Guidelines for Paper #1
ENGLISH 112W -- Nel
Due Date:
Wednesday, January 21 (3 copies of your 3-page paper)
Friday, January 30 (Revision Due)
For your paper, choose one of the following three poems, and formulate a thesis about how the poem's diction, tone, and imagery develop the poem's theme or themes. Choose from: T. S. Eliot's "Preludes," Theodor Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz," or Elizabeth Bishop's "The Fish."


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.


Formulate a thesis. Make sure your thesis is specific enough to be covered adequately in the space of your discussion. A common trap of a thesis is to 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."


Brainstorm. Formulate ideas and collect quotations that will prove and develop your thesis.


Organize your argument logically. Be sure to stay with a single idea and develop it thoroughly. Do not introduce ideas that will distract your reader from your central point. Be sure that each paragraph has a controlling idea and that each paragraph leads logically to the next.


Prove it. A quotation should be used as evidence to prove your assertions. All general statements should be supported with evidence from the text. Be sure to analyze the quotation and discuss its significance.


Be specific. Stay away from vague generalizations. For instance, stating that "the poem was interesting" says close to nothing; instead, argue for what made it interesting to you.


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


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


Don't panic. Remember this is the first (ungraded) draft before a revision. Do your very best, but also remember that you have plenty of time to work on improving your writing.


When in doubt, get help. My office hours are TR 2:40-3:40, W 11-12, and by appointment. My email address is Philip.W.Nel@Vanderbilt.Edu. And please make use of your Bedford Handbook and (if you opted to purchase a copy) The Elements of Style.