Collaborative Work: The Sonnet
ENGLISH 112W: Introduction to Poetry
Spenser, Sonnet #75 (p.169)
Sidney, Sonnet #1 (p.192)
Drayton, Sonnet #6 (p.214)
Shakespeare, Sonnet #18 (p.235)
Shakespeare, Sonnet #130 (p.240)
Select a recorder who will record your group's response to the question below, so your group can contribute your ideas to the general discussion which will follow. To begin, have the recorder read aloud the questions below; then, have someone in the group read the poem aloud.
1. Using the entry on the sonnet in Abrams (pp.197-8) and/or the entry in Norton Anthology of Poetry (pp.lxxiii-lxxv), evaluate the structure of the sonnet and the development of its argument to determine whether it is an English or an Italian sonnet.
2. Paraphrase the sonnet's argument, and determine the speaker's tone in relation to the subject of the sonnet. For instance, if the subject of the sonnet is love and the beloved, how are they treated, described, by the speaker?
3. What degree of power is attributed to writing and/or poetry? Through what images or comparisons is this degree of power conveyed?
4. How does the sonnet's structure contribute to its meaning? That is, identify the relationship between the structure and the speaker's argument.
5. Write a thesis about the meaning of this sonnet as a whole. Remember: whatever argument you come up with should be applicable to the whole poem. A couple of tests for your thesis to pass: (1) Does it make a claim that is truly contestable and therefore engaging? (2) Are the terms you are using precise and clear?

Return to Phil Nel's syllabus for English 112W, section 5.