ENGL 204: Renaissance Literature
Dr. Debora B. Schwartz
English Department, California Polytechnic State University

Paper 2 Guidelines
(due via email attachment by midnight on M 3/17/14)

Generalities

Your final out-of-class paper will be a 4-5-page literary analysis essay focusing on no more than two authors/readings covered in our class this quarter (writing on a single author or work is fine).  You are encouraged, but not required, to develop an idea or ideas which you have explored in one or more of your PolyLearn Mini-Essays (or in your Midterm Exam essay).  Alternatively, you may base your paper on any of the question(s) included on one of the study guides.  As you choose your final paper topic, keep in mind that the work(s) you choose to write on (or the poet, if you are writing on individual  poems) are off-limits for your final exam essay

Whatever focus you choose, you will need to articulate a clear Opening Statement which lays out what you will argue in your paper.  (Note: while you should think about all parts of a given study question as you plan your essay, you will not necessarily answer every part of that question as you construct your argument.)

Remember that your paper should consist primarily of textual analysis, not summary: you will cite carefully chosen examples from the reading(s) in order to support a specific argument about them. The best analogy to writing a good analytic paper is a lawyer arguing a case in court. Both lawyer and paper writer must build a carefully constructed argument to prove the validity of claims that are based upon analysis and interpretation of (textual) evidence.  Your "client" is your text; your client's "plea" is the claims you are making in your essay. Like a good lawyer, you should begin with an opening statement (the introductory paragraph) which fully and explicitly articulates your claims and suggests how you will structure your argument. While your opening paragraph should not cite text (the specific examples you will discuss in the body of your paper), it should indicate what kinds of evidence you will use to make your case. You will support your claims in the body of your paper by citing carefully chosen examples from the primary text(s) to demonstrate the validity of your claims. The finished essay should consist of 3-4 pp. of body paragraphs (textual support and analysis), independnt of the introductory statement and conclusion (which typically add an additional page to the completed essay).

Practicalities

The final paper should be 4-5 double-spaced, typed pages in a 10-pt. or 12-pt. font, with 1" margins on all sides.  Your paper should NOT be significantly longer than these limits; grades are based in part on how well you adhere to the parameters of the assignment.  Beware: I will notice over-sized (or under-sized) fonts and extra-large (or teeny-tiny) margins!! 

Provide identifying information at the top of the first page (your name, class number AND SECTION, date submitted); then skip a line before your paper title.  Use a header to number pages after page 1; the header should also include your last name in case the pages get separated.Be sure to follow the guidelines provided here (not what you were asked to do in another class) for correct line spacing, indentation and documentation. Be sure to PROOFREAD for spelling, punctuation, and basic grammatical errors, as well as for clarity (clear and explicit opening statement of your claims; logical development of argument; adequate and relevant textual support; solid conclusion).  Consult the ESSAY EVALUATION CHECKLIST both BEFORE and AFTER completing your first draft, and make sure you do not commit the sort of mechanical and stylistic errors listed on the checklist!

Don't forget to give paper a title which identifies work(s) and/or author(s) discussed and hints at the central idea of the paper.  Also, remember that your paper title should not be underlined, but the title of the work(s) you are discussing should be.

Because I will read your paper in hard copy rather than on the web, PLEASE USE ONLY UNDERLINING rather than italics in your final paperItalics and underlining are alternate conventions used to indicate the same things (titles, foreign terms, added emphasis) and should not normally be mixed in a given piece of work (as a rule, you pick one and use it consistently).  Italics are preferable on web documents where underlining indicates a link.  For work read in hard copy (including electronically submitted documents which your instructor will print out), follow your instructor's preferences.  In my case:  PLEASE USE ONLY UNDERLINING, which is easier on my middle-aged eyes!

*     *     *
Preliminary Remarks

1) The final paper you write for this class is not a reaction paper -- don't use it to express your personal opinion about a reading/author, to criticize or praise it/her/him.  Instead, it should demonstrate your understanding of the reading on its own terms, in its literary and historical context -- what it meant to its original author and audience (whether or not you happen to agree is a fascinating topic for discussion over coffee -- but it's irrelevant to this assignment!). 

2) The final paper you write for this class should articulate YOUR informed understanding of the work(s) you are writing on.  While your premise and argument should demonstrate your understanding of issues and currents focused on in class, it is not a research paper; citations should be drawn from the primary texts you are writing on, not online resources or editor's notes in our textbooks. You are welcome to make use of the ideas and information found on my webpages, as they are part of the knowledge you have acquired by taking this class, but be sure to reformulate them in your own words. 

3) If you choose to consult websites such as Sparknotes, you should be VERY CAREFUL NOT TO PLAGIARIZE, and you should acknowledge your use of the source by including it on a Works Consulted list at the end of your paper.  Because plagiarism -- even inadvertent plagiarism -- is an extremely serious form of academic dishonesty, any paper found to include plagiarized passages will automatically receive a grade of "F" and will be reported to Academic Affairs.  For this reason, I strongly recommend that you rely on your own understanding of the texts and make use of the information provided on my website rather than consulting websites such as SparkNotes.

4) The final paper you write for this class is an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of an assigned work while practicing your analytic writing skills. Don't try to dazzle me with something I've never heard before; concentrate instead on dazzling me with how attentive you are to the details and nuances in the text you are considering and by constructing a logical demonstration of the validity of your claims about that text based upon close reading (careful analysis of specific passages in the primary text). Your paper should demonstrate your ability to: 

  • understand "what's going on" in an early-modern work, including as appropriate attention to its specific literary and historical context;
  • articulate that understanding in a clear and SPECIFIC opening statement which explicitly articulates the central ideas you will focus on and the claims you will make in your essay;
  • construct a logical argument in support of these claims (i.e. paragraph order should be carefully thought out);
  • support that argument with well-chosen textual passages which you have documented correctly; and
  • write clear, correct prose, following the stylistic guidelines on the the ESSAY EVALUATION CHECKLIST.
5) The final paper you write in this class may not resemble any paper you have written in the past.  PLEASE READ THROUGH AND TAKE CARE TO FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES BELOW in preparing this assignment. Finally, please note that although this assignment requires skills that you should master as a Cal Poly English major, it is not a formula for "the right way" to write about literature -- because there IS no one "right" way to write about literature.  In subsequent classes, you will do many different types of writing; the challenge is always to understand and adhere to the parameters of the assignment.  But while you may never write another paper in precisely this way, the skills I am asking you to practice should prove useful to you in other contexts (e.g. on essay exams, where it is essential to think through your argument before you begin to write).

*     *     *


The Introductory Paragraph

The first paragraph of your paper should not only identify your topic, it should make clear precisely what you will argue ABOUT that topic.  This is the central message of your paper.  Your focus should not be simple description of what transpires in the work(s) under consideration; you must present an interpretive analysis of what you describe.  For example: "Fertility/sterility imagery in A Midsummer Night's Dream" is a fine TOPIC for a paper.  But simply stating that Shakespeare uses this imagery in the play is descriptive, not interpretive and analytic.  To move from a topic to an interpretive argument, you must explain what message that imagery communicates and/or why Shakespeare may have chosen to use that imagery; this "what" and "why" are the interpretation you will argue in your paper. To account for the "why," your introductory paragraph should include any background information which is essential to your argument (but do not pad it with random "factoids" -- accurate facts that are not directly relevant to what you will argue in your paper).

A good introduction sketches out the parameters (but not the details) of the argument you will make in support of your thesis. (Save specific examples and quotation for the body of your paper.)  It can be particularly helpful to include this "roadmap" of your essay in in-class writing (e.g. on an exam) since doing so forces you to think through the logical structure of your argument rather than charging off in a wrong direction. Even if you do not include this information in your introductory paragraph, thinking through where you are going before you write will add clarity to your paper, helping you to set up a paragraph structure dictated by the logic of your argument (rather than determined by the order in which textual evidence occurs in the text you are writing about).  It can also help your reader to see where your paper is going. 

Do NOT begin your paper with truisms, statements of personal philosophy, generalities, or examples from modern life; get to your point, which is an interpretation of the primary texts. You have a limited amount of space in which to make your case; don't waste it on a "hook."  (You already have my full attention.)  Avoid using the first or second person (I, we, you) in constructing your argument, which should be presented as objectively as possible.  The implication of first-person references is that your paper is just a statement of  personal opinion, and thus no more valid than opposing opinions; why should the reader care what you think?  Instead, aim for a tone of objective neutrality, which is rhetorically more effective than a statement of opinion ("I believe"; "I think") in convincing the reader of the objective validity of your argument.


Argumentation

The body of your paper (approximately 3-4 pages of body paragraphs, independent of your introduction and conclusion) provides textual support and analysis to demonstrate the validity of your claims.  Be sure to keep your paper analytic rather than merely descriptive. A summary of events or list of examples is NOT textual analysis; you must have something to say ABOUT the examples you cite. 

Provide a separate paragraph for each step in your argument, with appropriate transitions between them.  Order paragraphs according to the logic of your argument (not the order in which the citations occur in the primary text).  Or, if your paper requires the analysis of different kinds of textual evidence that do not have obvious logical connections between them, start with the most general, simple, obvious or concrete points and examples and move to the most specific, complex, subtle and interpretive ones. 

Aim for three to four citations of  carefully chosen textual evidence per paragraph (i.e.  in support of each claim or step of your argument). Follow up on your citations with a line or two of interpretation before moving on to a new example or a new idea (opening a new paragraph).  Be sure to explain the relevance of the material you quote to your argument -- don't just stick it in and expect it to speak for itself. Textual evidence must be interpreted for the reader.

To return to the lawyer analogy, citations from the text are like testimony, the evidence you must interpret for the judge and jury.  Your analysis of those citations is the cross-examination of witnesses and/or interpretation of the evidence -- what will make or break your case. If you don't make your points explicitly, they are not entered into the court record and cannot be considered by the jury (your professor) in deciding whether or not you have successfully defended your client (proven the validity of your claims) -- nor can they be considered by the judge (also your professor) who assigns the final grade.


The Concluding Paragraph

The least important part of an effective paper, the final paragraph can be short and sweet.  Use it to sum up your argument without going into so much detail that you repeat the body of the paper.  Remind the reader of the central ideas and claims you set out to prove and of the steps in the argument you have made.  The best conclusions also offer some final insight or twist, a new thought that  grows out of what you argued in the paper -- but avoid assertions that are so unconnected as to require a whole new paper to back them up.  Don't end your essay with a quotation -- it's your paper, so you, not someone else, should have the last word.



Documentation

All quotations from the text(s) you are writing on should be followed by parenthetical documentation that provides the most specific numbering found in your textbook (and an abbreviated title if you are writing on more than one work) for the passage you have cited. 

  • For texts in the Norton Anthology, the parenthetical documentation may be page numbers (for works in prose), line numbers alone (for individual poems), or a combination of line numbers and other section numbers (scenes and lines for Dr. Faustus; canto and stanza numbers for The Faerie Queene; books and lines for Paradise Lost). Section and line numbers should be indicated simply by the relevant numbers separated by periods but not spaces.  Do not include the words page, canto, section, act, or line (or abbreviations for these words) in parenthetical references, just the numbers, separated by periods but no spaces, e.g. (2.31-34) for section 2, lines 31-34.
  • Shakespeare plays should be cited from the required SIGNET CLASSICS edition by act number, scene number, and inclusive line numbers. Generally, capitalized Roman numerals are used for act number, small case Roman numerals for scene number, and arabic numerals for line numbers; alternatively, you may use all Arabic numerals. Act, scene and line numbers should be separated by periods but no spaces (i.e. "II.iv.33-40" or "2.4.33-40" for "Act two, scene 4, lines 33-40"). 
Additionally, you must document the text(s) you write on with a Works Cited entry (or entries) at the end of the paper.  List the specific work(s) you have written on by AUTHOR and TITLE (not simply as Norton Anthology).  For works from the Norton Anthology, include complete pagination for the work(s) you wrote on.  If you cite more than one work by the same author, list them separately, in alphabetical order by title, but replace the author's name for the second work with three dashes followed by a period. 

Finally, while you do NOT need to document ideas in your essay that are found on my webpages (which are my gift to you), to avoid inadvertent plagiarism, if you consult a resource such as SparkNotes, you are advised to acknowledge it with a Works Consulted citation at the end of the essay.

EXAMPLES:


Works Cited

Marlowe, Christopher.  Doctor Faustus.   The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. B: The Sixteenth Century / The Early Seventeenth Century.  Ed. Stephen Greenblatt, et al.  9th ed.  New York and London: W. W. Norton, 2012. 1128-63.

Shakespeare, William. The TempestEd. Robert Langbaum. 2nd. rev. ed.  The Signet Classic Shakespeare. New York: Penguin Putnam, 1998.

Spenser, Edmund.  The Faerie Queene.  Book 1. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. B: The Sixteenth Century / The Early Seventeenth Century.  Ed. Stephen Greenblatt, et al.  9th ed.  New York and London: W. W. Norton, 2012. 781-934. 

---.  "To His Booke." From The Shepheardes Calender. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. B: The Sixteenth Century / The Early Seventeenth Century.  Ed. Stephen Greenblatt, et al.  9th ed.  New York and London: W. W. Norton, 2012. 769.

Work Consulted

SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Faerie Queene.” <http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/fqueen/> Web. 5 Mar. 2014.
 


CITATIONS FROM THE TEXT

Cite Accurately:  Be sure to cite accurately from the text or, should you modify a citation to fit more smoothly into the fabric of your prose, be sure to indicate any omitted words with ellipses (" . . . ") and any changes in vocabulary, verb tense, pronouns etc. in [square brackets], not (parentheses), which could be part of the quotation itself.  Example: you might convert Macbeth's first-person statement "I dare do all that may become a man" (MAC I.vii.46) into the following third-person statement:  Macbeth states that "[he dares] do all that may become a man" (MAC I.vii.46).  Before turning in the final paper, proofread citations by checking them against the textbook.  Be sure that you have cited and documented citations COMPLETELY and ACCURATELY, clearly indicating any omissions and/or changes. 

Avoid Sentence Fragments: Your paper should consist of properly punctuated, grammatically complete sentences, not sentence fragments.  To avoid sentence fragments when quoting, you can 

  • cite only grammatically complete sentences, taking care not to cut off a citation in the middle of a sentence.   This strategy avoids fragments but can be awkward and does not allow you much flexibility in constructing your prose.  Or, you can
  • embed fragmentary quotations into your prose, adding any elements necessary to result in a smooth, grammatically complete sentence.  Example: Lady Macbeth's reference to "the babe that milks me" suggests that she has lost a child (MAC I.vii.5).  The preceding sentence is grammatically correct, even though the cited passage "the babe that milks me" is a sentence fragment (lacking a main clause subject and verb). 
Citing Verse: When you are quoting fewer than four full lines of verse, the quotation should be integrated into your essay paragraph (not indented) and enclosed in quotation marks. Capitalize the first word of each line of verse and separate lines with a slash ("/"). Example: 
The witches chant, "Double, double, toil and trouble;/ Fire burn and cauldron bubble" (MAC IV.i.10-11). 
Final Punctuation with Parenthetical References:  Note that in the example above, there is no period immediately following the word "bubble"; instead, the final period of the citation follows the parenthetical reference.  Rule of thumb:  most punctuation found at the end of the citation is omitted; instead, insert the punctuation appropriate to the syntax of your sentence (period, colon, semicolon, comma) immediately following the parenthetical reference.  Exception: if the quoted passage ends with a question mark or an exclamation point, include it before the final quotation mark AND insert the punctuation appropriate to the construction of your sentence after the parenthetical reference.  You may also use ellipses [. . .] at the end of a citation if you wish to indicate that the passage continues beyond what you have quoted. 

EXAMPLES:

The first four lines of Macbeth, act IV, scene i, read as follows: 

1      Macbeth:  Why should I play the Roman fool, and die
2      On mine own sword? Whiles I see lives, the gashes
3a    Do better upon them.
3b    Macduff:                  Turn, hell-hound, turn!
4      Macbeth:  Of all men else I have avoided thee.
These lines might be incorporated into your prose in the following ways:
When Macbeth asks himself, "Why should I play the Roman fool, and die/ On mine own sword?" (MAC V.viii.1-2), the enraged Macduff replies, "Turn, hell-hound, turn!" (MAC V.viii.3). 

Macbeth's regret at the murder of Macduff's wife and children is implied in his response: "Of all men else I have avoided thee" (MAC V.viii.4).

Each of the examples above is a grammatically complete sentence suitable for inclusion in a formal analytic paper.  The first includes two citations, one ending with a question mark and one with an exclamation point.  Note that these final punctuation marks are included in the citation (before the final quotation marks), while the comma and period, the punctuation marks appropriate to the construction of your sentence, follow the parenthetical references.  In the second grammatically complete sentence ("Macbeth's regret. . . "), note that the final punctuation is omitted from the quotation (there is no period within the quotation marks), while the appropriate punctuation for your sentence (a period) follows the parenthetical reference.

The next example incorporates passages taken from The Tempest:

When Prospero shows Alonso his supposedly drowned son playing chess with Miranda, Alonso is afraid that it is but "a vision of the island" (TEMP V.i.176). Miranda is equally amazed when she first sees Alonso, exclaiming, "O wonder!/ How many goodly creatures are there here!/ O brave new world/ That has such people in't!" (TEMP V.i.182-5). 
In the first sentence, the final punctuation of the citation has been omitted (there is no punctuation preceding the final quotation mark); in the second, the exclamation point from the citation has been preserved.  In both cases, the parenthetical reference is followed by a period, the final punctuation required by the syntax of your prose (a grammatically complete sentence which requires a final period).

(In all examples above, note the use of capitalization and slashes to indicate the beginning and end of lines of verse.)

Final Punctuation of Indented Block Quotations: Longer quotations (four or more lines of verse) should be presented as double indented block quotations (one more tab than for a new paragraph; see example below).  In order that the length of an essay not be padded with overlong block quotations, I ask that indented block citations (unlike the rest of your paper) be SINGLE-SPACED. Omit quotation marks and place final punctuation of the quotation at end of line quoted, before the parenthetical documentation, which is not followed by punctuation.

Example:
 

Toward the end of The Tempest, Prospero bids farewell to his magic: [switch from double- to single-spacing at start of indented block citation]

[2 tabs]   . . . But this rough magic
                I here abjure; and when I have required
                Some heavenly music (which even now I do),
                [. . .] I'll break my staff,
                Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
                And deeper than did ever plummet sound
                I'll drown my book.
                           (TEMP V.i.50-7)
               [switch back to double-spacing after parenthetical reference]

Here we see that Prospero's magic is equated to poetry. . . 

[Paper continues, double-spaced, below the double indented, single-spaced quotation.]

Because this is an indented block citation, the period following "I'll drown my book" is left at the end of the quoted line, preceding the parenthetical reference, which is not followed by a punctuation mark.

Reminders

Don't forget to give your paper a title which identifies the work(s)/author(s) discussed and gives your reader some idea of what you are arguing (your thesis). The paper title should not be underlined, but the title of the works you are writing on should be.  (Exception: the titles of individual poems are normally put in quotation marks rather than underlined.)

Avoid using the first or second person (I, we, you).  The implication of first-person references is that your paper is just a statement of  personal opinion, and thus no more valid than opposing opinions; why should the reader care what you think?  Instead, aim for a tone of objective neutrality, which is rhetorically more effective than a statement of opinion ("I believe"; "I think") in convincing the reader of the objective validity of your argument.

Use the present tense in writing about literature.  The past tense is appropriate for discussion of historical context or to refer to events that occur before those recounted in the text, but keep discussion of what occurs in the text in the present tense. 

As necessary, modify citations so that the quoted passages fit smoothly into the syntax of your sentences.  Be sure to indicate any changes in the citation using [square brackets], not (parentheses), since parentheses could be part of the material you are quoting.  Indicate any omitted words or lines with ellipses [. . . ].

Remember: this essay is NOT a research assignment.  Do not cite secondary sources.  As appropriate, you may bring in information from lecture, the Introductions in the texts and my online readings and study guides without documentation.  To avoid plagiarism, be sure to state this information in your own words -- do not cite the guides or introduction directly.

PLEASE USE ONLY UNDERLINING rather than italics in your final paper. Italics and underlining are alternate conventions used to indicate the same things (titles, foreign terms, added emphasis) and should not normally be mixed in a given piece of work (as a rule, you pick one and use it consistently).  Italics are typically used in web documents where underlining indicates a link.  But for work read in hard copy (including electronically submitted documents which your instructor will print out), you should follow your instructor's preferences.  In my case:  PLEASE USE ONLY UNDERLINING which is easier on my middle-aged eyes!

Consult the ESSAY EVALUATION CHECKLIST (which I will use in grading your papers) BEFORE AND AFTER writing your first draft.  Be sure that you do not make the sort of errors listed on this checklist!

*  *  * 
AVOIDING PLAGIARISM when using sites such as SparkNotes

From the SparkNotes Website at <http://www.sparknotes.com/about/> on the topic of "Plagiarism and Cheating":

"We're here to help you learn, not to help you cheat. Our literature guides are meant to be read along with the books they analyze. They are not intended to be copied on tests or papers (aka plagiarized).  [. . .] Plagiarism is copying the words or the ideas of another person or institution without acknowledging that you got those words or ideas from that source. You can avoid plagiarizing from SparkNotes by citing words and ideas that came from our site or books." 
Here is an example of a SparkNotes citation:
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Faerie Queene.” <http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/fqueen/> Web. 5 Mar. 2014.
Contents of this and linked pages Copyright Debora B. Schwartz, 1997-2014
Return to ENGL 204 homepage
Send me mail!