Jerz: Am Lit II (EL 267)


21 April 2005

Ex 2-2: Literary Research

This assignment is designed to help you get started on your final paper, which is a longer, more detailed version of the literary research paper you have already completed.

Choose one or more literary works we have discussed this term, and use peer-reviewed resources (in addition to other sources, if applicable) to support a non-obvious argument that arises from your close reading of the literary work.

Avoid non-arguments like this: "Women have been oppressed in the past. Literary work X features the oppression of a woman. Therefore, women should continue fighting for their rights."

You, on the other hand, say, "Literary work X uses the theme of oppression to examine several different mother-daughter relationships, suggesting that, even in a male-dominated society, sometimes women can be each other's worst enemy."

(See the handout I wrote, Short Research Papers.)

  1. Secondary Sources (3). The first page of the article, and the first page of the article's list of sources. If your source doesn't include a list of sources, or if it ends with a "recommended reading" list, then you haven't found a credible academic source. (If your source includes footnotes or end notes instead of a works cited list, then use common sense and bring me whatever you think I need in order to confirm the value of your source. You can show me the book in class, for instance.)
  2. Title (including your precise opinion, and the literary work(s) you've chosen.
  3. Preliminary Thesis. (A thesis includes the limited subject, the precise opinion, and a blueprint -- but at this point, the blueprint can be sketchy.)
  4. Primary Source Quotations. Brief passages, with page numbers, from the literary works you want to examine.
  5. Secondary Source Quotations. Again, brief passages. Remember to introduce those quotations efficiently -- see my handout on integrating quotations.
  6. A statement that indicates you understand that plot summary and most character analysis are unnecessary (and pretty much worthless) in a college paper.
  7. A Start. Just one page that shows how you plan to use all this material. (I won't have time to read and comment on more than that, though you're welcome to bring a longer selection to share during my office hours.)
  8. Works Cited List. Include your primary and your secondary sources, in proper MLA style.

Oral Interpretation

Orally present for the class one mid-sized poem or several short ones. (3-4 min, plus 3-4 pages of supporting materials.)

You do not need to memorize your poem.

Submit an annotated copy of the poem for the instructor; clean copies of the poem for your classmates; and a 2-page written analysis. (Update: Annotation: in the margins of the text, write definitions of unfamiliar words. Divide the poem up into different sections, or highlight different parts in different colors, or write down notes [such as "loud" or "frightened"] to indicate how you plan to deliver certain lines. Written analysis: Discuss the significance of your selections (how they fit together), or describe how they illustrate something we have covered in class already, or offer your own analysis. Don't just describe the contents of each poem -- I already assume you know that. I don't require any scholarly sources or works cited list for this exercise.)

Make sure you choose an American poem, written or published from about 1915 on.

Update, 17 Apr: In class, we discssed the following.

  • If you prepare 5 minutes of poetry, you may turn in just 2 1/2 pages of written analysis.
  • If you present at least 3 minutes of poetry written by established authors, you may present 1 or 2 minutes of your own poetry. (Remember, this is an "All-American Poetry Cover Slam."
  • Use your body, your voice, the space in the classroom, and even props, if you like.
  • When you recite, don't pause robotically at the end of every line. See my handout, Poetry is for the Ear.
  • When you are finished, I will give you a little quiz, asking you to define a particular word, explain the significance of a mythological or historical reference, ask whether you're sure about the pronunciation.
  • If you don't think you will do a good job orally, put more effort into the written analysis.

You are welcome to blog about what you are doing, but note that recent poetry is still protected by copyright, so it would be inappropriate to type the whole poem into your weblog. (If the poem was published in America before 1922, then you can safely put it online.)