Write a two-page close reading on either all of "After Apple Picking" or a few pages of "Trifles." Avoid summary. Assume that I have read the literary work, that I know it well, and that I have a copy within reach. There is no need to retell the plot.
- Upload your file to the appropriate slot in J-Web. (For this assignment only, you can just bring a copy of your file to class. Usually the deadline for uploaded work will be a half hour before class starts. After this week, you won't have class time to upload your work.)Bring 2 printouts to class, to trade with peers. (Exercise 1-1b will ask you to read and offer constructive criticism on your peers' work.)
There is a slot in J-Web for you to upload 1/2 page written responses for each student whose paper you reviewed. Your response should not only discuss what advice you gave your peer, but also indicate what you learned that you can apply to your own writing.
You should also give the author that response, as well as the marked-up printout of the paper.
Two close readings, 200 words each. One of a Stevens poem, the other of a Williams poem from our poetry anthology. Submit on J-Web.
Define all unusual words, explain references to historical events, religious or mythological figures, etc. Advance preparation for next week's poetry slam (when you will read the poem out loud to the class and interpret its meaning).
Choose Stevens or Williams. A lively oral interpretation of one of the works you analyzed for Ex 1-2a. We'll start with Stevens poems.
I'd like variety in the poems that we present, so I may ask you to make a different selection if everyone chooses the same work.
Submit: An annotated copy of your poem (that is, write notes all over it), and a half-page submission note explaining some of the specific choices you made and what textual destails those choices were supposed to highlight.
Present: An oral interpreation of your selected poem. (If you choose a very short poem for Ex 1-2a, I might ask you to present two poems.)
Discuss: Take an active role in the class discussion following your presentation. I'll provide some helpful questions and prompts, if the discussion lags.
You should know the poem well, though I won't expect you to memorize it. Check the pronuciation of unfamiliar words, and be ready to guide the class in a discussion about the ideas raised in your performance. Bring it to life through your voice primarily, but also consider facial expressions, gestures, costumes, props, whatever.
For instance, for an oral interpretation of Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening," you might indicate that you decided to pause and scratch your head and slow down while saying "Whose woods these are I think I know," and then snap your fingers when saying "His house is in the village though," and shrug with a little laugh when saying "He will not see me stopping here."
A really good explanatory note would indicate how these gestures are related, and what specific emotional effect you are driving for. What emotions are coming later in the poem? How can you set the stage in the earlier parts of the poem. so that you can convey those later emotions more fully?
For instance, if you wanted to convey anxiety and danger, you might try a completely different set of cues. You might emphasize the word "think" in "Whose woods these are I think I know," and then look around you nervously for "His house is in the village though," and freeze and look trapped while saying, "He will not see me stopping here."
Length: 3 pages minimum (about 700 words).
Chapter 1 of Writing about Literature is a valuable resource.
The paper should avoid plot summary
- X "This is a story about..."
- X "After the protagonist discovers the truth, he gets a real shock: his wife is just as dishonest as he was!").
The same goes for character description. Assume your reader knows the story well, and has a copy within reach.
The paper should avoid gratuitous personal responses
- X "This exciting passage makes me think of the time I was climbing a mountain with my friend Sally, who..."
- X "When I first read this passage, I thought..."
- X "People should be judged by what they can do, not by who their parents are."
The paper should make a claim about the literary text, not about life or faith or politics or the changing role of women in society anything else about life in general. Literature is the study of a particular artist's particular representation of reality, not the study of reality itself.
Your thesis should be a claim about the specific work in particular
The harsh faith of the Puritan fathers perpetuated misery, forcing imperfect people to choose between keeping up the external appearances of moral perfection, or risk being rejected by the society they needed in order to survive.
The above thesis is unacceptable because it makes a claim about the Puritan faith, and refers to the nature of moral perfection and the social needs of the human individual for support. That way lies chaos.
Sometimes religious authorities are corrupt. One example of such a corrupt society can be found in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, where [plot summary begins here].
A different kind of problem. This one makes a claim about religious societies, and uses The Scarlet Letter as a handy example. If you swapped out this text for a different text that showed a corrupt religious society, or a news article about corruption in religion, the points the author wants to make will pretty much be the same.
Consider instead the following:
While Hawthorne is deeply critical of the Puritan society he represents in The Scarlet Letter, the story does not advocate the complete rejection of moral authority. Rather, it illustrates, through Dimmesdale's demise, the destructive power of moral irresponsibility, and through Hester's eventual triumph, the healing power of accepting responsibility for one's own weakness.
The revision makes a claim about Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and refers to specific incidents from the novel for support.
In your high school English class, if you read a short story about tension between a mother and daughter, your teacher probably rewarded you for writing an essay in which you described parallels between the story and your own life. Your teacher wanted evidence that you had read and understood the story, and so your teacher rewarded you for summarizing the plot, for describing how you felt while reading it, and for explaining what you might have done if you were in a similar situation.
In a college literature class, your instructor expects that you already know how to summarize a work of literature and relate it to your own life experience. You wouldn’t have passed high school English if you hadn’t mastered that skill.
One-sided claims such as “Adolph Hitler was evil,” “People should be judged by what they can do, not by the color of their skin” or “Women in the 1800s had fewer freedoms than they do now” are not good topics for a pro/con paper, because you will find little credible evidence to support an opposing view.
You might even think of this as a pro/pro paper – that is, you present all the best arguments for a claim, then you shift gears completely and present all the best arguments for a competing claim.
Avoid making a claim about faith, government, women, sin, how things are different today, or otherwise trying to use a creative literary work to prove a point about the real world.
If you cannot find evidence that points to a coherent argument that works against your position, then you have not found a thesis statement worth arguing.
On the Value of Outlines
Students often ask for an outline to follow when they write a pro/con paper. I want students to feel like I am being helpful and responsive to their requests, and I can hardly resist the opportuntity to write yet another online handout. I paper certainly is easier to start if you can follow the outline someone else gives you. A paper is even easier if someone tells you what text to write on, assigns a thesis statement, supplies you with quotations to use, tells you what your conclusion should be, types it up, proofreads it, and hands it in for you.
The writing process is about discovering what structure is right for your particular writing assignment. You have to shoot at the backboard and miss a lot of times before you can expect to make free-throws dependably. Discovery is a process, and that process takes time and effort. Rough drafts, peer-reviews, and opportunities for revision are all part of that process.
An outline that works beautifully for one paper may be the wrong outline to use for a different paper. A student who is brimming with historical facts about a particular time period will thrive with an outline that invites the use of numerous kinds of evidence to support a small number of points. A student who is looking deeply into a new area may want to cover a large number of sequentially connected points that build up to form a single picture. And in the past when I used to give detailed outlines, once in a while I ran into a student who felt frustrated because he or she followed the outline religiously but still ended up with a mishmash of a draft. (Someone can tell me how to hold a golf club correctly, or what ingredients to buy at the store, but that alone doesn't make me a good golfer or a good cook.)
A complete draft of a literary essay does not include subheadings like "Introduction" or "Point 2." You don't need to have exactly three supporting points, and for longer papers, you won't be expected to handle each point in a single paragraph.
Okay, Here's a Very Basic Outline
The general shape of a pro/con argument looks something like this.
- Thesis: Introduce a position (supported with evidence)
- Antithesis: Anticipate objections to your claim by presenting all the best arguments against your position (backed up with evidence)
- Synthesis: Refute those arguments (with evidence) and demonstrate that your position still holds up
When you say "A thing seems to be X, but it is really Y," then Y is your "pro" (your thesis) and X is your "con" (antithesis). You end the paper with a section in which you expand upon, modify, or further qualify your thesis, or otherwise demonstrate that it still holds up. That concluding section is the synthesis.
More Detailed Outline
Note that a literature paper does not include subheadings like "Introduction" or "Antithesis," but it may be useful for you to make sure you are paying attention to each section.
MLA style asks for your name, the date, course name, and instructor name. I also ask for an assignment label (Exercise 1-3a), so I know exactly how to evaluate each particular document.
The most important element of the introduction is a thesis. A thesis is not a general statement of what your paper "talks about," or a list of ideas that you promise your paper will investigate. Rather, it is a concise statement that gives away the ending of your paper.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne places Hester Prynne on the borderline of many groups. As a newcomer to Salem, she retains her European beauty. As a married woman who lives alone, she is not under the control of her husband. As a sinner who does not hide her guilt, she is the model of the redeemed Christian, whose behavior shows far more Christ-like mercy and charity than she herself received from the community leaders. While the male authorities of Salem punish her for her failings, Hawthorne presents a complex, admirable woman whose moral courage more than makes up for her moral failings.
This thesis paragraph includes the topic (Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter), the thesis (within the story, Hester's moral courage more than makes up for her failings) and the blue print -- short list of supporting points (Hester exists on several borders; she is a better Christian than the religious leaders who condemn her; her complexity is the author's deliberate choice).
Let's consider some other sample theses.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," Marjorie and Bernice are very different.
That's not a thesis, that's a topic. It's good that you mention the author and work early on, but that's just throat-clearing. You haven't actually found a non-obvious point that's worth arguing.
There are many different ways to look at differences between Marjorie and Bernice.
Once gain, that's not a thesis. It's a plain-vanilla observation, it's not a specific claim that a reasonable person could disagree with.
In "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," a selfish and vain girl ruins the social hopes of a gullible would-be protege.
That's nothing but plot summary. Maybe it would be worth arguing whether Marjorie is vain or realistic, or whether Bernice might be just as selfish as Marjorie, or whether Marjorie really wants a protege -- but the way this sentence is written, none of those potential arguments are positioned as the main idea.
On the surface, "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" seems to be a story about a struggle for popularity, but Fitzgerald is careful to specify that Bernice is more interested in gaining the intimate friendship of her cousin than she is in displacing her cousin in the social scene. While Marjorie is an expert at manipulating the opinions of men, she is incapable of considering that she might be wrong about Bernice's actions and values, which suggests that she is even worse at questioning her own values. Bernice, on the other hand, is willing to try "everything" not simply to gain social status for herself, but in order to please Marjorie.
The above example makes a non-obvious claim about the literary work. To complete this paper, the author would need to supply quotations from the text to support each of the supporting ideas -- that popularity is an important but ultimately secondary theme; that Bernice's motivations are centered on befriending Marjorie; that Marjorie misreads Bernice's motivations.
This can be a single sentence that's part of the introduction, or it can be slipped into the transition between the thesis paragraph and the start of the argument proper, or it can be cut entirely. It all depends on how much setup work you have to do in order to ensure that your reader can follow your argument.
After you have introduced your main argument, introduce any contextual information that will help your reader understand your point. If you feel it will help your argument, here is the right place to introduce certain events in the author's life, themes that were common in other literary works published during the time period, public statements made by the author, etc. But remember, a literature paper should defend a non-obvious claim about the specific representation of reality, not about the historical period that inspired the work, or your personal response to the work, or what you feel today's society can learn from this work. or how the work would be different if it were written today, or how the society depicted in the story differs from our own.
Following the order in which you introduced your supporting points in the thesis paragraph, work logically through each point. Back up each claim with evidence (direct quotations from the literary work you are examining -- the primary sources. In later assignments, you'll be asked to introuduce other evidence as well.)
Usually you should begin with the strongest points in favor of your thesis, but if you want to argue a positon that you feel your audience won't accept right away, it's often better to begin with a fair but lukewarm presentation of the position you're about to disgaree with. (I did something like that when I first mentioned that students often request outlines to help them write pro/con papers, and then explained why I don't think giving detailed outlines is very helpful.)
Antithesis: Refutation and Concession
Here is where you anticipate all the best objections to your claims, presenting specific evidence that works against the claims you want to make..
For instance, earlier I suggested a thesis that "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" is really about the relationship between Marjorie and Bernice, one objection might be the fact that the story opens with a description of a community dance, not an intimate scene between Bernice and Marjorie. Another objection might be the observation that while Bernice acts as if she's a character in a story about her attempts to make friends with Marjorie, Fitzgerald has written a very different story -- one that works actively against Bernice's ideas of femininity and literature as a model for proper feminine behavior.
The goal in this section is not to for you to insist that only an idiot would disagree with you.
A pro/con paper shouldn't look like two contradictory papers spliced together. Neither does the "con" section need to be a complete about-face from the "pro" statement. I like to think of a good argument as a "pro/pro" paper. Be sure that you present the best evidence for arguments that work against the point that you want to make. If, in the process of writing your paper, you find that you've got more "con" evidence than "pro" evidence, that may be a sign that you should change your thesis. (You're perfectly free to do that, if you wish.)
In the "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" example, the "pro" would be "The story is really about the relationship between Bernice and Marjorie," and the "con" would be "The story really is about popularity."
For the "con" you needn't insist that the relationship between Bernice and Marjorie is completely unimportant. You might instead demonstrate that Marjorie treats Bernice as part of her entourage; that, just as she tells Bernice to pay attention to the lower-ranking men in order to attract the attention of the more valuable men, she may be exercising her social power by demonstrating that she can make a sensation out of a nobody and then send her crashing back to earth again. This may be a message she wants to send to the women, and you could argue that it's just as important as the message she's sending to the men by telling them stories and manipulating their affection.
Let's say you introduce three objections to your thesis. You might do it this way.
Opposing Point 1
Rebuttal to Opposing Point 1
Concessions for Opposing Point 1
Opposing Point 2
Rebuttal to Opposing Point 2
Concessions for Opposing Point 2
Opposing Point 3
Rebuttal to Opposing Point 3
Concessions for Opposing Point 3
But the result is likely to be choppy and mechanical. Once you've deeply investigated the connections between the points you want to make, you might find you need a structure like this:
Opposing Point 1
Opposing Point 2
Opposing Point 3
Response A, which rebuts Opposing Points 1 and 2.
Response B, which rebuts Opposing Points 2 and 3
Response C, which rebuts OP2 and OP3, but requires us to accept OP1
Response D, which demonstrates OP1 is really a special case of OP3, and that it's possible to accept both Responce C and the special case of OP3.
You analyze something by breaking it up into components. For our purposes, those components are the supporting points we want to present (and challenge, and reformulate). Synthesis is the re-assembly of these parts into a more complex, new idea.
It's something of an intellectual cop-out to say "A thing is X, but it also seems to be Y. It is actually both X and a Y." If that's really the case, then your initial claim ("This thing is X") was false, and your argument hasn't really made any progress.
In the sample outline above, we started out dealing with individual, discrete ideas, like Pez candies pushed out of a dispenser. But Response C and Response D started egaging more directly with what had been previously separate ideas.
These are the ideas that the author of the above draft should start focusing on in more detail, perhaps even revising the paper's central idea so that it deals with this original confection concocted by mixing together complex ideas in creative ways, and cutting out the Pez candies lined up before it.
Now that you have looked at the pro and the con arguments and proposed a synthesis, what new insights can you draw from the text? Where has the whole journey of this paper taken you? Remember that your thesis and conclusion should be about the literary work, not about love, women, race, America, who killed the bird or Mr. Wright, what the sherrif should have done, etc. In a literature class, you are not studying reality – you are instead studying an individual artist’s representation of reality.
A collection of your informal responses to the assigned readings. Keep up with the agenda items and reflection papers for each class meeting, and this assignment will be easy and rewarding. Fall behind, and this assignment will feel... otherwise.
Examples of portfolios from previous classes have included a no-nonsense list and a more personal essay. Either format is fine, but however you present your work, it's important to me that you specify where each of your posts falls amongst the categories listed below. The same post can count for more than one category, but if you keep re-using the same handful of posts that's probably a sign you can do a little better next time.
Submit your portfolio by using MT Quickpost from this page, or by pasting the URL of your portfolio entry into a comment on this page.
The Cover Entry: Post a blog entry that contains links to all the entries that you plan to submit for your portfolio. For the benefit of an outside reader (that is, someone who doesn't know what a blogging portfolio is), introduce each of these links and explain why they are significant. (For example, see "Favorite Blog Entries: Journaling Mode.")
The Collection: Your blogging portfolio is supposed to be a collection of your best weblog entries. For the purposes of this class, a "good" blog entry is one that demonstrates your intellectual engagement with the assigned readings and student panels, and/or the questions raised by your peers. I will accept a bulleted list of entries, but please write for an audience that does not know or care about your homework requirements.
Coverage. Ensure that you have blogged something for each of the assigned readings (for a C-level grade, at least brief agenda items for each assigned reading; for a higher grade, demonstrate your intellectual involvement with the assigned readings). The first Frost poem we looked at, "Desert Places," got its own separate page on the course website, so I consider that one reading. The next two Frost poems ("Mending Wall" and "After Apple-Picking") shared a page, so you don't need a separate entry on each poem; you can choose one or the other, or a single entry that responds to both works. I have assigned several different chapters in Roberts, and given a separate page to many different chapters; therefore, I'm looking for at least a brief response to each separate assigned reading. (If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.)
Depth. Some of the "coverage" entries you selected above should demonstrate your ability to examine a concept in depth. Do some original online research, and link to the precise pages where you got ideas that helped you formulate your ideas. If you prefer to use a library book, quote a passage that you found interesting. Here are a few examples of a blog entry that goes above and beyond the standard "what I thought about the book" blog entry: Fitting in in the Diamond Age and Forced Reading-- Beloved Character.
Interaction. Of the "Coverage" blogs entries included above, some should demonstrate your ability to use weblogs to interact with your peers. For instance, you might disagree (politely) with something a peer has written; link to and quote from the peer's blog entry, then carefully (and respectfully) explain where you disagree. Rather than hurl accusations in order to make the other person look bad, cheerfully invite the other person to explain their perspective. Quote passages from the texts your peer has cited, or do additional research that helps unveil the truth. (These may or may not include some entries you have already included among your "Depth" entries.)
Discussions. Blogging feels lonely when you aren't getting any comments; you will feel more motivated to blog if you enjoy (and learn from) the comments left by your readers. Your portfolio should include entries (which may or may not overlap with either the "Interaction" or "Depth" entries) that demonstrate that your blog sparked a conversation that furthered your intellectual examination of a literary subject.
Timeliness. A timely blog entry is one that was written early enough that it sparked a good online discussion, before the class discussion. A timely blog entry might also be an extra one written after the class discussion, if it reacts directly to something brought up in class. The blog entries that you write the night before the portfolio is due won't count in this category. And don't try to change the date in your blog entries -- I know that trick! ;)
Xenoblogging. "Xeno" means "foreign," so xenoblogging (a term that I coined last term) means the work that you do that helps other people's weblogs. Your portfolio should include three entries (which may or may not overlap with the ones you have already selected for "Coverage") that demonstrate your willingness to contribute selflessly and generously to the online classroom community. Examples of good xenoblogging:
- The Comment Primo: Be the first to comment on a peer's blog entry; rather than simply say "Nice job!" or "I'm commenting on your blog," launch an intellectual discussion; return to help sustain it.
The Comment Grande: Write a long, thoughtful comment in a peer's blog entry. Refer to and post the URLs of other discussions and other blog entries that are related.
The Comment Informative: If your peer makes a general, passing reference to something that you know a lot about, post a comment that offers a detailed explanation. (For example, the in the third comment on a recent blog entry about the history and culture of print, Mike Arnzen mentions three books that offer far more information than my post did.)
The Link Gracious: If you got an idea for a post by reading something somebody else wrote, give credit where credit is due. (If, in casual conversation, we credited the source of every point we make, we'd get little accomplished. But since a hyperlink is so easy to create, it's not good practice -- or good ethics -- to hide the source of your ideas.) If a good conversation is simmering on someone else's blog -- whether you are heavily involved or not -- post a link to it and invite your own readers to join in.
Locate four credible academic sources, including at least one book less than 10 years old and two articles less than 10 years old. The articles may be in print or online - what matters is whether they are from peer-reviewed (sometimes called "juried") periodicals.
Submit to the appropriate slot on J-Web an MLA style Works Cited list, featuring your four academic soucres and at least one primary source (that is, the work or works of literature that you plan to study).
Your sources should have something to do with the exercise that you plan to revise for Paper 1, but I won't hold you to using the sources you locate for this exercise.
Note that doing a Google search or visiting Findarticles.com is not likely to result in peer-reviewed academic articles. (Ask a reference librarian for help, or use the library's online catalog.)
Revision/Expansion of Ex 1-1, 1-2, or 1-3. Minumum four pages, not including the Works Cited page. I expect that you will make at least some reference to scholarly publications, but you should plan to pay attention mostly to the literary work(s) central to the point you want to make.
Follow MLA style (Smith 45). [Note - no comma between author's name and page number.]
If you use Google or Find Articles.com as your starting point when you seek sources for your literature paper, you will waste plenty of time, and you may end up with sources that were authored by high school sophomores or published in general-readership magazines like People or Time. Plenty of academic journals publish full versions of their articles online, but most do not. Since academic journals cost money to produce, the publishers don't give their articles away for free -- instead, they sell database access to libraries. You can access those databases for free via the SHU library.
Remember the research skills you learned in freshman comp, and use the library database to find academic books on literature, and peer-reviewed academic journal articles.
Databases you should use include Academic Search Elite and Modern Language Association Bibliography (both accessible through EBSCO Host). New in 2005 is the Literature Resource Center.
You may not find a whole book devoted to color symbolism in your chosen novel. You may find a whole book on your poet that doesn't mention the poem you want to write about.
But that doesn't mean you should eject your topic and look for something else. If you can't find a source that analyzes the relationship between Marjorie and Bernice in terms of a feminist understanding of community and sisterhood, you might instead look for an article on Fitzgerald's depiction of women.
But herein lies an important lesson:
If you write your paper first, and then "look for quotes" to support the paper you have already written, you will find the research process tedious and meaningless.That "research" strategy may have sufficed in high school, but it will not work in college.
You should know the author, the article title, and the name of the journal in which the article appeared.
Be very careful to note whether you have found an article that reviews a book. In this case, the author of the article is not the one who conducted the research that went into the book. (Ideally, you should go and find the book being reviewed.)
SHU has an inter-library loan program that may help you get books in time for you to submit your revision of this paper, even if you'll have to write the rough draft based on resources that you can get your hands on now.
As was the case in Ex 1-3, Paper 1 should avoid plot summary
The paper should make a claim about the literary text, not about life or faith or politics or women or anything else in general. (Literature is the study of a particular artist's representation of reality, not the study of reality itself.)
Your thesis should be a claim about the specific work in particular. (Refer back to the descripion of Exercise 1-3 for more details.)
Employ the Claim/Data/Warrant strategy.
This does not mean that every paragraph must begin with a claim, that the second sentence of each paragraph must include data (quotations from literary and scholarly sources that support the calim), and that the paragraph must continue with the warrant (your explanation of why the data proves the claim). Instead, you might find that you need a whole paragraph to work up to your claim, and you may need several paragraphs to provide data to back up your own point, along with evidence to back up opposing claims that you plan to work against in the following paragraphs.
Note - due on Monday morning. I have a conflict later in the week that means I won't be able to give you any significant feedback if you submit this exercise any later.
Advance work for Paper 3.
This is a 10-page research paper, that explicitly employs a theoretical approach (economic determinism, gender, reader-response, etc.) to argue a non-obvious point about one or more literary works on our syllabus.
I've created a slot on Turniitin.com for this paper. Due at 9am.
Include a submission report of 2-3 pages, that carefully draws my attention to the major changes you have made in your paper since the rough draft. Note that simply correcting spelling mistakes, inserting answers to clarifying questions that I post in the marigns, and adding a few more quotations does not qualify as revision. A revision is a near-complete overhaul, in which you throw out the deadwood, cut extraneous material, and expand and deepen your treatment of your central claim.