essay english 12


This essay should be 1500 word essays, roughly 6-7 pages double spaced. You should feel freer to incorporate more than one or two main works, though depth is far more important than breadth. the essay should develop a strong thesis around a theme, idea, or issue firmly rooted in one or more of the assigned texts. I recommend limiting your substantive engagement to no more than 2 works; indeed, focus on one work is really ideal for this kind of paper. However, you may, of course, mention other relevant or related texts to demonstrate the breadth of your thinking. That said, given the number of World War I poets and poems available, you may consider more than one of these authors, but not in a simplistic “compare and contrast” mode. To be clear, a comparison is not an unworthwhile thing if it is in the service of an argument. (Comparison and contrast for the sake of comparing and contrasting is not appropriate at this level.) The paper is fundamentally an extended close-reading project that requires no outside research. Context, biography, history, theory may be useful, but as a secondary emphasis. Of course, any material included on Blackboard or in the course anthology may be utilized. Just remember that, when exploring your chosen text, the words themselves are the most important evidence you have for your points!

An essential key to this assignment involves making observations about what is happening in the work/passage in question (what the work is doing)—and then inquiring into the implications (the meaning or significance) of those observations. The “obvious” in a given reading is vital, but pursuing the implications of your observations means not settling for merely the first thought. Keep plumbing the text. Ultimately, you are working towards a reading that explores what the text means to you. Your creative faculties are essential in any academic interpretation. However, this is not an exercise in creative writing per se; all your assertions must be rigorously tied to the evidence of the text itself. Again, the literary text is your evidence.

Furthermore, to avoid vast, nebulous, generic, and banal openings that merely tread water and serve no real purpose, I strongly suggest that all papers begin with well-selected epigraphs that articulate the issue or question to be analyzed. Explanation of what the epigraph means and how it applies to the larger thrust of the paper will facilitate the movement into a thesis that is specific and thoughtful.

Quoting generously from the primary text/s is essential. Please use the MLA parenthetical format for citations. This will mean listing author (Hardy, Yeats, etc.) and page number in the Norton. In the event that you are quoting or paraphrasing from multiple works by the same author, you will need to abbreviate the title and include it in the parenthetical citation. Two examples might be: (Hardy, “Hap” 44) and (Hardy, “Convergence” 54). If you are using only one text by an author, skip the abbreviated title in the parenthetical citation. Each paper should have a Works Cited listed at the end of the essay—though this should not be a separate page. (Don’t waste the paper.) NB: Regardless of what any official MLA guidelines state, do not cite poems by line numbers unless you are citing books/cantos and line numbers from an epic. In the real world, no publisher uses line numbers for citations of lyric poems; publishers use page numbers from actual texts.

Several seemingly minor points that make a difference:

  • Include a word count at the end of the paper.
  • Include page numbers in the upper right corner of all pages after the first page.
  • Include an original and creative title that speaks to your topic and thesis.
  • Staple all papers. I do not want paper clips or loose pages or dog-eared pages.
  • Avoid sentence fragments; every sentence must have a subject and a verb.
  • Avoid fused sentences, semicolon problems, and run-on sentences as well.
  • Limit any use of first and second person pronouns. Keep the language objective and scholarly for the most part—yet, do not be afraid to use a first person pronoun if you find such use strategically beneficial. Every word, punctuation mark, quotation… is there for a purpose!