English 462
Dr. Morillo
Eighteenth-Century Literature

First Paper Assignment: Close-Reading Literature

15% of your final grade


Due Friday, September 17
in box to left of my office door, Tompkins 270, by or before NOON (12pm).

Length:  4 full pages, double-spaced typed/printed text
. Standard margins (top & bottom 1" margins; right and left 1.25" margins).

After your name, date, and class info, please make the first page of your paper an accurate copy of the of lines from the poem or prose passage you have chosen. The lines or paragraphs may be either retyped by you or copied/cut/pasted or xeroxed from any valid version of the poem. This is not counted as part of the 4-page required length of your esssay about the lines.

If you choose lines or sentences we've disussed directly in class you will need to offer some original contribution to interpreting them.

If you have any other format questions, ask me:

Poetry option
Choose any of the poems from the start of the syllabus through Sept. 15.  Select no more than one stanza or verse paragraph whose lines you judge most essential to understanding and appreciating the whole poem, and do a close reading of those selected lines. Consider the nuances of language, prosody, allusions, metaphors, metre, rhyme, anything that you feel is most relevant to discuss and necessary to interpret to read your chosen lines in relation to the whole poem well.

This assignment calls upon you to practice your skills in close-reading, .You do not need to consult any text beyond your chosen paragraph or part of a poem. You will no doubt make sense of the selection you choose in relation to the whole work from which it comes, but stay as focused as possible on the details of language within, not beyond, your chosen selection. Even though close-reading skills are sometimes associated with New Critical attitudes, you are not obliged to find some ideal of harmony or unity between your passage as microcosm and the whole text, or author’s oeuvre, as macrocosm. You may wish to work out a passage that instead reveals some interesting disruption of structure, complication of apparent theme or moral, or contradiction between apparent authorial intent and textual meaning as you understand it. Pay particular attention to the sentence-level details and verbal nuance whether you are analyzing poetry or prose.

Choice of passage and issue is completely up to you, but it needs to be small enough and significant enough to warrant 4 pages of discussion. If you pick a passage or poem that we have discussed in some detail in class you are obliged to try to bring out something personal and original in your reading.

Prose option:
Choose a brief passage, no longer than one paragraph, that best captures any most interesting idea or problem you see in the work of prose (through Sept. 15).

Consider the language of your chosen passage in as much detail as possible, and then write a brief essay explaining what problem or issue is at stake, and how the particular details of language in the passage work to make the passage significant and noteworthy. This will help you to learn to read prose  with the close-reading care (and slow pace) sometimes relegated to studies of lyric poetry. Pay particular attention to the sentence-level details of image, tone, syntax, diction etc.as well as point of view. Focus on what is actually in the passage itself, especially what is most interesting in it and what most benefits from being explained and interpreted..

Feel free to discuss your developing ideas with me.

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