Shakespeare Sonnet, September 6
Paper #1, October 9
Paper #2, November 6
Paper #3, December 12
Good work, everyone! This is a very solid group of first papers, and it was a pleasure reading them.
The range of grades is as follows: 6 papers earned higher than a B-, 9 papers earned a B-, and 11 papers earned below a B-. Please let me repeat what I said in my e-mail: these are fine grades for the beginning of the semester! All of you will improve your writing significantly in our course, so please don't worry too much about grades at this point. (Easy for me to say, I know ...)
The major distinction between the better and worse papers is that the better papers tend to make one clear and coherent point in each paragraph, and these points support the thesis in explicit terms. Too often the topic sentences in the lower graded papers fail clearly to support the thesis. Remember, the topic sentence needs to do more than just give the general topic of the paragraph, what the paragraph will be about. It needs to make a necessary point within the logical progression of your argument and say, clearly and explicitly, how that point supports your thesis. And don't forget, each topic sentence should provide a transition that actually gives the connection between the point of the preceding paragraph and the point of the present paragraph.
The second distinction involves close reading. Whereas the writers who received lower grades tend to say merely what they think the poem means, the better writers take the extra step of demonstrating, by close attention to the language of the text, how the poem means what they think it does.
If you like, take the opportunity now to review my grading policy.
Below I give the title and thesis of each paper. Please read through as many of these papers as you wish! The purpose of "Papers on the Web," as I've said in class, is to provide yet another way for you to get help with the problems you are encountering in your writing. I have provided comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the top six papers. Some of you will want to read through many or all of the papers below in order to see how other students handle different parts of the paper; others will only want to read through the six on which I have commented. All of you, however, should read my comments on the top papers and enough of the papers themselves to understand the assistance I am trying to provide. I have designed the page so that when you follow the link to one of the papers on which I have commented, the link will open in a new window. This way you can more easily go back and forth between my comments and the paper.
This method can work! Obviously, it takes quite a bit of effort from me; if it is to work for you, it will take real effort from you as well.
"An Argument for a Sieged Soul": I propose the phrase "Sieged by" as a proper emendation for the printer's error in line 2 of Sonnet 146. The participial adjective "sieged" describes the poor soul as subject to an active state of forced starvation that will work with the various registers of the poem to suggest a state of spiritual "dearth" (2) that can be overcome by counteraction.
This is a very strong paper that pays careful attention to the language of the text.
Please look at the excellent transition in the topic sentence of the third paragraph!
Although this is an excellent first paper, it could certainly be stronger. What do you think of the thesis? Here we see a very common problem. Why not always be specific? Rather than "the various registers of the poem," why not give the specific registers to be discussed? Also, always strive for clarity, even when you are expressing complicated ideas. The end of the sentence seems needlessly confusing: I have a hard time understanding precisely how the claim that "a state of spiritual 'dearth' ... can be overcome by counteraction" supports the argument for "sieged."
Please take this paper as a model of good, detailed attention to the language of the text.
"A Case for Soil": The phrase "Soiled by" best completes the phrase, line, stanza, and sonnet by harmonizing with the sonnets principal registersthe physical worlds contrast to the spiritual, the register of food and consumption, the register of deathand by forming a pun with the key term "soul" furthering the critical emphasis on the duality of an individuals corporeal and spiritual self.
Here we have a very good thesis. We see exactly what the author will argue, and we have a good sense of what the logical structure of the paper will be. This very good thesis could become an excellent one with a bit more revision: could the argument at the end be made more clearly?
This good paper would be much stronger if it had effective transitions!
"Sonnet 146: A Foiled Soul": The primary metaphor of the poem represents a war between body and soul, by which one defeats Deathvia the physical bodyin order to achieve eternal life. Thus the war is twofold, taking place both in physical and spiritual terms. The word "Foiled" describes both aspects of this struggle: in the physical sense, "to foil" is "to overthrow, defeat, or baffle" (OED); in addition, "foiled" signifies "to foul, pollute, or violate the chastity of" (OED), a definition which arouses a sense of spiritual defilement. Furthermore, in the poems shift from this metaphor of warfare to the ownership of a house, the word "foiled" speaks directly to the material nature of the body as a finite structure which encapsulates, or houses, the soul.
This is an excellent opening paragraph. It is both clear and specific. Why is the war twofold? Because it takes place in physical and spiritual terms. "Foiled" describes both aspects of this struggle. How? The writer then gives senses of the word from the OED that support the physical and spiritual forms of conflict. Well done.
The paper then does a good job supporting the thesis. Look at the topic sentences and transitions. The reader has no trouble following the argument from one paragraph to the next.
The one area in which this paper could be stronger is close reading. Read through it, and see what you think!
"How 'Galled By' Best Completes Line Two of Sonnet 146": Close readings throughout the sonnet reveal that the soul suffers for the sins of the body, resents its responsibility to the body, and must feed on the body to gain eternal life, such that the soul could only be "galled by" the rebel powers.
This good paper suffers from a common problem, a problem that one more revision session could easily fix. The problem is in the thesis as well as in the individual paragraphs. Let's look at the thesis: here we have three distinct points and the claim that these points suggest that "the soul could only be 'galled by' the rebel powers." Although the thesis claims that these points support the chosen phrase, do they? I can't see how. All this writer needs to do is to discuss "galled" first so the reader will be prepared to understand how the writer's points support his or her choice, "galled."
Please look at the excellent logical structure!
The paper is also quite well written, and I suggest you read it as an example of good style.
"Lord of the Rebellion": In keeping with the dominant register of "homeownership" and other architectural metaphors, it is clear that the soul is "lord of" its domain and therefore responsible for its own actions and decisions regarding its ephemeral body and eternal afterlife.
Have you notice anything in common about the beginnings of all these top papers? With the sole exception of this one, all of them get right to the argument! This paper would be stronger if its writer would cut the first two sentences and begin with his or her justification for "Lord of."
The thesis is very good, don't you think?
The writing throughout is admirably clear, and the paper contains some excellent close reading.
"Foiled By These Rebel Powers": Considering the nature of the relationship between the soul and the body as described throughout the rest of the sonnet, the "rebel powers" of line two most likely represent the forces of death rebelling against the souls efforts to hold onto life. Therefore, the words that best complete this line are "foiled by these rebel powers that thee array," because these words suggest the explicit failure of the body to comply with the souls efforts to live.
Compare the opening of the last paper with the opening of this one. Here is an example of an excellent introductory paragraph! The thesis itself, however, could still use some work. Mostly, it could be clearer. The argument seems to be that the body "foils" the soul. But does the above clearly and effectively introduce this argument, preparing you (the reader) to be persuaded of it by close reading? Here is a question: "Exactly which meanings of 'foiled by' make it the best phrase to describe the action that the body performs upon the soul in this poem?" If the writer would pose this question to him or herself, write out the answers in the form of a list or notes, and then synthesize those answers into a sentence or two, the result would be a clearer and more effective thesis than the present claim that "these words suggest the explicit failure of the body to comply with the soul's efforts to life."
This paper contains excellent analyses, but it suffers from a very common problem: in performing these excellent analyses, the paper loses track of how they support the argument for "foiled by"! Better logical structure (topic sentences and transitions) would help.
I present the remaining papers in no particular order. All of them have excellent moments, though! Read through them, if you have the time and the inclination.
"No title": The first analysis must
be done specifically on the registers surrounding the missing
phrase, followed by an analysis of the similarities between the
various metaphors that exist throughout the poem. These two forms
of analysis will add much to our knowledge of the poem, but it is
only when seek to understand the souls inner motivations, as
they are represented in the poem, that we can successful answer
what the missing phrase should be. These three forms of analysis
will take us through the dark, controlling, and controlled aspects
of the soul that lead to the conclusion that Shakespeare intended
for the soul to be "Seized by rebel forces."
"Sonnet 146": In Shakespeares
Sonnet 146, there are three registers which can all be related
through the choice of the word "thrall" in the second line. One
register pertains to the spiritual conflict between the body and
soul, another to a contract between the body and soul, and the
last register of war between the powers of body and soul. For the
missing words in line two, having the spirit "thrall to" the
"sinful earth" provides a link whereby all the registers can be
"Sonnet 146 Analysis": While this
sonnet addresses issues of underlying mortality and existence,
there is a more dominant theme that elucidates the sonnets
complicated metaphors. This theme, of juxtaposing the spiritual
and the physical, as well as the transitory and the permanent,
supports the following interpretation. It is apparent through
careful analysis of this metaphor, that the section missing which
precedes "these rebel powers" (line 2), could be filled in by the
words "Soiled by".
"Shakespeares Sonnet 146":
Shakespeares chosen words will never be known, but through a
close reading of the poem one reaches the conclusion that the two
missing words would best be replaced by the phrase: "Foiled by."
This phrase emphasizes how the body has, thus far, destructively
mislead the soul.
"The Missing Words of 'Sonnet 146'":
When considering the sonnet in its entirety, which includes word
registers, metaphors, and imagery, it is most logical to assume
that the missing words are "Ruled by". This beginning offers an
indication for the direction of the interpretation.
"No Title": Sonnet 146 depicts a
conflict between body and soul; a conflict that is riddled with
irritation and disbelief as the soul confronts its "rebel powers"
(2). The poem seems to be separated into two emotionally charged
sections. First, the soul explains its frustration and then vows
to overcome the injustices done to it. After considering the
different, yet equally strong emotions in each half of the poem,
it is certain the "poor soul" (1) could only be "vexed by the
rebel powers" (2).
"Justification for the use of 'Lord of'
in 'Sonnet 146'": William Shakespeares "Sonnet 146"
describes the relationships between life and death and the body
and soul. "Lord of " would best fit the unknown phrase at the
beginning of the second line because it is consistent with the
metaphors of the sonnet. One metaphor is the "sinful earth" being
the body. Another metaphor is that of the house being the body and
the occupant or Lord of the house is the soul.
"Master or Servant": The addition of
the words "Served by" bridges the first two stanzas, which refer
to the suffering of the soul while it is connected to the body,
and the third and fourth stanzas, which refer to the benefits the
soul may enjoy without the body. It becomes clear that the soul
would be better off without the body, which is dependent on the
soul for life. Thus the body must accept death in sacrifice for
the soul, which is tormented by life in a body, and the soul must
accept life without the body.
"Shakespeare In Question": By
looking at the meaning of the sonnet, the registers used in each
metaphor, and the actual transition and translation of lines one
and two, a solid argument can be made that line two of Sonnet 146
should read, "Soiled by these rebel powers that thee array".
"A Shakespearean Mystery": The
intended second line could have been "Vexed by these rebel powers
that thee array," and this conjecture is supported by other
metaphors and images in the poem that suggest that the souls
supremacy over the body is being undermined.
"Bound By Duty": The soul is "bound
by" the individual whos body it inhabits by a sense of duty,
a duty to shine through even at the end of the bodys life,
to be a comforting presence in the face of death, and, finally, to
follow the bodys wishes and know when it is time to let
"Instruction for Mans Soul":
Because the purpose of "Sonnet 146" is to convince the soul to
become ruler over the whole, it implies that the soul is, at the
moment, constrained to a sovereign body. Therefor, the combination
of words that best suit the purpose of this sonnet as the
beginning phrase of the second line is "Bound by." Supported
through imagery and metaphor, it is apparent that this is the only
line which conveys the overall theme of Shakespeares
instruction as to how man can save his soul and defeat death.
"Predator or Prey?": In Sonnet 146,
Shakespeare discusses the struggle between the heavenly soul and
the earthly body. This crusade between the finite presentation of
the body and the absorption into the infinite world of the soul
rules the existence of the addressed in the sonnet. The battle
register as presented in line two makes "prey to" the appropriate
words in the sonnet due to its definitions.
"The Missing Words of Sonnet 146":
The language and tone of this sonnet suggest that the body and the
soul are connected in a relationship that can be compared to that
of a subtle spiritual entity that is compelled, or even forced to,
submit to the whims of a tangible being. Of course this is
referring to the relationship between the immortal soul and the
mortal body here on earth. The body is caught up with the tangible
trappings of the material world and the soul cannot free itself
until the body has returned to the earth. For this reason I have
chosen the words "yoked to" as the phrase to fill in the blank in
"No Title": I will argue that out of
the given list the word "feeding" is the most convincing choice.
It conveys the overall meaning best, affirms the form in terms of
structure of argument and of voice and particularly supports the
used means of language.
"No Title": Based on the themes and
metaphors of the rest of the poem, this writer believes that the
second line should read, "[Leagued with] these rebel
powers that thee array" (2). The phrase ties into the register of
war, and illustrates the concept of the soul preparing for battle
against the physical body.
"Sonnet 146": After careful analysis
of the poems metaphors, I have determined that the second
line of "Sonnet 146" should read "Yoked to these rebel powers that
thee array" (2). This phrase fits with the rest of the poem
because it refers to our soul being tied to our body, and
describes the body as a burden upon the soul; the yoke is
something that can be broken, which also ties into the poem;
finally, the phrase also connects with another word in the poem to
form a register.
"Soil And Death: The Unchanging":
The plethora of metaphors and registers revolving around the human
body, the earth, religion and the definition of the word, soil,
prove to confirm that the phrase "Soiled by", would work best in
the barren spot where line two of Shakespeare's 146th Sonnet
"Starve a Body, Feed a Soul": In the interest of maintaining continuity of theme and achieving a full realization of Shakespeares complex metaphor, the phrase "Starved by" best completes the second line of "Sonnet 146". By being wholly consistent with the dominant register of consumption, "Starved by" is a logical extension of the overreaching metaphor which details the nature of the souls relationship to the body and the afterlife.
I enjoyed reading such a wonderful set of papers! Some of them are genuinely outstanding, among the best papers I have read on their subjects.
The quality in general is very high, and the range of grades reflects your excellent work as a class: 11 papers earned a B or higher (!), and 14 papers earned lower than a B.
Before we turn to the papers, I'd like to say a word or two about this resource. The goal of the "Papers on the Web" is not to show how excellent the top papers are but rather to help all the students in the class see how to use these papers as models for particular aspects of writing, aspects with which you may be having difficulty.
For instance, if you're having difficulty with close reading, which should be the heart and soul of your papers, I've created a link here to a paragraph (from the paper "Vice Against Virtue") that performs truly wonderful and productive close reading. The paper itself has some problems with argumentation, but its close reading in this paragraph is outstanding. So take a look at that paragraph and think about how this writer approaches discussing the language of the text at hand! Did you have trouble supporting your argument with careful and detailed close reading in your paper? If so, return to this paragraph when it comes time to write and revise your next paper, and see if the model helps!
The three following papers are just wonderful, so take a look at my comments on them, and then look at the papers themselves in order to clarify any elements of composition with which you are having trouble.
"The Nature of Ethics in The Beggars Opera": In The Beggars Opera, John Gay presents a world in which, "you should never do anything but upon the foot of interest" (2603). Within this system, the nature of ethics holds that ones duty, above all else, is to profit so that what is virtuous is determined by what is profitable. This perversion of ethics produces a kind of human nature which is not natural, in the sense that it violates the inherent tendencies of individuals to seek intimacy and practice altruism: instead, both human beings and human bonds are reduced to mechanisms whereby individuals increase their power. Neither "friendship," "love," nor "heroism" are possible nor truly present but instead are merely guises behind which individuals support their own self-interests. Not surprisingly, when individuals breach this system by behaving selflessly, they suffer a loss of agency. Therefore, because privilege is only granted to characters who forfeit the right to act beyond their own self-interests, theirs is a freedom which is not in fact "free."
The only problem with this paper is its thesis, which is needlessly convoluted and confusing. After this introduction, though, I don't think you'll find a single sentence that isn't clear and graceful. For those of you struggling with style (awk?), read through this paper and try to get a feel for effective prose. It is impossible, I think, to teach good style, which comes from practice and exposure to writing such as this. Here's some exposure!
A more concrete way in which this paper can be helpful is by providing a model of effective argumentation. Take a look at the way the argument develops from one paragraph to the next. The progression is clear and concise; after the second paragraph, you won't find a single topic sentence that is a statement of fact, and, with one or two exceptions, each topic sentence explicitly provides the connection from the point of the preceding paragraph to the point of the present paragraph.
"Satiric Perspective in John Drydens 'Mac Flecknoe'": Satire employs wit and humor as a device of ridicule by transforming the meanings of words. Specifically, a sudden imbalance in diction triggers a sense of confusion as the reader struggles to place familiar words within an unusual context. What was once respectable becomes disreputable; what was once praised becomes condemned. As the new meanings of the words become clear, the realization of the mockery produces laughter ... By intermingling the registers of royalty and religion with the low diction of stupidity and tautology, John Drydens satiric perspective both makes us laugh and reveals the absurdity of the literary values of his society.
Here is some more exposure to good style!
The paper has a very good thesis, though the thesis could be more specific at the end: instead of "the literary values of his society," why not be specific? What are those values? Still, this is a solid argument.
The most helpful thing about this paper, I think, is its excellent method of analyzing one very well-selected quotation in each paragraph. The writer knows the poem well and selects the quotations that will be most necessary for the argument. Then he or she analyzes those quotations thoroughly, leaving the reader satisfied that close and careful interpretation supports the thesis, the larger argument. Take a look at how this paper supports its argument, then, through good close reading.
"The relationship of satirical perspective and language in Gullivers Travels": In the satire Gullivers Travels, Jonathan Swift designs a Tory journey of the mind, in which Captain Lemuel Gulliver dismantles the wickedness and follies of the English Whig society at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Swift does so by trapping the knowledgeable reader in verbal humor. This humor is brought about by the supposedly coincidental linkage of perfectly rational and absurd concepts at once. The surprising thread of associations, which is triggered by logic in an alien context lets abstract ideas of any kind, such as politics, human values or science, become unusually tangible and lets the reader of the book simply laugh about the way in which a double inversion of language leads to metaphorical solutions.
Although this paper suffers from a lack of clarity throughout, it is among the most engaging and stimulating undergraduate essays I've read on Gulliver's Travels. It could have better transitions, and at times I have trouble seeing precisely how the discussion supports the thesis, but I'd like you to take this paper as a model of intellectual spirit and sheer engagement with ideas.
The following six papers are all excellent as well and might prove helpful!
"Medicinal Laughter: The Use of Laughter as a Reforming Process in
Gullivers Travels": By assigning new and
unexpected meanings to words, Swift stabs at the absurdity of our
strictly close-minded language. By examining the scenes of
Gullivers Travels in which we laugh and in which
Gulliver is either the "laugher", or observant critic, or the
"laugh-ee", the person being critiqued, we suddenly see
Swifts satirical genius. He pokes at the perverse, giving
us, the advocates of these social constructs, first a good,
medicinal laugh at a separate culture, and then a chance to reform
our own ridiculousness by scrutinizing our own cultural
"The Altering of Reality in
Gullivers Travels": Gullivers Travels ...
satirizes the dominant or accepted trains of thought in
eighteenth-century England, within the spheres of politics,
science, and human rational. In its progression from one register
to another, the satire attacks contemporary thought, as it is
applied to first particular and concrete ideas or circumstances,
and later to general and abstract qualities of human beings.
Therefore, it is because of the light-hearted humor created by
Swifts perversion of reality that he is able to bring forth
arguments that attack the dominance of Whig politics, the
obsession of contemporary science, as well as the innate
rationality of human beings.
"The Beggars Wail": Due to the
avarice of the characters, it may seem that virtue is not a theme
in the play, but absence of virtue in the characters speaks more
then a presence of virtue ever could. Throughout the course of the
play, it becomes evident that through the vice of individual
characters and the relationships between these individuals, Gay
suggests that society as a whole can never be virtuous and the
people that make up that society deal with this corruption in
"Cheating: The Vice and Virtue of The
Beggars Opera": [F]or the characters of the
play, gratitude (and everything else) gives way to interest, and
cheating becomes the religion. The Beggars Opera
portrays a mercantilist system that fosters a society in which men
of all classes are reduced to equals interdependent upon one
another by a common vice, cheating. Yet, by not making the men of
higher status accountable to the law, the mercantilist system
rewards them at the expense of the lower class, thus making
cheating their virtue.
"When In England, Do as Romans Do":
Alexander Popes "Windsor-Forest" uses neoclassical poetic
form to describe a particularly English topography and history. He
describes the island as a place of order and balance in both
politics and nature and makes it "at once the monarchs and
the Muses seat" (3) by conflating distinctly classical with
distinctly English elements and transplanting some classical
elements to English soil altogether. In doing so, he likens the
burgeoning British Empire to the greatness of the Roman
"Discord in 'An Essay on Man' and 'A Nocturnal Reverie'": The systems of order proposed in Popes "An Essay on Man" and Finchs "A Nocturnal Reverie" differ in their explanation of the discord existing between Man and nature. For both poets, Man causes strife between himself and the Nature, leaving him in a state whose remedy is reconciliation with Nature. Their systems differ primarily over the Horation principle of concordia discors ... "Proper bliss"(Pope 282) and "Joy"(Finch 46) are prescriptions based on these opposing views of mans agency or lack thereof; if we have no agency, as Pope would have it, we need only "Submit" to "the hand of one disposing Powr"(287), if we do have the capacity to oppose nature, as Finch would have it, we must "pursue" our "pleasures"(50) as we would the goal of a journey.
As before, I present the remaining papers in no particular order. All of them have excellent moments, though! Read through them, if you have the time and the inclination. Remember, if your paper is among those that follow, the papers above provide clear models to help you with the specific elements of composition that are giving you trouble. I'll be glad to sit down with any of you and discuss how you might use the "Papers on the Web" to improve your writing.
"Vice Against Virtue": Men and women
use marriage as a way of getting what they want from a person. For
thieves and wenches, marrying for money, property, and other
possessions is quite commonplace ... Vice and virtue are flipped
upside down in The Beggars Opera. The virtuous are
punished, while the evil escape unscathed.
in The Beggars Opera":
From Captain Macheath, who has two wives and babies by
half-a-dozen other women, to the various whores and thieves, who
work hand in hand to steal from the rich and sell the goods for
way more than they are worth, there are very few character in this
mock opera who appear to understand what it means to be ethical.
In The Beggars Opera, decisions are made on the basis
of ones self-interests, the apparent legal consequences, and
who will come out looking heroic, not on the basis of any regard
"Pope and Finchs View of
Chaos": Anne Finch addresses the idea of a chaotic universe in
her poem "A Nocturnal Reverie". She feels that the universe is
unsettled due to how humans propel chaos onto nature. Alexander
Pope also deals with the theme of chaos in his poem "An Essay on
Man", however his view is opposite of Finch's. Pope feels that the
chaos of the universe is organic and helps to balance nature. Both
authors grapple with the relationship between man and nature, and
have two very different perceptions of chaos and its origins.
"Order of 'An Essay on Man' vs. Order of
'Nocturnal Reverie'": Each poem addresses the existence of
order. Pope and Finch create images of light and darkness,
respectively, to illustrate how order can be achieved, they differ
in the exact placement of humans and nature within Gods
hierarchy and finally they differ in the beliefs as to whether
order exists already or not on Earth.
"Profit over Passion: The Rise of
Dunces": "The Dunciad" is Popes ardent plea for
intelligence in the midst of a world where writing is suddenly
based on profit rather than passion; where thoughts have been
replaced with the exchange of words, enthusiasm is lost to self
promotion, personal gain overpowers knowledge, and even religious
faith is overcome by greed. This monstrous frame of mind, in
Popes opinion, occurs early on with a persons
"Waiting for the Night to Fall,
Counterpoise of Day and Night": [Pope] develops the
thesis that "All discord is harmony, misunderstood" (1,291). Finch
makes a case for nighttime and the spirit, quiet, solitude and we
discover through images of glow-worms, shaded hills and flowers
the true beauty of night and the folly of our fear of it. The
seemingly opposing forces of night and day when combined create
harmony, as do the works of Finch and Pope, which together allow
us to see that it is balance that makes up the universe and is
crucial to an understanding of human nature and Mans place
in the chain of being.
"Avoiding the 'Thing Which is Not'":
Because of the confusion he found in the dialect of the time,
Swift, in his satire, Gullivers Travels, uses
laughter to emphasize his main themes instead of words. He
manipulates the use of language through the character of Lemuel
Gulliver to show the reader the quandary of the English language
then proceeds to use laughter instead of commentary, because it
cannot be mistaken or confused.
"Corruption of Society and Its Influence
on Gulliver": Swift brings into discussion the ideas of
motives and how this influences people in their treatment of
individuals due to their position in society. In the book of
Lilliput, Gulliver, acting as an outsider to the society, tries to
fit into the world, but fails by the governments Articles of
Treason. Swift uses the story of Liliput to portray the idea that
society, especially government, corrupts the individual as shown
by the relationships between Gulliver and self-oriented
individuals and society-oriented individuals.
"No Title": In Gullivers
Travels, Swift satirizes British government, as well as human
nature, in ways that make the reader laugh. What exactly are we
laughing at? Why do we laugh at the faults of our society as well
as our own individual flaws? In Gullivers Travels,
language is used to convey irony in a humorous manner, and the
misuse of words in satirical form enables us to laugh at the
imperfections that we sometimes are too blind to see on our
"Night and Day: The Order of Finch and
Pope": Although Finch represents order using the image of a
night, and Pope with the metaphor of a body and soul, Pope's An
Essay on Man, and Finch's Nocturnal Reverie, both view order as
part of God's power, and agree that when mankind tries to take
this power from God, specifically through their selfish thoughts,
order is destroyed, and chaos born, but when mankind is content
with the power that has been given to him, harmony exists on earth
and in heaven.
"Self Interest": In the play The
Beggars Opera, the characters act in their own
self-interest and use their relationships with other people as a
commodity. Gay uses this to point out that these characters of the
lower class are no different than those of the upper class ... Gay
satirizes these lower class characters as heroes because of their
vices and because they act in their own self-interest, the
difference being they dont have the money to buy their way
out of punishment and are dependent on the author's reprieve.
"Laughter at Poor Gullivers
Expense": Swift manipulates language and comical situations to
provide his views on the rapidly metamorphosing eighteenth-century
England; the characters and societies presented in
Gullivers Travels correlate to what Swift saw as the
moral degradation and perversion of true human nature occurring
around him. Swift accomplishes this controversial task through
intelligent writing and complex metaphors.
"Vice or Virtue?: Ethics in The
Beggar's Opera": In his wildly popular Beggar's
Opera, Gay successfully ridicules London societys
affinity for all things immoral by transforming vice into virtue
and virtue into vice, primarily motivated by monetary rewards, and
thereby turning the standard notion of ethics on its head.
"Similarities and Differences between Pope and Finch": Rather than attack disruption as Finch does, Pope uses catastrophes that occur naturally to prove disorder is actually order. He clarifies that this philosophy applies directly all of mans burdens by linking mans afflictions with ideas of destiny and fortune. In the end, analysis of the two poems reveals that the same tools of logic and persuasion can prove opposing views.
Paper #2 (5-7 pp.), November 6
I enjoyed reading all of your papers, though I think as a class we did suffer something of a mid-semester slump! The grades were a little lower than they have been: 8 papers earned above a B-, 5 papers earned a B-, and 9 earned below a B-. I'll look forward to seeing a return to form in the final papers. As I've emphasized in class, I am above all concerned with progress, so if your grade on this paper wasn't what you'd like, don't worry too much; let's make sure you understand how you can improve your writing and then look forward to the final paper.
Nearly everyone still needs to work on argumentation. If I have written on your paper that your topic sentences or transitions could be stronger, please follow this link and review my suggestions, and then let me know if you have any questions! I'm glad to help. For most of you, the hint about transitions, I think, could prove very helpful. Please see my comments on the first paper below.
Again, the primary virtue of a good English paper is careful, detailed, and insightful attention to language -- in other words, close reading. Please look closely at the four papers below on which I've commented; each provides several examples of good close reading.
I know some of you feel at this point that you are struggling with your writing, and you are! I'd like to assure you that learning to write well is a process, and by no means is it an easy one. Often when you try to change your writing for the better, as I think some of you are doing, your writing suffers somewhat before it improves. For many of you, I think this is the case, and I am thus encouraged by the thought that your hard work will pay off. If you are not trying to apply the techniques of composition you have learned this semester, then I will still be glad to help, but it's up to you.
"The Carefree Childhood and Austerity of Age in Grays 'Eton College'": Through corporeal metaphors and contrasting images of a stringent setting versus its wildly active characters, Gray underscores both the omnipresent schoolboy desire for a carefree, mobile life and the subsequent denial of that "gay hope" (41) which comes with the imminent torpor, rigidity, and disease of "slow-consuming Age" (90).
Please read through this essay and look at each topic sentence.
Next, return to the excellent topic sentence of the first paragraph. What is the point of the first paragraph? Answer: the contrast between the ancient academy and the young schoolboys creates a separation between the carelessness of youth and the rigidity of age. (The topic sentence in the paper is too wordy, but if we alleviate the wordiness, isn't the point crystal clear?)
What about the next paragraph? The point, at least as offered in the topic sentence, is not so clear. One solution would be to follow the hint: after writing a draft, the writer could look at each paragraph and ask the following two questions: "What is my point in this paragraph? How exactly does that point support my thesis?" The answers to those questions would be the basis for the new and improved topic sentence! There would be one more step, though, right? By connecting the point of the previous paragraph to the point of the present paragraph in a clear and detailed transition, the writer would be able to present his or her ideas to the reader in a extremely powerful, effective, and engaging manner.
If you dedicate one full revision session to these techniques, your writing will improve dramatically.
The argumentation of this paper is good, then, but it could very easily be better! More importantly, do you see how it is good, and how it could be better?
"Lady Teazle and the 'Envenomed Tongue of Slander'": An analysis of the recurring image of the "envenomed tongue of slander," as well as the contrast between Lady Teazle as a woman of country manners, and as a woman of wealth and rank, demonstrates the connection between wealth and treachery, sentiment and knavery. However, in the end, Lady Teazle achieves a balance between the two competing moralities when the "screen" from her eyes falls dramatically. She is a woman of rank who has rejected the "honourable logic" of the "school for scandal" and embraced her former, moral country manners (49).
If you're having trouble articulating a good thesis, here is an example of a clear and effective argument.
Look at the topic sentences, though. Better argumentation would strengthen this paper's presentation of its excellent argument.
"Re-Writing the Use of Language: Grays Elegy Written in a Country Courtyard": The educated and wealthy use reading and writing as tools to gain wealth and fame. These desires are not only selfish and impure but they are useless when the cold hand of death leads one away ... The author is obviously literate himself, but he doesnt fit in their group because he uses literature to be "mindful of the unhonored dead"(93), not to better himself. Because of this he finds "recompense"(122) in death, "a friend"(124) gained from heaven, a means of community even in death. This poem proclaims the value of sentimental literature in its claim that when all paths "lead but to the grave"(36), only an awareness of the less fortunate can employ literature as a means of building community and so create the only comfort one could want in the face of death, a friend.
This paper becomes excellent in the last four paragraphs. Take a look!
Like many of you, this writer needs to work on style. It's always a good idea to dedicate one last revision session entirely to style. Read each sentence out loud, slowly, and ask yourself how the writing could be better. For instance, this paper has a good argument, but the thesis needs revision: can "an awareness" "employ" something?
"Modes of Legacy in 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard'": Thomas Grays defense of "the short and simple annals of the poor" (32) in "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is built upon his distinction between the relative merits of written legacy, which he associates with the particular preservation, and oral legacy, which he associates with the preservation of ones nature ... [I]n the oral legacy and living tradition, "the voice of nature cries" "from the tomb" (91) ... in the sense that the traditional and daily rituals of man, his "wonted fires", "live" in the "ashes" (92) of the living community. Oral legacy is the "recompense" (122) for the "prey" of "dumb Forgetfulness"(85), and is, from the standpoint of the dead, superior to the "trophies" of "Memry" (38).
As you can tell from the "thesis" above, this paper is fascinating, but it's too confusing! Couldn't the author present the thesis in a clearer fashion without losing the complexity and richness of the argument?
In addition to its lack of clarity, this paper also suffers from ineffective argumentation. Whenever possible, but particularly when you make the transition from one paragraph to the next, try to help your reader as much as you can.
By dedicating one more revision session to clarifying the prose and one to tightening the argumentation (try those hints?), this author could be producing really top notch work! Please read this paper as a model of intellectual engagement: the author cares about these ideas, and the ideas arise from a vigorous and detailed analysis of the text.
As before, I present the remaining papers in no particular order.
"The Solitary Figure Finds Solace and
Meaning in Death": Once the speaker understands this common
need for remembrance he is able to see that the only "recompense"
(122) heaven may offer is in the form of a "kindred spirit," (96)
and he finds meaning in the hope that some "friend" (124) will be
"mindful" (93) of him, just as he is mindful of the dead in the
"Writing and Reading in Grays
'Elegy'": Thomas Grays "Elegy in a Country Churchyard"
portrays the attempts of two communities, the Poor and Proud, to
immortalize the dead using artistic representation (sculpture,
prose, and poetry). But because they ultimately focus on material
or external display, the poetry of both groups fails to
successfully offer consolation to the individual. In demonstrating
Mindfulness of the human need to be remembered, the "Elegys"
speaker or poet emerges as the only individual capable of offering
a sustained form of consolation.
"Sentiment and Intention or
Dont Judge a Book by its Cover": Lady Teazle conceals
what she truly feels in order to fit in with her peers. On the
inside, she is an innocent and sweet country bumpkin. When she
sees reality, represented in the metaphor of a window, her screen
is cast aside, revealing her inherent goodness. In The School
for Scandal, the characters of Mr. Joseph Surface, Charles
Surface, and Lady Teazle show that goodness and virtue come, not
from what is expressed outwardly, but from a persons inner
feelings and intentions. When the screen that a person hangs up is
swept aside, their true intentions will signify whether or not
they are good or bad.
"Reading and Writing in Grays
Elegy": Th[e] group that is mindful consists of the
"unlettered muse" (81), the speaker, the "hoary-headed swain"
(97), and the speaker. The "mindfulness" of this group is an
acknowledgement of the unhonored dead. Their "mindfulness" as
individuals exists for different reasons. The "unlettered muse" is
mindful of the unhonored dead because of the work on their
gravestones. The "kindred spirit" is led to the dead by "lonely
Contemplation" (95). The speaker is mindful of the dead through
his own desire to be remembered sympathetically and the
"hoary-headed swain" is mindful of the dead through his attention
to the speaker in life and in death.
"The Vanity of Poetry and Pursuit":
Pervasive throughout "The Vanity of Human Wishes" images of
failure and vision are used to illustrate the theme of illusion
and futility. This theme parallels Johnsons own view on the
pointlessness of the poets goal to experience everything.
These ideas are presented in Johnsons writings.
"The screen scene": Sir Peters
and Joseph Surfaces conversation is about Lady Teazle who
can overhear every word behind a screen. This scene forms the
climax of the play because several streams of actions come
"The Truth About Lies": Each of the
characters in the play are connected through a series of schemes
and lies, which center around the accumulation of money, with the
character of Lady Teazle acting as the catalyst to those around
her. Through metaphors of finance and the larger metaphor of the
"screen", Lady Teazles transformation acts as a lens through
which the true nature of the characters can be more clearly seen;
that sentiment without honesty is no sentiment at all.
"Johnsons Bridge Between
Eras": Johnson thought that poetry was a way to link ideas and
sentiments of the past to modern topics. He accomplished this in
The Vanity of Human Wishes by linking the vices: desire,
lack of faith, and the inability to accept disappointment, of
significant historical figures ("rival kings") throughout
"The Solitary Figure Finds Solace and
Meaning in Death": It becomes clear that the connecting force
between the communities is the instinctive desire to be
remembered. This is made apparent in the engravings, elegies and
epitaphs we leave behind. Once the speaker understands this common
need for remembrance he is able to see that the only "recompense"
(122) heaven may offer is in the form of a "kindred spirit," (96)
and he finds meaning in the hope that some "friend" (124) will be
"mindful" (93) of him, just as he is mindful of the dead in the
"The Dividing and Uniting of Human
Beings in 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard'": Gray, in
Elegy, creates a scene in which education, the ability to read and
write, divides the human race into two distinct communities, one
poor and one rich, that are only united as one community in death.
However, Gray also introduces a man, who although educated, never
became part of a community and therefore must honor the forgotten
dead in order to assure that he will receive the acknowledgement
his soul longs for in death. Therefore, "Elegy Written in a
Country Churchyard" demonstrates that although humans are divided
in life by education, or the lack thereof, they will be united in
one community upon dying.
"An Honored Friend From the 'Unhonored
Dead'": Gray argues that it is not the "storied urn or
animated bust" (41), displayed in honor of the men determined to
make a name for themselves and be revered in death for their
bravery, that causes folks to reflect on life and mourn for the
dead; it is the poor mans headstone, engraved simply with
the deceaseds name, date of birth, date of death, and a
passage or two from the Bible, that "implores the passing tribute
of a sigh" (80).
"The Solitary Judge": Because the
speaker himself, is representative of both the marginal and the
pompous society, but is not included in their community, he is
made the perfect judge to decide which is more admirable and
deserves a recompense from Heaven. The community that is made up
of the pompous and poor is both elaborately interwoven and
distinctly separated by knowledge of the mind versus knowledge of
the soul. Because the speaker possesses both of these
distinctions, he is isolated from the community, but can act as a
"Historical Writing versus Poetic
Writing": Gray chooses a speaker for his poem who does not
belong to any particular segment of his community for "he gained
from Heavn(twas all he wished) a friend"(124),
signifying that on Earth he did not have a friend. His ability not
to belong to any part of the class system of his day allows him to
be a part of all of society and an objective speaker for his time.
Through him, Gray is able to contrast the image of the rural poor
in historical writings with their image in poetic writings to show
the universality of death that provides honor for the poor over
the noble community.
"A River, Tear and Icy Hand: Gray's
Images of Water": In Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton
College, ... images of water represent the innocence of
childhood as it is affected by age, experience, and eventually
"Grays Social Commentary: Unity
through Knowledge": In Grays "Elegy Written in a Country
Churchyard," representations of the written word reveal how the
upper classes of the English community dishonorably assert power
over the poor by abusing their inherent superior knowledge, the
one human quality that should, and ultimately does, unify all of
"'Education' as a Metaphor for
Approaching Death in the Elegy": The construction of
the tomb and written epitaph are literal examples of the way in
which an understanding of literature serves as the means for
fulfilling the demand of the dead and dying to be mourned. Thus,
education serves as a metaphor for the way in which the rich
acquire visibility to ensure that they are remembered in "a
nations eyes," and for the way in which the poor, as a
result of mindfulness, learn to mourn death. For the speaker of
the poem, however, education is the cause of his mindfulness, and
this reciprocal relationship allows the speaker to attain
"The Conflict Between Argument and Images
in Thomas Grays 'Elegy Written in a Country
Churchyard'": Grays poem attempts to right a wrong he
witnesses in society. Unfortunately, Grays choice of images
and metaphors further the problem he is trying to solve by
reinforcing the already over-emphasized importance of human
opinion. Close analysis of the "Elegys" images and metaphors
reveals the subtle marketing of public recognition as the
requirement for, motivation behind, and equivalent to a successful
life, as well as the cure-all for lifes injustices.
"Community, Mindfulness, Recompense and Sound": There are two communities outside of the speaker, each with their own set of sounds. These communities are based on how mindful they are of what is around them. There is the community of "the poor" who are associated with the sounds of animals and the land around them. There is the community of "the Proud" with its "boast of heraldry, the pomp of power" (37, 33) ... The speaker is set apart from these communities, first by his awareness and then by the recompense he is granted in the end. The speaker is repaid for his mindfulness; he is given recompense at the end. But, until then, he is left alone, set apart from all the communities, the only one to hear and recognize the different sounds of the different communities. In a way, it is this mindfulness that serves as recompense to the other communities, especially the agrarian community that he is watching.
Paper #3 (8-10 pp.), December 12
Great work! Many of you made excellent progress in these final papers, which were a pleasure to read. The process of learning to write well is long and difficult, and you might even add "unending"! But reading these papers, I know that for many of you the process is proving rewarding and exciting at the same time, and I am sure the work you've done will continue to open up intellectual possibilities for you in both your future coursework and your independent growth. I would like to add that, personally and professionally, I am so gratified by the quality of your writing at the end of our semester, and I'd like to thank you for all your hard work.
The following four papers are exceptional, among the best I've ever received at the survey level.
Transformation, and Perfection: The Mind
and Nature in Shelley and Keats": In Percy Bysshe
Shelleys "Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni"
... [the speaker's] ability to "hold
interchange / With the clear universe of things around" (Shelley,
39-40) shows the actively imaginative "dialogue" he has with his
surroundings. However, man is not always capable of this
connection with his environment, for he is not always able to
fully grasp the "other," as is exemplified in Keats "Ode."
His urn is a picture of absolute idealism, a timeless
"unravishd bride of quietness" (Keats, 1) ... Upon
inspecting the urn, the mind is boggled by the paradigm it
depicts, and the man is incapable of identifying himself with the
model world worked delicately in marble. In both circumstances,
then, the man must ultimately remain separated from nature. The
"self" is incapable of permanently connecting with the "other,"
and thus the man is still distinctly "a man," and nature is still
decidedly "nature." Due to this complex compulsory separation, the
mind is forced to create imaginative pictures with what it
observes, and though it cannot completely connect itself to these
outside objects, it nevertheless can attempt to comprehend their
beauty and significance.
"Visions of Imaginative
Creativity: The Union of Mind and Object": Comparing Keats's
"Ode to a Grecian Urn," and Shelleys, "Mont Blanc," one
discovers what at first seems to be two contrary representations
of the facilities of the imagination in exchanges between the self
and the world of things and/or nature ... As "Mont Blanc"
evidences, the minds ability to achieve creativity is a
result of the union of the objective and subjective at a
place where the mind actively engages in observation of a dynamic
external world. The Ode shows the minds failure to achieve
any sort of creativity through observation of a static,
self-encompassing object and its own wild musings. Hence, both
poems show that true imaginative creativity is not found simply
through the solitary workings of the mind, nor through the
minds passive reception of the world of things, but in a
place where the two actively meet, where the mind and the world of
things act both as lenders and mirrors to the presence of each
Imagination": [A]n analysis of the relationships
between nature and physical sensations, and their roles in the
formation and function of imagination in Wordsworths
"Tintern Abbey" and Anna Barbaulds "A Summer Evenings
Meditation," demonstrate the ways in which these poems constitute
Romantic lyrics ... "Tintern Abbey" expresses the authors
indignation against the "discriminating powers of the mind" and
emphasizes the ability of the Imagination to be creatively
stimulated by the awe-inspiring beauty of nature ... "A Summer
Evenings Meditation" ... employs habits of association and
thoroughly engages the roles of the mind and nature in order to
portray the relationship between the two.
"Absence and the Function of the Creative Imagination in Mont Blanc and Manfred, a Dramatic Poem": The speaker and protagonists act of distinguishing the self from the world around them in both Mont Blanc and Manfred effectively removes them from the external world and allows for the recognition of absence and the corresponding need to create in this absence using the imagination. Thus, absence essentially demands the creative use of imagination, the process that forms a relationship of power in which the external world subjects the human mind to create in the presence of absence.
The remaining papers have fantastic moments as well. For those of you who are still struggling, or for those of you who are doing well but feel like you still have room for improvement in certain fundamental areas of composition, please feel free to print off any of the papers I have singled out this semester and use them as models in the future! Good luck to all of you, and thanks for a great semester.
"The Eternal Imagination": Both John
Keats and Percy Shelley thought of poetry as an immortal or
eternal representation of the world. Keats "Ode on a Grecian
Urn" and Shelleys "Mont Blanc," through imagery that
describes the impalpable spirit of nature, present the workings of
the imagination as the interaction between the mind and the
intangible essence of nature. This interaction makes immortal the
earthly objects and experiences of a mortal world.
"Imagination": The experience of a
higher existence is based on that perception of feeling,
"receiving," and then the reciprocation of expression in
"rendering." This rendering of feeling is the creating of the
poems like "Mont Blanc" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (38).
"Active and Passive Methods to
Imagination": Baurbalds and Wordsworths
experiences concerning physical sensation, observation, and poetic
vision of nature lead them both to see a divine creative force
which upon internalization will as a result, bring out the
imagination ... Although both Barbauld and Wordsworth are able to
internalize and bring out their imaginations, Wordsworth achieves
this passively through memory, while Barbauld, actively through
"Sensation and the Poetic Process of
Romanticism: Visions in the Night": Anna Barbauld, in her poem
"A Summers Evenings Meditation" concretely follows the
Wordsworthian ideal of the poetic process, while demonstrating
that glimpses of creative power can be garnered through the
emotions resulting from the death-like sensations of night even
though true creative power can only be arrived at in death.
William Wordsworth, in "Tintern Abbey," also demonstrates the fact
that creative power can be glimpsed at night and realized in
death, yet he also explains how for him creative realization will
occur in death. Consequently, taken together, "A Summer Evenings
Meditation" and "Tintern Abbey" demonstrate how death-like
sensations in life can offer glimpses of the creative power that
will eventually be achieved in death.
"The Romantic Process of
Imagination": William Wordsworth ... suggests that [the
imagination] is a process in which the poetic mind moves first
from physical sensation to spontaneous emotion, then gradually,
through a species of reaction such as contemplation or memory, to
a second, purified emotion. Only through the refinement of this
second emotion can a poet truly express himself and produce
poetry... Both Wordsworths "Tintern Abbey" and Anna
Barbaulds "A Summer Evenings Meditation," reflect this
poetic process, yet each in their own unique way. The two poets
experience each phase of the imaginative process through different
means, yet ultimately arrive at the same conclusion. Barbauld,
through her journey of contemplation to the outer regions of space
and Wordsworth, through his transportation via his childhood
memories, both come to realize that the only way to experience the
last phase of imagination is through death because only through
death does one become unified with his/her Creator and thus have
the ability to create.
"Thought and Imagination": Two views
on how imagination should be defined present themselves in
Keats "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and Shelleys "Mont
Blanc". Shelley would contend that the role of the imagination is
revived and inspired while in the presence of silent nature, the
mountain, while Keats would contend that the silent Grecian Urn
pulls the speaker out of thought and into imagination. For both
poets, silence and thought have key roles but opposite
"The development of romantic
imagination": Cowper writes a kind of epic poem with several
scenes following one another in an almost unplanned sequence,
describing the tension of the individual and the world by showing
the poets perceptions of nature through his sensorium,
whereas Coleridge composes a lyrical poem about a world in which
he links and interweaves the individual and nature. Cowper as the
first romantic poet prepares the way and in several
respects supplies instruments and motives of literal and
metaphorical movement used by later romantic poets, such as
"The Views of Keats and Shelley on
Imagination and Reality": Mixing the world of imagination with
the real world is important to Keats because without imagination
the real world is confined to ugliness. In the end, Keats resolves
the creations in the imagined world are just as valid as the "real
world." Shelleys use of imagination is somewhat different.
Shelley believes the real world is impossible to view in its
completeness, but the imagination can add to our experience with
the real world. Shelley feels the real world is supreme, and it
can teach us much, but because of its eternal existence, it will
always surpass the imagination.
"Self and The Other: Visions
Created": The self will always try to attain what it does not
know, whether it is a rock or tree, the self has interest
naturally. This contrast comes from the objects themselves, for no
matter how much a person tries to create a state of awe with an
urn, it will never compare to the indescribable feelings that rush
through the physical as well as mental body of a person who trying
to comprehend one of Gods most majestic creations. In
Shelleys "Mont Blanc," the speaker cannot create the visions
of pure imaginative creativity through his encounter with the urn
as does the speaker in Keats "Ode on a Grecian Urn" in his
encounter with nature. The reason that the two experiences are so
drastically different is because the urn is not able to produce
divine emotions, as does Gods beautiful landscape.
"Irreconcilable Differences for Shelley
and Keats": The poems "Mont Blanc" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
each focus on the distinguishing characteristics of the mind and
the other ... For Shelley the self and the other represent
counterparts of a whole, but for Keats they are simply opposite
realities, which remain separate, but coexist ... However, the
poets envision very different interactions between the two
realities. Shelley, seems determined to fuse the two realities by
finding a common source between them, which he calls "Power" (96).
For Keats though, the separate realities of the self and the other
coexist without any need for reconciliation, and it is enough for
him to know that "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" (49) in some
"The Language of Innocence and Experience in Blake and Wordsworth": In William Blakes Songs of Innocence and Experience and William Wordsworths Ode, innocence is marked by a commonality of being wherein the self is not distinguished from nature or the other ... In Wordsworths realm of experience, it is ultimately the "primal sympathy" (184), articulated through language as a "timely utterance" (52), which functions as a form of consolation for the individual. Unlike Blakes Experience wherein words have been divorced from their true meaning, Wordsworth employs language in an attempt to re-connect and re-capture, if only in part, mans lost state of innocence.
Daniel E. White