Guidelines for Paper #2
ENGLISH 112W -- Nel
Due Date:
Friday, February 6 (3 copies of your 5-page paper)
Friday, February 20 (Revision Due)
For your paper, choose one of the following three poems, and formulate a thesis about the poem. Be sure to take note of the poem's form, meter, and rhyme -- issues we've addressed since the last paper -- as well as its diction, tone, and imagery, as you develop your thesis. Choose from: Lawrence's "Piano," Frost's "Acquainted with the Night," Rossetti's "In an Artist's Studio." (Note: The Frost and Rossetti selections are in sonnet form.)


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's Glossary of Literary Terms.


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 "On the Sonnet," Keats uses form, meter, and rhyme to comment upon the sonnet form. That is as much as to say, Keats writes a poem that comments upon the sonnet form. Instead: Keats's "On the Sonnet" playfully deconstructs the sonnet form in order to highlight its limits and to suggest new possibilities for the writer of sonnets. To demonstrate this, the writer would discuss the elements of the poem (such as form, meter, rhyme, imagery, etc.) 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. For example, do not include the meter of the poem just to include the meter of the poem. Instead, determine whether the meter (and any variations) could further support the claims of your thesis. 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.


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.


When in doubt, get help. My office hours are TR 1:00-2:30, W 3-4, 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.