Fall Semester 1999, Papers on the Web
Paper #1 (5-7 pp.)
Each of the first five papers could be taken as a model in several
areas. Each is wonderfully written, and I suggest that you
read them closely as instances of mature and confident prose. After
these five, the remaining papers (which also have real strengths!)
are listed alphabetically.
Please send me feedback! Let
me know how helpful you find this system. Do you have problems with
it? How could it be more effective?
I will offer some comments on the first two papers:
- Tiffany Sprecher, "Imitation
and Awakening: Mimesis in Aristotelian and Romantic Literature":
While the form of poetry is heavily discussed and developed by
Aristotle and Wordsworth, it is also impossible for us to
understand their art without understanding that it pushes beyond
its form to manifest an operative function effecting man
individually and society in general.
Read this paper through twice, once in order
to get a feel for the argument and then again to understand why
and how the paper works so well.
Its primary strength is that it consistently
foregrounds the authors argument. We never feel as if we are
reading a mere exposition of Aristotle and Wordsworth; rather, we
feel that we are reading about Aristotle and Wordsworth in
order to understand a subtle and important argument. During
your second reading, ask yourself what the real thesis of the
essay is! The thesis statement in the first paragraph, I think,
could be stronger: on the basis of your understanding of the
papers argument, could you rewrite the thesis in order to
present that argument in a more clear and precise
Sprechers logical progression is, for
the most part, excellent. Paragraphs three and four should be
combined into one paragraph, as should paragraphs four and five.
Other than that, each paragraph makes one coherent point within
the logical progression of the paper. This piece, though, could
benefit from a technique that I found myself recommending to
several of you: "sign-posting." At key points in the paper, help
your reader by saying where weve been, where we are, where
were going, and why. This technique will help you
figure out your argument during the writing/revising process as
- Matt McGinnis, "Memory and the
Moment: Plato, Stanley Fish, and Temporality in Literary
Interpretation": It is this tension between memory, or the
accumulation of past meanings and interpretations, and temporality
that signifies the artistic experience for Plato and Fish; the
temporal experience of reading or hearing a text becomes a
reaction, revision, and revaluation of one's individual or
[Note: the author had an idea for the
paper that did not address the issue of mimesis, and we discussed
the proposed topic extensively beforehand.]
Dont worry: you dont need to be
able to quote Homer in Greek in order to write good papers! This
papers strengths, indeed, lie elsewhere.
Here too we find a powerful argument about
specific theoretical issues. The author is interested not just in
writing a paper "about Plato and Fish," but more specifically
about the ways in which oral and literate cultures experience
memory and temporality differently. This interest, then, produces
an argument about the different definitions of artistic experience
that we find in Plato and Stanley Fish. What is that argument?
Again, could the author make it clearer?
This paper, even more so than the last,
would benefit from sign-posting. The argument would be much more
effective if the author would clarify the progression of his
argument at key points in the paper (especially here,
I think -- paragraph beginning, "Plato, too ...").
- Laura Coons, "A Fish-Eye Lens:
Platos Mimetic Criticism Interpreted through Stanley
Fishs Reader-Response Criticism": Plato examines the
detrimental nature of poetry within the State as a
response-oriented art form that targeted the undesirable passions.
Nonetheless, the development of Reader-Response, especially by
Fish, provides a lens through which to re-read Platos
Mimetic criticism as something broader than pure mimesis. The
nature of his criticism is mimesis, but it is formulated from an
historic kind of Reader-Response criticism and in Book X of
Republic, is in fact wholly dependent on response analysis.
Plato was essentially the first kind of Reader-Response
- Abbe Lake, "The Value of Art:
Imitation, Creation and Truth in Plato and Wordsworth": For both
Plato and Wordsworth, the key to regarding art, specifically
poetry, lies in the relationship between the poem and its
inspiration. The relationship of the poem itself to the truth it
endeavors to represent, as well as the process by which the artist
creates art from inspiration, determine the nature and the value
of the poem. Where Plato and Wordsworth disagree is in the nature
of this relationship between art, truth, process, and artist;
therefore their conclusions differ greatly on the nature and the
value of poetry.
- Jessica Edwards, "Irony or
Plot: Structure as a Conduit for Universals": In his landmark
essay Irony as a Principle of Structure, Cleanth Brooks
argues that meaning of universal significance is related through
the ironies inherent in the structure of a poem. This emphasis on
structure as a conduit for meaning is reflective of the importance
placed on the structure of plot in Aristotelian mimesis. In the
Poetics, a "treatise on the productive science"(39) of
creating epic and dramatic tragedy, plot is the element of
structure that creates a unity through which ideas of universal
significance are expressed. Brooks and Aristotle each purport a
unity of parts which creates either ironic tensions or plot, and
thereby determine a poems value as a conduit for
Remaining papers, listed alphabetically:
- Kirsten Bounds, "Meaningful
Selection: The Relation Between Aristotelian Mimesis and
Reader-Response Criticism": As Stanley Fish would argue, no text
has only one "meaning" when taking into account that Aristotelian
mimesis does not end with the agent accomplishing the imitation,
the poet. Rather, this selective mimesis extends into the reader
who imposes his own set of worldviews and assumptions every time
he picks up a text, therefore creating as many "meanings" as there
are interpretive communities.
- Ryanne Brown, "Catharsis,
Emotional Response, and Simple Language; The Selective Nature of
Wordsworths Theory From Aristotelian Ideas": In
Wordsworths Preface he stresses the need for several
of Aristotles ideas to be the basic building blocks for
quality poetry, particularly the notions of reader emotional
response, termed as catharsis by Aristotle. Also similar to
Aristotle, Wordsworth views the poets role as essential and
the use of simple language important to conveying meaning.
However, while Aristotle purports these elements to be parts of a
larger tragical context, Wordsworth selects the several specific
issues of emotional response and methodology as solely crucial to
the integrity of poetry because they most forcefully negate the
increasingly corrupt nature of intellectual society.
- Maureen Huff, "Aristotle and Fish:
The Significance of Shared Emotion": Aristotle wrote, in his
Poetics, that it is this innate pleasure in imitation and
creation that leads to the development of poetry. Reader-response
critics, like Stanley Fish, focus on the readers
interpretive process as central to the creation of meaning within
the text. Both Fish and Aristotle include the audience as a part
of the action that creates a meaningful, complete text.
Reader-response criticism and Aristotelian mimesis share a focus
on audience, methodology, and universality.
- Myra Jacobs, "Poetry: An
Original Creation From Within": Wordsworths theory that
poetry is truth created by a poet from within his own mind
challenges Platos argument that the poet is incapable of
creating truth and only merely imitating reality.
- Jessica Morrison,
"Indeterminate Meaning": Platos solution is to remove all
poetry, except praises to the Gods, from the Republic, while
Wordsworth believes that "true" poetry can be achieved by shifting
the creation process from an outside experience to an inner one.
These methods of obtaining true poetry are supported through
Platos theory of transcendent reality and Wordsworthss
theory of selection.
- Nick Mullin, "Aristotle and
Fish: Successful Poetic Compositions Based on Plot,
Interpretation, and Definition": Aristotle discusses the art of
poetry, its species and their character, and how it is necessary
to construct plots if the poetic composition is to be successful.
This poetic composition may have distinguishable characteristics
from the writer's intent and from one reader to the next. This
paper will describe three components for writing poetry and prose:
plot (experience), interpretation, and definition by giving
examples of the supporting relationship between Aristotle's text
Poetics and Fish's essays Is There a Text in This Class? and
Interpreting the Variorum.
- Marisa Oppelt, "The Universal
Language of Poetry": Aristotle and Wordsworth agree that the good
poet will employ specific methods, by way of devices such as
diction, meter, and plot structure, in order not to evoke
differing emotions among readers, but rather to bring about the
knowledge of universal truths that all readers will similarly
- Mark Ottem, "Truth and Meaning in
the Experiences or Imitations of Mimesis and Poetry": In
reader-response criticism the meaning is no longer abstracted from
the truth by mimesis, and therefore not the danger to the State
Plato originally viewed to be. For Fish, meaning and truth are
removed from the text and found in the readers experience
and mind; by so doing he challenges the view held by Platonic
mimesis that there is no meaning in poetry because real truths are
in the forms, inaccessible to the human mind.
- Zoe Yearout, "Combating the
Platonic Mimesis: Poetry as Creative and Universal according to
Aristotle and Wordsworth": Aristotle and Wordsworth, in their
similar approach to poetry, in effect combat the narrow and
inaccessible view proposed by Platonic mimesis. Both theorists
recognize the creative capacity and the universal meaning in
poetry through its order, structure, language and emotional
content which Plato denies.
Daniel E. White