with a mind to the topic you have chosen. As you take careful notes (underlining all relevant words, phrases, and images), make use of the "What Is Close Reading?" handout and the discussion on versification in the Norton Anthology or in Abrams.

Writing the Paper…

1. Formulate a thesis. Make sure your thesis is specific enough to be covered adequately in the space of your discussion. Remember: merely noting a difference or similarity does not constitute a thesis. So, it would not be sufficient to say that Millay's sonnet "I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed" answers Shakespeare's sonnet 116, by giving the woman voice. Instead: By appropriating the legal imagery of "Let me not to the marriage of true minds," Millay's "I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed" readjusts the contractual relationship between men and women of the older sonnet by substituting a local situation for sonnet 116's eternal vision. Refer to the handout titled "Thesis vs. Topic."

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.

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.

Guidelines for Paper #5, Option #2

ENGLISH 102 -- Nel

Due Date:
Thursday, April 13 (draft due)
Friday, April 21 (revision due)

Part I: Write a sonnet.

On a topic of your choice, write a sonnet using any form (Italian, Shakespearean, Spenserian, or your own adaptation), and including examples of at least one of the kinds of figurative language we have discussed. Your sonnet must be typed and have a title.

The object of the assignment is not necessarily the creation of a great (or even a good) sonnet, but just a poem that follows the demands of this form. Writing a sonnet will force you to put to use much of what we have discussed in this class and should give you a new appreciation of the complexities in writing a poem. The sonnets themselves will be graded only with a check, check-plus, or check-minus.


Part II: Write a 2-page, analytical essay about your sonnet.

Beginning on a new page (separate from your sonnet), write a 2-page analysis of your sonnet. This analytical paper should conform to the guidelines of a critical paper (outlined above, and on all of your paper assignments to date). So, you'll need a thesis that asserts the overall goal or effect of the sonnet or makes a claim about its movements or methods of progression. Try to focus not on what you intended or had in mind when you wrote it, but what you think you actually achieved. Try, in other words, to read your sonnet as an outsider might, and use this knowledge to focus and structure your analysis.

Make sure that you address the rhythm or meter of the poem, its rhyme scheme, and any other examples of poetic techniques with which you are familiar. Look up any words you have used to see if they have other possible meanings; ask friends (or me) about connotations you might have missed. Ask other readers for their thoughts as to what the poem is about, what it does, and how it does it. In short, consider everything about your poem that we might as a class or you might in an essay about a professional poet's poem. (Consult the guidelines above, the "Thesis vs. Topic" handout, etc.)

Guidelines for Paper #5, Option #3

ENGLISH 102 -- Nel

Due Date:
Thursday, April 13 (draft due)
Friday, April 21 (revision due)

Write a three-page paper in which you investigate the use of nonsense in the poetry of either Edward Lear or Dr. Seuss. The work must be poetry and must be one we have not discussed in class (i.e., a work not on the syllabus). You may choose only one work by either author: for Seuss this means one children's book; for Lear it means one nonsense song. Seuss's books can be found in both the College library and the Charleston County Library (68 Calhoun Street). Lear's can be found in the aforementioned libraries and on-line: the nonsense songs are in Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets (1871) and Laughable Lyrics: A Fourth Book of Nonsense Poems, Songs, Botany, Music, & c. (1877).

Seuss and Lear each did their own illustrations. If the work you choose is illustrated (all of Seuss's are; most of Lear's are), your paper ought to address the illustrations as well as the poetry: do the illustrations reinforce or undermine any particular meanings, rhymes, images, etc.? Which ones? And how do the pictures shape your reading of the work?

If you want some thoughts to get you started, you might take a second look at Robert Frost's discussion of the "sound of sense" (handed out in class on Tuesday the 4th), pay close attention to our class discussions of Dr. Seuss and Edward Lear, and/or consider Wendy Steiner's idea that nonsense refects the "paradox that langauge can be both motivated and arbitrary, a self-sufficient system and one affected by extralinguistic meaning, a social and an individual tool" (The Colors of Rhetoric 93). Whichever of these ideas you draw upon (if any), remember that your focus is the poetic work in question. To support your points, quote primarily from the poetry you're discussing. And, of course, consult the guidelines above.

Paper #5 |
Syllabus for English 102 | Sample Essay
This page was last updated on 6 April 2000.