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Writing about a problem goes deeper than simply interpreting a piece of literature because the process consists of you exploring why a piece has that interpretation.  For example, I was having the most difficult time on our last essay because I kept trying to explain the meaning of "Lady Lazarus."  I felt like I was simply stating the obvious, or at least stating ideas that anyone could arrive at by simply reading the poem.  There was no claim, just a statement, which meant there was no anti-thesis or argument in my paper.  Perhaps if I had written the paper from the angle of why Plath uses specific words to represent something, such as in Strategy 2 in Roberts' Writing About Literature, I would have had a much more debatable thesis statement after sifting through pointed questions as Roberts suggests.

Roberts doesn't really provide any information that's new to me, but he does remind of an important strategy for writing papers.  I took Introduction to Poetry last year, as I've mentioned before, and I'm still stuck in that mindset of writing, that being simply explaining the meaning of a poem.  After all, the class was just an introduction, so we were expected mostly to be able to interpret the poems' meanings.  Because of my being used to that style of writing papers, I've been having a hard time this semester doing anything beyond looking for the meaning.  Reading this chapter reminded me of what I've learned in past literary classes, and because I've been away from that knowledge for a while, it was almost like he was providing me with a new way of thinking.  

The sample essay was also helpful, especially the introduction and the conclusion.  The body paragraphs of a paper are typically easier for me to write as long as I have my evidence.  The introduction and conclusion, however, is much more difficult for me.  Seeing how the author of this essay (Roberts?) presents the problem, outlines how he plans to address it, and the thesis statement of the introduction made it much clearer than if he had done the cliché method of starting on a broad subject and narrowing it down.  The conclusion, also, was extremely effective in the way the author begins with the antithesis and works his way down to why his reasoning is correct.  

"There it crystallizes and acts as a symbol for the previous fifteen lines, and does so with freshness and surprise.  The shift of meaning is a logical necessity in "Desert Places" (180).
                    - Edgar Roberts, Writing About literature

These concluding sentences about Frost's poem, "Desert Places," made everything click into place in my mind.  The poem had made sense to me, but I felt like the ending was abrupt, as it seems many critics have believed.  Now, my perspective has changed.  Yes, it is abrupt, but it is intentionally abrupt, and that is much more logical.



Josie Rush said:

Something I found helpful in the chapter was when Roberts urged us to take our claims and ask "why". Sometimes then, even the simplest observations become "problem questions". For example, maybe you'd say that Sylvia Plath uses many metaphors regarding Jews in a certain poem. Why does she do this? Or, why is this effective/ineffective? And then we get to, What do we mean by effective? And we can even build from there to literay conventions. Certainly asking "why" will not give you a complete "problem question" but it can start a thought process that will lead to one.

Josie: After trying to use Roberts' suggestions while writing this last research paper, I found it a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. Simply asking why is a good starting point, but you have to go beyond that to make a strong claim.

Josie Rush said:

So. Totally. True. This last paper was next to impossible for me to think of a topic for. I would wonder about Wordsworth's nature-theme, and ask why, only to answer with a desperate "I don't know!" So, yes, "why" is a good starting point, but by no means is it the answer to all of our problems.

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