Guidelines for Paper #3, Option #1
ENGLISH 112W -- Nel
Due Date: Friday, April 3 (6 pp.)
Write a six-page paper in which you compare and contrast two of the seven 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; you may instead make use of them during the discussion itself.
Choose two poems from the following seven: 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," Ormsby's "Origins," Dickinson's no. 744 ("Remorse -- is Memory -- awake"), Rossetti's "Remember," and Brooks's "my dreams, my works, must wait till after hell."


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.


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."


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


Organize your argument logically. Be sure that each paragraph has a controlling idea and that each paragraph leads logically to the next. 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 your thesis.


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.

Guidelines for Paper #3, Option #2
ENGLISH 112W -- Nel
Due Date: Friday, April 3 (5 pp.)
Part I: Write a sonnet.
On a topic of your choice, write a sonnet using any form (Petrarchan, 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 4-page, analytical essay about your sonnet.
Beginning on a new page (separate from your sonnet), write a 4-page analysis of your sonnet. This analytical paper should conform to the guidelines of a critical paper (outlined on the other side of this page, 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, the "Thesis vs. Topic" handout, etc.)