Induction and Interpretation

Essay #2, “Induction and Interpretation,” 500-1000 words,

due November 2, 2020

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Write anessay employing formal and objective language, direct evidence, and inductive reasoning in response to one of the following topics.  Each topic requires you to choose one poem from the anthology, to identify one of its central topics, and to analyze the poem’s content (what is being expressed) and form (how it is being expressed) to develop and defend a claim about the poem’s meaning.  Understanding a poem’s content often requires careful analysis; do not confuse summary and paraphrase with analysis and interpretation.  Do not overlook form; it must be discussed clearly and directly in connection with the content to develop a complete and convincing analysis.  Formalist readings are encouraged; historical and biographical readings will be considered off-topic, or indirect, or both.

Use MLA format and documentation; see pages 825-828 and 620-648 in The Little, Brown Handbook.  Double-space and use conventional fonts and margins.  Do not use a title page.  Your name and student number, the course instructor’s name, the course and section number, the essay number and topic number, and the date the paper is submitted should all appear in the upper left hand corner of the first page.  Your last name and the page number should appear in the upper right hand corner of every page except the first.  Give your essay a meaningful title that both suggests the paper’s argument and clearly identifies the text being discussed, and conclude your essay with a works cited page.

The assignment requires you to think independently about the text and the topic.  You are permitted to use and to reference the readings listed on the course syllabus (the OED; the LBH; the essays, brief biographies, and glossaries from EL), but strongly discouraged from consulting or referencing any other sources.  Using other sources will result in a -20% deduction per source. 

            Citation and documentation must be complete.  Cite every direct reference, indirect reference, summary, or paraphrase, and document every source that you cite.  Citing sources without documentation will result in a -20% deduction.  Documenting sources without citations will result in a -20% deduction. Failing to document or cite a source that is directly or indirectly referenced in any way, including summary or paraphrase, is plagiarism. 

            Only count the words in the essay itself when calculating the total number of words composed, and respect the upper and lower limits of the assignment.  Papers that are either too long or too short will receive a -20% deduction. 




1)         Walt Whitman’s poetry is free from many of the formal conventions that      most    people associate with poetry, and he has been called the first truly         American poet and the father of free verse.  Analyze and discuss the    relationship between form and content in any one of Whitman’s poems.             Establish what the poem is about and then argue how the form and           content combine to show or suggest something about that topic.



2)         Emily Dickinson’s poetry opened the conventional forms of poetry subtly –             so subtly that her poetry’s insightful expression was not acknowledged             until decades after her death.  Analyze and discuss the relationship     between form and content in any one of Dickinson’s poems (other than             “[Because I could not stop for Death]”).  Establish what the poem is about             and then argue how the form and content combine to show or suggest           something about that topic.



3)         e.e. cummings’ poetry explores and explodes not only poetic conventions,            but the conventions of language itself.  His poetry is notoriously playful,     satirical, and eccentric.  Analyze and discuss the relationship between             form and content in any one of cummings’ poems. Establish what the         poem is about, and argue how the form and content combine to show or   suggest something about that topic.




Example: Poem, Topic, Form, Content, Introduction and Claim


Poem(one of the poems by one of the three poets in the anthology)

“[Because I could not stop for Death]”


Topic(what the poem is about)

Death, domestic life and marriage (women)


Form (how the words are organized and arranged)

Design, stanzas


Content(the words used and what they mean or suggest)

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