ENGL 349: Modern Poetry in English
This assignment is designed to (1) to deepen your engagement with a particular poem and/or poet; (2) to encourage your thinking about how critical arguments and close readings are done; and, indirectly, (3) to help you improve your own critical writing (which will be helpful for the final essay and take-home).
Find a scholarly article on a poem of your choice (see below for advice on where and how to search). It must be a poem on the syllabus. Read the paper carefully, paying particular attention to the author’s thesis and how that thesis is supported throughout the paper. Then follow these steps:
1. On a physical printout of the pertinent page from the article, use a highlighter to show the author’s thesis statement.
2. Then identify and explain in your own words the “what, how, why” of that thesis: What is the basic argument? (i.e., paraphrase the thesis); How will the author support the argument? (the thesis should state or at least imply how it will go about proving its argument: what will count as evidence for this argument? how does the author use this evidence to back up his or her claims?); and Why is the poem approached in this way? (i.e., what does this argument contribute to our understanding of the poem? –This is the notorious “so what?” question.) In other words, you’re explaining how the article’s author’s thesis works. In some cases, the thesis may be found to lack one or more aspects of the above; or the article may lack a clear thesis altogether. If that is the case, explain what should have been the thesis for the article.
3. Briefly (1- 1.5 pages) review the article, focusing on its persuasiveness, its contribution to the interpretation of the poem, and the effectiveness of its close readings and/or theoretical frame. Is the argument convincing? What, if anything, does the author overlook or fail to consider in this paper? If you can tell, what is the critical and/or theoretical framework of the article (e.g. feminist, deconstructionist, postcolonial, structuralist, Queer-theoretical, New Historicist, ecocritical, etc)? You may want to quote a short but representative example of the author performing a close reading or theoretical analysis of the poem, and then explain how his/her approach works.
Choosing your article. I would prefer that you choose an article written in the past three decades, though this is not strictly necessary (or possible). It has to be in a published academic journal. Do not write on blog posts, online student essays (no matter how professional they look), or articles in non-literary journals (for example, journals in psychoanalysis, social work, or anthropology). Make sure that the article is based on a critical argument or thesis; in other words, avoid journals dedicated to published notes identifying specific sources or ideas in a text (for example, the kind of article found in Explicator and Notes & Queries). If in doubt, consult with me.
You can find articles on a poem of your choice in CLUES on the Concordia Library Website. I tend to use the University of Toronto “Article Search,” probably because I’m used to it. There is also Google Scholar and, of course, the works cited of other scholarly books and articles. If in doubt, ask me or the librarian.
A quick search for articles on Thomas Hardy’s “The Darkling Thrush,” for example, yielded these four recent papers (among many others):