LIT 3015: Essay 2: Explication of a Poem (Theme)
Remember that in poetry there is no need to understand EVERYTHING. In poetry, you, the reader and/or the listener, have to actively participate with the poem and “fill in the blanks” and deeper shades of meaning. Poems are often about subjects that you have never experienced directly. You have never met the poet, never had his or her experiences, and never thought about things in exactly the same way. To recapture the experience of a poem, you DO, however, need to understand the use of language, ideas, attitudes, and frames of reference that bring the poem to life. For this assignment, you are to write an explication of a poem of your choosing from Bite to Eat Place to demonstrate your understanding of a poem and its theme. To explicate a poem means to give a detailed analysis of a work, often line by line or word by word and goes beyond the assimilation required for a paraphrase and thus provides you with the opportunity to show your understanding. You do not, however, need to explain everything in the poem. What you should do is devote attention to the meaning of individual parts in relationship to the work as a whole (See the questions below). In other words, Do not simply recount the events of the poem. This is a paraphrase. You are to explain to the reader how you see the theme throughout the poem's various segments and explain how that theme is connected to the metaphor of food. Remember that literary criticism is formal academic writing. The first person, personal pronouns, and contractions should be avoided.
NOTE: THE IDEAS FOUND IN THIS PAPER MUST BE YOUR OWN. YOU MAY NOT USE OUTSIDE SOURCES!
Questions for Discovering Ideas About Your Poem
Use these questions to help you establish the poem's context in your essay's introduction:
•Who is speaking? Where is the speaker when the poem is happening? Who is being spoken to?
•What is the situation? What has happened in the past, or what is happening in the present, that has brought about the speech? In other words, why is the speaker delivering this speech now? What is the occasion for the speech?
- Is the poem a personal statement, does it tell a story, or does it do both?
Use these questions to help you develop the content of the body of your essay:
•What does the title contribute to the reader’s understanding?
•How does the poet use stylistic techniques such as assonance, alliteration, and onomatopoeia to create an emphasis on specific words? How does an explanation assist in the understanding of the poem?
- How does the poet use similie and metaphor to create words that have symbolic, underlying meanings in the poem? How does an explanation assist in the understanding of the poem?
- How is the poem structured? Is it one long stanza? multiple stanzas? How do the ideas in the multiple stanzas progress? Does the enjambment of the poem's lines create further meaning in the poem? How does an explanation assist in the understanding of the poem?
- How does the poet's use of punctuation affect the poem's tone? How does an explanation assist in the understanding of the poem?
•What is the main idea of the poem? What details make possible the formulation of the main idea? (You will use the "main idea" to develop your claim in regard to theme; this will be be placed in your essay's intro. The restatement of your claim will be placed in the conclusion of your esssay).
In this type of paper a writer is forming an academic argument. As the writer you are arguing that your interpretation of the text is a valid - not the only interpretation - in an attempt to aid the reader in “seeing” the text in a new light or from a different perspective that perhaps may be different from their own.
Your audience is made up of academics, scholars, literary critics, professors, and students (who are academics, scholars, and literary critics). You should assume that they have read the text and are familiar with its contents. Because of this you would never merely retell the story because your audience is already familiar with it. This would also conflict with the purpose of this type of paper. You are to discuss underlying meaning, not retell the events of the story.
Because your audience is a scholarly one, your paper must be presented in a formal manner. You should use high diction and avoid first person, personal pronouns, and contractions.
The focus of your paper should be what you feel is an important idea or theme found in the work. Although there are multiple theories and methods that a writer may explore when examining a text, we will concern ourselves only with the methods of the Russian Formalist and New Critical approaches, which emphasize close readings of the text, elevating this practice far above generalizing discussion and speculation about either authorial intention (to say nothing of the author's psychology or biography, which became almost taboo subjects) or reader response.
Organization and Development
Your essay should have a title. It should also be typed, double-spaced, with one inch margins all around, Times New Roman Font, & 12 pt. Your essay should be a minimum of 2 and a half to 3 and a half pages. To reach the required page count, be sure that you choose a dense poem (a longer piece that offers you many layers to examine).
Your grade for this assignment will be determined as follows:
Total Possible Points: 60/
Final Draft, evaluated on the following criteria:
Focus (16 points): Does essay have a clear purpose? Overall claim stated? Focus on a single idea, aspect, or theme of the poem? Are the broader implications of this claim made clear in the opening paragraph? Does the writer maintain this focus throughout their essay? Are the subclaims clearly related to the claim? When read together, do the intro and conclusion form one idea?
Development (16 points): Does writer support interpretation with evidence from text? Avoid giving a mere paraphrase? Does writer explain for the reader how the evidence supports interpretation? Does writer quote accurately from the source, including citing specific page/line numbers? Does writer address the following questions: What does the title contribute to the reader’s understanding? Who is speaking? Where is the speaker when the poem is happening? What is the situation? What has happened in the past, or what is happening in the present, that has brought about the speech? What difficult, special, or unusual words does the poem contain? What references need explaining? How does an explanation assist in the understanding of the poem? How does the poem develop? Is it a personal statement? Is it a story? What is the main idea of the poem? What details make possible the formulation of the main idea?
Organization (16 points): Do first few sentences arouse the reader’s interest and focus their attention on the subject? Are readers expectations set and clearly met? Do paragraphs have clear focus, unity and coherence? Effective transitions? Does the writer guide the reader from beginning to end?
Style (6 points): Is language clear direct and readable? Are sentences clear, concise, and easily read by intended audience? Is word choice appropriate for audience? Do sentences reveal and sustain appropriate voice and tone? Does writer use the literary present tense to describe events in the poem?
Mechanics (6 points): Are there obvious errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar? Are there patterns of error?
NO REFLECTION (-5 POINTS)