EL 202 Paper 2: Explicating

Assignment: This paper is an exercise in very close reading or explication de texte, focusing on one of John Donne’s poems, one Spenserian stanza, or one passage of about the equivalent length in The Revengers Tragedy (20-40 lines or so). This paper will necessarily demand that you deploy some skills of selection: choose a poem or passage whose language and ideas fascinate you, and which arouses your desire for further creative and critical engagement.

Like all papers, successful close readings will also be argumentative–that is, they will advance a thesis about the passage or poem under discussion, a thesis which will be demonstrated through close reading. Finally, you can of course refer to other passages or poems if you wish to make connections across or between texts, but just remember that such references should be made in service of explicating the passage you have chosen.

Some things you might consider in the course of close reading:

Vocabulary: What words or phrases strike you as having talismanic importance? Does the writer keep returning to them, or pursue the same ideas through rewordings and synonyms? Do key words present in this passage show up elsewhere in the text or other related texts, and if so, how can a reading of the passage be enriched by comparing and contrasting other such usages?

NB: Use a dictionary! Preferably the Oxford English Dictionary.

Sound and sense: Does the sound of the lines–their rhythm (or meter), alliteration, consonance, assonance, and so forth–reinforce their sense or meaning or work in tension with it?

Images and figures: Pay attention to visual and verbal imagery, and figures of speech like simile, metaphor, metonymy, and allegory.

Sentence structure: How are the sentences of the passage arranged? Before writing, try paraphrasing the poetry to figure out the simplest expression of the sentences’ meaning. How does sentence structure work with or against your paraphrase?

Ambiguity: Are there words and phrases that open themselves up to more than one meaning, depending on how you interpret them? What might such ambiguities tell us about the overall meaning or effect of the poem?

Allusion: Do words and phrases allude to philosophical concepts, religious disputes, and historical events? What is the significance of such allusions?

It’s probably a good idea to begin the work of close reading before formulating an overall argument or thesis; ideally, as you are writing, you will begin to see an argument taking shape.

Please read carefully these rules for integrating quotations into sentences. I encourage you especially to try out #3 and #4 on this list: https://www2.ivcc.edu/rambo/eng1001/quotes.htm

Titles should be specific enough to indicate something about your topic or argument, while also adding a little flare.

Laws: Word count: 1000-1300 words. 12 pt font, Times New Roman, double-spaced. Include your name and a title at the top of the first page: anything else is neither necessary nor desirable.

Upload to turnitin by Friday (16/3) at midnight and bring a hard copy to class on Monday.

Class ID: 17516457; Enrollment key: Rebel

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