Choose a poem or song (do not select one of the poems assigned for reading during the semester and DO NOT select a poem you have worked with in a previous classroom experience at any level; the poem you select should be new to you this semester). Find a poem or song from the WGTC Library’s collection or public library’s collection, a poem or song from your personal collection, or from select online locations, including Blackboard and GALILEO (be careful to select only credible sites). Please select published work instead of any unpublished work. Inform me of the story you wish to write on by the deadline listed above by submitting the story’s title and author to the text selection drop box in Blackboard; do not change your text selection after notifying me of your choice. One point will be deducted from your Essay 3 grade for each day your text selection is late (refer to the Deadline Penalty Policy on the syllabus). Select one or more of the following questions, and write a thesis-driven, persuasive textual analysis essay in which you argue for a reading of the chosen poem based on your answer(s) to the question(s). You will need to include quotations/paraphrases from the poem with analysis of those quotations/paraphrases to support your thesis statement. Your writing about your reading of the text should comprise the majority of the material in your essay; do not allow quotations to overrun your essay. In answering the question(s), you should not merely summarize or “retell” the poem; remember that your target audience is an informed peer who has already read the poem. Select one or more of the following questions to answer with your essay: • What is the poem’s point or purpose and why is that point important? • How do the individual words used (or language usage in general) influence the meaning of the poem and why is that important? • Does the writer make references; if so, what do those references represent and why are they important? • Who is the intended audience of the poem, and how does the poem communicate to that audience and why? • Does the poem have a particular approach or tone toward the subject and why does it matter? • Is there a theme throughout the poem (what is it) and why does it matter? • How do historical, social, political, cultural, and/or religious contexts (identify each you deal with) impact the poem and/or vice versa and why do those contexts matter? Your paper should have at least (in addition to answering the task in the selected option) the following elements: • An introductory paragraph presenting author’s name, title of poem or song, your thesis statement, and a brief overview of your reasoning to support your thesis. • Direct quotations from the poem to back up your claims which are introduced, incorporated, cited, and analyzed in your writing (cite your paraphrases as well, but quotations are better for poetry). • A concluding paragraph in which you reaffirm your thesis and reasoning. As a part of your discussion, you may want to consider the basic questions about what is happening in the poem: who is speaking and from what perspective; how the poem uses language through sounds, images, and rhetorical figures; and so on (but do not summarize the poem). As you explore the poem, however, your focus should be answering the selected question or questions. You are working to discover how and why the poem means what your reading argues that it means. This assignment is about trying to make what you have learned about reading poetry critically (and literature in general) pay off by showing how specific uses of language create an overall effect: how a poem comes to make a reader feel the way a reader feels about it. While you do not have to become an expert in the culture of the time and place in which the poem was written, if there are broad historical points (based on common knowledge) that seem relevant, you should certainly feel free to bring them into the interpretation. You should try to avoid sweeping generalizations about the period or unfounded speculations about the author’s intentions: Do not make lazy historicizing claims like “The poem is dreary in tone because people back then lived miserable lives,” or “The author of this poem was crazy and meant this poem to make the rest of us crazy too.” If the meaning of a word may have changed since the time the poem was written, look it up in a good, unabridged etymological dictionary (such as the Oxford English Dictionary), which will give you examples of shifting meanings over time. Again, there is no need to quote from the dictionary in your essay. Do not consult Cliff/Spark notes or other websites offering analysis, plot summary, or other commentary. Your discussion of the poem must be your analytical discussion, not a regurgitation of someone else’s work or a focus on biography or history.
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