Monday, January 10, 2011


Blog posts: 15%
Rotating Due Dates

Over the course of the semester, each student will be required to post several times to the course blog. Posts are due by midnight the night before class. This is to give the rest of the class time to read your posts before we meet. Late posts will be penalized.

Before you make your first post, you must be added to the course blog as an author. Sometime during the week before you are scheduled to make your first post, you will receive an email from me inviting you to be an author on the blog. Click on the link in the email to accept. If you do not have a Google account you will be required to sign up for one, otherwise you will be able to log in to using your gmail user ID and password.

Your post should be 250-500 words in length, or about a page or two in Microsoft Word using a standard 12-point font and double spacing. Your post can address any one of the poems from the next class period’s readings in whatever style you see fit. You can pose a thoughtful question about the readings (obviously your question will need to be very detailed to fulfill the length requirement), make an argument about your interpretation of the poem, explore a connection between the poem and one we’ve read previously, or something else entirely. The only content requirements are that your post be thoughtful and analytical and deal primarily with one of the poems. If you get stuck and don’t know what to write about, consult the list of questions we developed in Unit 1.

Blog posts will be scored on a scale of 1-5. You can see the rubric I will use to evaluate blog posts here.

Participation and quizzes: 15%

Each student is required to complete the readings for each class period and to participate fully in our class discussions.

As we will discuss in detail in class, it will not be enough to simply skim through the readings; most poems will require several close, attentive readings. Thus, it is required not only that you read the assigned poems, but also that youunderstand them to the best of your ability. I will check your reading comprehension with periodic pop quizzes.

You will also be required to participate fully in class discussions. Each student will be required to read poems aloud (something we will do a LOT in this course), to discuss further ideas presented in your blog posts, and to respond to other students’ ideas. If you tend not to be vocal in class discussions, try setting a goal of speaking at least once each class period; if you accomplish this goal you will have a great participation grade.

Your participation grade will be tabulated at the end of the semester, based (in order of importance) on your participation in class discussions, attendance, and performance on pop quizzes.

Paper #1: 15%

For your first paper assignment, you will compose a 4-6-page explication of a poem from the Vendler book taht we read for class. It can be a poem that we have discussed in detail or one that we didn’t look at closely at all, but your argument and analysis must be original. If you like, you may use one of your blog posts as the basis for your paper.

The goal of this assignment is to take the kinds of things you notice in your readings and that we talk about in our class discussions and shape them into a tight, coherent, and argumentative essay. Your paper should present a clear thesis, or argument, about the poem (preferably in the first paragraph), and each body paragraph should directly work toward proving that thesis using evidence from the text. Say, for instance, your thesis is that in his poem “On My First Son,” Ben Jonson presents the poet as one who brings order to a fundamentally disordered world. You might have one paragraph arguing that Johnson’s equation of his poetry with his son’s life is an attempt to explain and rationalize his son’s tragically short life. You might write another paragraph about Johnson’s opposition of “like” and “love” in the final couplet, and how one should interpret his vow that “what he loves may never like too much.” You should not put everything you notice about the poem in your paper; only what directly pertains to the argument you are trying to make.

If you need help as you compose your paper there are several resources available to you. I am happy to look at a draft during my office hours or at some other time. The second part of Vendler’s book (which we will not be reading in class) deal with writing about poetry, and if you are nervous about the paper you may find it helpful. Finally, UNC’s Writing Center is a great resource, providing students with one-on-one instruction with a well-trained writing tutor.

Draft due March 28
Paper due April 4

Paper #2: 20%

For your second paper, you will compose a 4-6-page explication of one of the sonnets from the Century of Sonnets book. It can be a poem that we have discussed in detail or one that we didn’t look at closely at all, but your argument and analysis must be original. If you like, you may use one of your blog posts as the basis for your paper.

The goal of this assignment is to integrate the analytical techniques we learned from unit 1 with the historical information (both about the history of the sonnet and general history from around 1800) we talked about in unit 2. Like Paper #1, your paper should present a clear thesis, or argument, about the poem (preferably in the first paragraph), and each body paragraph should directly work toward proving that thesis using evidence from the text. In this paper, however, I would like you to address how the poem responds to its historical or literary context; that is, how it fits in with the overall tradition of the sonnet or how it reflects upon or otherwise engages with historical events from the time period. In order to accomplish this goal, you may need to do outside research to help you learn more about the sonnet and/or more about particular historical events.

Draft due April 15
Paper due April 20
Mid-term exam: 10%, Final exam: 10%

For both your mid-term and final exams, you will be asked to write a short essay about a poem we have not discussed in class. In addition to the poem itself, you may be provided with some brief information about the author’s biography or the poem’s historical or cultural context. You do not have to use this information; you are welcome to use any of the methodologies we have discussed in class, even purely formal ones.

As I noted on the first day of class, I will not require you to memorize names, titles, or dates. However, you will be expected to be comfortable using the reading strategies we have studied in class, and you will also be expected to have a command of the vocabulary discussed in class. If you are wondering what you should study, you should concentrate on the list of reading questions we developed in class as well as any special vocabulary terms you have learned (including our weekly discussions of rhetorical figures, terminology relating to our studies of genres, and other more general vocabulary that has come up in class). Try to use the vocabulary terms we discussed in class whenever possible to show that you have learned from our discussions. The best way to prepare for the exams, however, is to practice reading and writing about poems as much as possible.

Group project: TBD

Creative Response Assignment: 20%

We've done a lot of academic writing this semester in your blog posts, papers, and exams, so for your final assignment I want to give each of you the opportunity to articulate your relationship with poetry in a different way. Choose any poem we have read for this course (or choose a passage from one of the longer poems such as The Prelude or Don Juan), and compose a creative response to the poem in the medium of your choice. I'm leaving this totally open-ended, but here are some ideas...
  • A painting or drawing inspired by the poem
  • Set the poem to music and submit a recording
  • A poetic response written in verse (maybe you could write a response to Wordsworth's "Scorn Not the Sonnet" where you take out your frustrations over studying the sonnet for 5 straight weeks?)
  • A dramatic reading of the poem submitted on CD or Mp3
  • A video dramatization or interpretation (bonus points for uploading it to youtube or vimeo!)
  • A collage or a series of photographs based on the poem
  • Translate the poem to a different written medium: short story, short screenplay, etc.
  • (If you want to be totally lame) an academic analysis of the poem along the lines of paper #1
Those are just a few ideas... I'm open to any others and I'm really hoping some of you will surprise me!

In addition to the response itself the assignment will require two things:
  • You must email me a plan / proposal for your assignment before April 20. If I do not receive a proposal by that day you will not only have 10 points deducted from your final grade for the assignment, but also you will run the risk of doing something that doesn't meet my expectations. I will do my best to respond to all of the proposals within a day or two, but if you need more time than that I am happy to accept proposals earlier than the 20th.
  • When you turn in the final product on the 27th you will also submit a 1-2-page writer's memo detailing how the original poem inspired your project. This doesn't have to be an extremely detailed analysis of the poem, but this is the space where I want to see how much thought you put into the project... for instance, it won't be enough to simply take a bunch of photos of rocks and trees and say that they're inspired by Wordsworth's The River Duddonsonnets; you're going to have to explain what specific passages you were inspired by and how your project is in dialogue with the original poem.
Final grades will be assigned based on the following criteria:
  • The scope / ambition of your project
  • How well you execute the plans outlined in your proposal
  • The depth / sensitivity of your reading of the original poem, as displayed in both the project itself and the writer's memo
Proposal Due April 20
Due April 27

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