Paper 2: Poetry Explication Purpose Write an unresearched, coherent, grammatically correct poetry explication essay (500-700 words) on a poem assigned in class. Poetry Explication An explication is a close reading of a single poem or passage of poetry. It is NOT a research paper in that it isn’t about what somebody else thinks the poem means—it’s about what YOU think it means and the evidence you draw from the poem itself to prove your point. Consequently, the purpose explication is to interpret a poem (or other brief passage) intensely and persistently, talking carefully about the words, explaining the patterns of imagery, the meaningfulness of rhythms, the suggestiveness and power of the sounds--trying to show, in essence, how the text works. In all your later writings on other sorts of literary texts, you'll find that solid explication skills are truly valuable, forming the basis of concrete, exciting and intelligent work—it’s the main tool in your analytical tool kit. In writing an explication, you will need to consider some or all of the following: Theme or plot of the poem Identity and situation of the speaker(s) Denotations/connotations of significant words Hyperbole, understatement, ambiguity Imagery and symbolism Figures of speech (similes, metaphors, puns, personifications) Metrics and rhyme Line breaks and stanza form You should, however, only discuss these formal poetic elements insofar as you find them significant to your understanding of the poem’s meaning (which should be most of the time). Be sure to present your observations in the form of a coherent essay—unified by a clear argument about the meaning of the poem—not as a series of separate comments about the different features of the poem. Provide a brief introduction and a statement of your controlling idea, organize the body of your essay into logical subdivisions, use transitional sentences as needed, and suggest something of the wider significance of your analysis in your concluding sentences. Structure Your explication should have the following structure: Introduction: Include title (in quotation marks), author, dates, brief background of the author if necessary and relevant, a brief summary of the plot (situation), or literal level of the poem, and your thesis, which probably will mention two or three techniques the poet uses to convey his/her argument (theme). The thesis will include what you believe to be that argument. E N G L 2 310 | 2 © Dr. James Baker Body Paragraphs: Systematically go through the poem showing the techniques stated in your thesis and showing how they relate to the poet’s argument. Brief quotes should be incorporated into your sentences to clarify your point. Do not, under any circumstance, quote the entire poem within the paper. If you quote three or fewer lines, an inline quote, you should introduce the quote with a signal phrase, and then quote the section of the poem, indicating line breaks with a “/” and stanza breaks with a “//”. To quote more than three lines, use a block quote. In either case, follow the quote with a parenthetical reference of the line number(s). And then, make sure that you follow the quote with an analysis of the quote. Conclusion: Here you pull the paper together and reaffirm your thesis. You could discuss how the poem relates to real life and/or use this paragraph to disagree with the poet’s argument if you wish. Style While an explication is YOUR interpretation of text based on a close reading, resist the temptation to use first person to argue or agree! All analysis needs to be in third person, objective voice. Thus, instead of saying “I think that Wordsworth ignores the religious aspect…” or “Wordsworth really relates to my going to the woods, myself…” you would instead say “Wordsworth ignores the religious aspect…” or “Wordsworth’s experience relates to the real experience of visiting the woods…” REMEMBER that Academic Voice (third person objective voice) emulates the voice you hear in your head when you’re thinking about something. Good academic writing attempts to replicate that “thinking voice” in the mind of the reader. Consequently, whenever you use words and phrases like “I” or “me,” as in “I believe” or “It is my opinion,” you’re distracting the reader—they only serve only to cast doubt on your argument. Keep your sentences focused on your subject, the poem itself. In addition, as a college-level writing, be sure that your sentence structure is varied and that you take some care, if necessary, to combine short sentences to avoid repetition and make sure that one sentence builds upon the previous ones. Include transitions where appropriate to avoid jumping quickly from one topic to the next. Guidelines Your paper should Include a thesis that announces your reading of the text and forecasts your interpretation Evaluate and analyze, not judge or offer opinions (this isn’t about how you feel about a piece, it’s about how you think it works and why) Provide an appropriately concise rhetorical context that helps your intended readers understand the issue or subject discussed in the text. Include quotations and examples that support the claims you make in your analysis of the text. Your quotations should be cohesive; in other words, remember that whenever you use quotations, you are using them to support what YOU are saying. Don’t just plop them into your paragraphs—introduce them so they fit with the flow of your own thoughts and voice. Include a conclusion where you explain how the literary device you’re analyzing leads to an overall interpretation of the work’s meaning. E N G L 2 310 | 3 © Dr. James Baker Follow MLA format for the heading, format, pagination, internal documentation, and Works Cited. If you don’t know exactly how to do this, go to the Lecture Notes link on the course Blackboard page and download the PowerPoint lecture titled “MLA Formatting Instructions.” Be written in academic voice (Avoid first person: me, I, our, we. Do not use second person: you, your). Refer to an author by his or her whole name when you first introduce and then only by last name. For example, don’t write, “According to Willie…” unless “Willie” is the author’s last name. MLA Format As noted above, your paper should use MLA format. If you don’t know exactly how to do this, go to the Lecture Notes link on the course Blackboard page and download the PowerPoint lecture titled “MLA Formatting Instructions.” It should be: Standard 8 ½ x 11 format with black ink Double-spaced, with 1” margins, 12 pt font (Times New Roman) Include an MLA-style heading on the first page Include your name and page number in the right-side header on each page after the first Include an MLA-style Works Cited page that appears at the end of the paper and is formatted correctly For additional information about MLA format, consult a writing handbook, or visit the Purdue OWL online at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/ Need Help? Either come see me—my office is AD340C, or make an appointment with the University Writing and Learning Center (http://sites.uiw.edu/wlc/). The WLC is located in the Administration Building, Room 206. Call (210) 283-6326 or email email@example.com to make an appointment.