Thursday, February 25, 2010

Midterm Paper Guidelines

Due March 18, 2010

Select a creative work (or works) from our course reader, or a speech/monologue from either of the assigned plays. In a paper of approximately 1,000 words, respond to your chosen text(s) using one of the options listed below. Although you may choose any creative piece from the reader, keep in mind that it should be something that you can respond to meaningfully, in the space of roughly 3-4 pages. Something very long or very short may be more difficult.

Papers must by typed and double spaced, and written in 12-point font (Times New Roman preferred) with one-inch margins. If you refer to outside sources, make sure to cite them using standard MLA style and include a works cited page. Here is a useful link for those who need a refresher:

In grading the midterm papers, I will be keeping the following questions in mind:
➢ Is the paper formatted correctly, is it the specified length, and is it free of spelling and grammatical errors?
➢ Is there a clear thesis or point of view?
➢ Are claims supported with relevant examples from the text?
➢ Have all the elements of the prompt been addressed?
➢ Have all references and outside sources been cited using MLA style?
➢ Is the paper lively, creative, thoughtful, and interesting to read?

Option 1 ~ Analyze a short story in terms of how it is constructed, paying close attention to plot structure, patterns, and momentum. For example: In what ways does the author set the scene? At what point and how is the central conflict introduced? What kinds of patterns or escalations does the author use to create a feeling of rising tension? How are the reader’s expectations thwarted or confirmed? What effects do structure and development have on the feeling, atmosphere, or tone of the story? How do the formal or structural elements of the story relate to the themes or ideas explored? What do the author’s techniques suggest to you for your own writing?

Option 2 ~ Scan a poem, monologue, or speech using the scansion techniques discussed in class. Analyze the piece word by word and line by line, identifying metrical pattern, line length, and variations. How does the writer use meter to control pace? How does the writer end each line, each stanza, the work itself? How does (s)he begin each line? What effect does the choice of metrical patterns have on the tone, feeling, or atmosphere of the poem or speech? How does meter support or counter the images and themes of the piece? What other techniques does the writer use to supplement the meter (rhyme, images, or themes)? What do the author’s techniques suggest to you for your own writing?

Option 3 ~
PART ONE: Select 3 stories, poems, or plays (or a combination of all three) from the course reader that have a subject or theme in common. Explore your theme from a literary and craft perspective, as Anne Carson does in “Every Exit is an Entrance.” Consider each piece individually, as well as in comparison with the others. What are the commonalities and differences between them? How do the formal or structural elements of each piece relate to the themes or ideas explored? Support your claims with examples from the texts.

PART TWO: Draft a poem, short story, or monologue of no more than a page that meditates on your theme, incorporating material from your paper and the pieces you explored. Include this with your paper. The poem should not be part of the word count.

Option 4 ~ Stephen Ratcliffe states in “MEMO / RE: Reading Stein,” Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons explores “the shape of sound in writing—how sound shapes and creates the meaning of a text in ways that go beyond the meaning of its words. Playing with language—grammar, syntax, sound, rhythm, word meaning—in order to ‘rewrite’ it, free it from its denotative and connotative responsibilities, she discovered the materiality of words as objects, things, physical and acoustic matter whose referential meaning—carafe, teacup, tumbler, feather—while still actively present, was not their only interest. . . . She began to see words not simply as a window opening on the world, signaling that world, inviting the reader to pass through them into it; rather, words happen here—on the page, in air—their particular atomic weights and textures, spin and counterspin, enacted first by the writer who composes a text, reenacted by the reader who reads it.”

PART ONE: Select and analyze in detail one piece from “Objects,” exploring the ways in which Stein uses grammar, syntax, sound, rhythm, rhyme and word meaning. Discuss the effect Stein’s choices have on your experience of reading the piece and think about how her work influences your thinking about the words you use when writing.

PART TWO: Draft a poem of no more than a page, chosen from the options below, and include it with your paper. The poem should not be part of the word count.
  1. Write a poem in which the canvas of the poem is flattened, where the value or meaning is distributed across the entirety of the work, where each compositional element is of equal importance.
  2. When subject matter is commonplace or ugly, as is often the case in “realism,” method itself is foregrounded. Write a poem about a mundane object or event, where the main interest lies in how it is rendered. The written “brushstrokes” may even render the original subject unrecognizable.

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