ENGLISH 292—PAPER TWOPOETRY ANALYSIS
Length: Approximately seven typed pages
Due: Thursday, November 18, 2004
For this essay you must craft an analysis of a theme or critical problem that you find in one or more of the poems on our syllabus. Michael Meyer has written that while explication “examines in detail the important elements in a work and relates them to a whole,” analysis “usually examines only a single element—such as setting, character, point of view, symbol, tone, or irony—and relates it to the entire work. . . . The specific element must be related to the work as a whole or it will appear irrelevant” (1460). Explication of short passages may be a useful skill within an analysis paper, as you investigate how the formal elements of the poem support its content, but in an analysis paper, you will probably not want to proceed through the poem line-by-line or section-by-section, but will rather prefer to focus and organize your essay based on the element of the poem that is at the center of your analysis.
By analyzing these works in terms of theme, symbols, form, or setting, you can reveal features that may otherwise have remained inaccessible. You should begin, therefore, by looking through the works we have read to find works that seem striking to you in some way—for example, one or more poems that explore ideas of sexuality, violence, religion, and so on; a group of poems that share important structural or formal characteristics (i.e., two or more sonnets); or any other grouping that seems interesting to you for an identifiable reason. You can look for a recurrent element or image in any of the writers we've read and discuss its significance in the writers' work in general You may choose to compare works by the same author or by different authors; you might wish to choose an earlier work and a later work by the same author. You do not have to write a comparative analysis: you may, if you wish, craft an essay analyzing one longer poem.
As always, you should avoid simply paraphrasing or summarizing the literature you are analyzing. After you've decided which elements you will focus on and compare, you must gather evidence (quotations and analyses of specific elements in each work) to support your thesis and then decide how you want to organize your analysis paper.
Work on writing a coherent essay that begins with a clear introduction, followed by a thesis statement or "promise to the reader" that lets the reader know what the point of this analysis will be. If you work with two or more poems, strive to give equal attention to each of the poems in the body of your paper; avoid focusing on one to the exclusion of the other(s). Conclude your paper gracefully by tying your analysis together for the reader.
Meyer, Michael. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, and Writing. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.