Prof. Jonathan Glance

Paper #3

Due: Wednesday, 25 October
Draft Workshop: Tuesday, 24 October
Length: 3–5 typed pages

In this paper you will explicate one poem which has been assigned for class. The word “explication” comes from a Latin word that means “unfolding.” When you explicate a poem, you “unfold” its meaning in an essay by interpreting or analyzing a portion of it. No explication can take into account everything that goes on in a poem. You might, for example, discuss the recurrence of certain clusters of images, or the repetition or variation of a theme, or the significance of the poem’s form (such as its meter, rhyme scheme, stanzas), or the impression you receive of the poem’s speaker, or the structure you find as the poem unfolds. Your paper should focus on an element that you think contributes to the overall meaning or success of the poem. Assume the audience is your classmates and that they have already read the poem. Your mission is to help them understand better what it means.

A good explication concentrates on details: you must quote portions of the poem to show how the text supports your thesis. Make sure you also explain, however, how that quotation illustrates your thesis, and why the quotation means what you claim it does. Then offer comments that show how the portion you’re interpreting contributes to the work as a whole. As a general rule, “say more about less”: limit your focus to a small enough topic so that you can cover it in some detail in this brief paper.

Refer to the first assignment sheet for a suggested procedure for composition, and for the requested format. Note these additional suggestions, however. Put the titles of poems in quotation marks; for poems which do not have a title, you may refer to the first line as if it were the title. When quoting poetry, use slashes to indicate the end of lines; for example, “Break, break, break, / On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!” (ll. 1-2). When quoting four or more lines, indent the quotation and omit the slashes and the quotation marks:
      Break, break, break,
      On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
      And I would that my tongue could utter
      The thoughts that arise in me. (ll. 1-4)
As in the examples above, provide line numbers in the parenthetical citations, not page numbers.

Unlike in the first paper, in which you did not use any outside resources , I want you to find on the Internet one piece of relevant information about the poem or the poet. Use the handout of links I gave you earlier. We will talk in class about how to judge and incorporate on-line information.

I will be happy to discuss topics and approaches with you, or to examine and comment on your draft. This paper is due in class. I will penalize late papers by one letter grade per day. Please see me if it appears your paper will not be finished on time.