November 17, 2008

Assessed essay

Writing about web page

Practical criticism essay (close-reading): 1500 words; worth 15% of the final mark Essays must be typed or printed (not handwritten). You should choose a short poem or a section from a longer poem (such as The Two-Part Prelude) and write a close reading, paying attention to the poem’s form. This means thinking about the shape of the poem on the page, how many lines the poem has (and the length of these lines), the poem’s sound (metre, pattern, rhyme, alliteration), the poem’s structure, the poet’s choice of diction and syntax, the poem’s figurative devices and the mode of address (who is speaking to who?) When writing the essay, do not simply list these formal qualities (or worry about the various Greek names that are attached to them), but relate them to the meaning, as you see it, of the poem you’ve chosen. For example, on one level, the apparently simplistic ballad form of ‘Simon Lee’ illuminates Wordsworth’s interest, and idealisation of, the simplicity of domestic and human experience in rural, labouring areas. You should thus think about why blank verse, ballad form, the sonnet, lyric and so on are being used by the poet to communicate specific ideas and feelings: why does the poet use a poem, rather than prose or drama, to relate certain ideas and images?

Students are reminded that the deadline constitutes the final submission time after which essays cannot be considered as part of their examination unless an extension has been granted. Requests for extensions will be dealt with by the current Director of Undergraduate Studies. Extensions will be granted ONLY on production of medical certificates or in exceptional circumstances within three days of an essay deadline. Retrospective extensions will not be given. Pressure of work is not a valid reason for an extension request.

I’ve had lots of enquires regarding the texts to be chosen. Don’t write about Blake’s Songs of Innocence or Songs of Experience or The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Otherwise, it is entirely up to you which poems you want to write on. Just check with me first if you want to write on some by a poet we have not covered in class. Use your own discretion when deciding how much of a longer poem to focus on. Think about the close reading you want to do and don’t substitute quantity of information for a careful close analysis. If you have any further queries, then do come and see me in my office hour on Thursday.

Please also note the information (above) regarding extensions. I have accepted lots of late essays for the unassessed assignment but I cannot be so lenient about this one.

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