When completed properly, this assignment demonstrates mastery of the following student learner outcomes, per the official VC syllabus:
Demonstrate knowledge of individual and collaborative research processes. (SLO 1)
Develop ideas and synthesize primary and secondary sources within focused academic arguments, including one or more research-based essays. (SLO 2)
Analyze, interpret, and evaluate a variety of texts for the ethical and logical uses of evidence. (SLO 3)
Write in a style that clearly communicates meaning, builds credibility, and inspires belief or action. (SLO 4)
Apply the conventions of style manuals for specific academic disciplines (e.g., APA, CMS, MLA, etc.) (SLO 5)
After reviewing Philip Levine’s “What Work Is,” Langston Hughes’ “Theme for English B,” and Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death,” choose the one you believe you can best understand and, in turn, analyze.
You will be crafting your own argument regarding the information the author is presenting. This means you will attempt to understand and analyze the lines and then present your interpretation of the author’s purpose or message for your reader. You will be referring to the elements of poetry, so look back to your book and/or the notes I’ve provided.
This type of analysis is called a poetry explication. Explications are generally three part: summary, analysis, critical response. Use the following as a guide for developing this paper:
Introduction: Introduce the reader to the poem in question. This is your opportunity to establish common ground with your reader and show him or her how poetry can be approachable and relatable. Your thesis statement should either highlight what can be gained from the poem or the poem’s overall meaning; either way, it will present your overall argument or your claim.
Part One – Summary: Following your introduction, you’ll provide one or two paragraphs of summary. In these paragraphs, you really are just summarizing what is happening on the surface of the poem. So, to begin a summary of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” I might write something like this: Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” follows the narrator as he chooses one of two paths that break “in a yellow wood” (1). He’s “sorry” (2) he cannot “travel both” (2), but he knows he must choose one and continue on his journey. Remember, summary is not interpretative. Notice, here, I’ve read nothing into the lines. I’ve strictly provided a summary of what is happening and incorporated a few of the lines into my summary for clarity. You are simply presenting the story the poem is telling to the reader in an unbaised manner. (This is exigence or education when it comes to arguing about literature.)
Part Two – Analysis: After your summary, you’ll begin the line by line breakdown. This is the actual explication, and this is where you will look at the poem on a line by line level. Now, with that said, there is no need to reprint the poem in your essay. Please don’t type it out in block format. The purpose of an explication is to provide enough of a breakdown that the reader gets to see most of the poem in your line by line discussion.
So… the line by line discussion could be any number of paragraphs (usually a paragraph per stanza) and would read something like this: When looking more deeply at the poem, however, the reader will realize that the decision the narrator is being forced to make is symbolic of decisions in life. He begins his journey at a crossroads: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” (1). The color “yellow” (1) is neutral, an indication that neither path demonstrates a preference from the beginning. The narrator is “sorry” (2) he cannot “travel both” (2), an indication that the decision he is making is a difficult one and the options are equally appealing. Line three, “And being one traveler long I stood,” indicates that he is thoughtful about his decision. He will not rush his decision nor will he make a hasty choice. The poem continues, “And looked down one as far as I could” (4), and this line indicates that the narrator is weighing his options carefully. We cannot often see the outcome of the decisions that we make in life, though we do usually attempt to anticipate them, which is what the narrator does in the end of stanza one. The stanza concludes, “To where it bent in the undergrowth” (5). The last line of stanza one is an indication that there will come a point where, as decision makers, we will not have the opportunity to see the future. This narrator must make a decision without being able to see past whatever may be blocking the path ahead.
There’s a line by line breakdown with interpretation of the first stanza. In your essays, you would go on to do the same with the remaining stanzas of the poem and don’t forget to address the title if it is significant in your overall evaluation (it would be here with Frost’s poem, right?). This is your support for your claim. You have the ability to appeal to ethos and logos here, too, through your interpretation.
Part Three – Critical Response: The paragraph or two before your conclusion addresses the critical response that is available to this poem. Please look in the VC databases for responses before you turn to the Internet. Please avoid SparkNotes and other similar websites if you do have to rely on the Internet. Helium often offers some insightful essays and they are okay to use in a pinch. But try to avoid blogs that offer only a screen name for the posting user. These aren’t reputable. Now, in this paragraph, you need to address two critics. If they don’t agree with your opinion of the poem, that’s fine. You simply want to provide a well-rounded account of the poem you chose, which could mean that the critics agree with your interpretation or don’t. Remember, though, just because the critics don’t agree doesn’t mean your interpretation is “wrong.” If you have evidence to back your assertions, your argument is as valid as any other. Just make sure you prove your views to me by citing evidence from the poem. (And, in terms of argument, this is more pathos as well as possible rebuttal or counterargument.)
Conclusion. Then, conclude the paper by reasserting your overall argument, showing cause and effect relationships where necessary.