English 10A F 17
Paper Topics #1
Please write a 4-5 pp. paper (1250 words) on one of the topics supplied. This purpose of this paper is to demonstrate your ability to read closely and carefully--to explicate the themes, imagery, and tone of a short passage or poem--and then, of course, to communicate your reading in careful and well-organized prose. You should try to argue for what the poem means, and, more importantly, how it means: i.e., how it uses language, vocabulary, verse, etc., in order to put forth its meanings. Avoid at all costs telling your reader what “people in the middle ages” thought. Tell us what and how the author in question communicates.
This assignment is designed with two goals in mind: the first is to prompt you to think about the methods by which an author creates certain portraits of character, as well as elaborates a certain psychology (or ethics) of personhood. In order to address the question successfully, you must be attentive to small descriptive details as well as the larger thematic concerns, and articulate the relationship of these to each other.
The second charge of this task is to call forth and hone your “close-reading” skills: the discussion of micro-level formal and linguistic details such as verse form, the role of meter and line and rhyme in creating emphases and tone; linguistic choices, and the function of types of imagery (metaphor, simile, synecdoche, etc.). How does an author use the verbal technologies at his disposal to conjure a representation in your mind’s eye? Your paper will be most successful if you concentrate your attention on a short passage of a poem (e.g., 20-25 lines).
Late papers will be penalized one grade level per each day past the deadline.
Advice on what we look for:
1. There are three things we look for when reading your papers: 1) an argument about your topic that you make explicit early in the paper 2) enough close textual analysis to support your claims, and 3) logical connections between your points, so that your argument progresses rather than simply listing attributes or repeating itself. Remember that an essay is an argument about the text, which means that it must a) have a clearly stated and well-focused thesis, and b) use attentively explicated material from the text as evidence in support of that thesis.
2. Be argumentative: your thesis should be arguable, i.e. an act of persuasion, for which you can imagine a counter-argument or objections to your own argument. Ideally, a good argument will anticipate, voluntarily raise and dispatch objections to the case presented. At some point consider a paragraph in your essay that entertains the evidence against the case you are making, and then explain why it does not overturn your own. If your argument seems too easy to prove, ask further questions (such as why it is so or how it comes about) to evolve a more ambitious argument.
3. Choose a question or topic that really interests you. Work on a text that...