Where Form Meets Content Since our first unit in this course has focused on the
Where Form Meets Content
Since our first unit in this course has focused on the study of rhythm and meter in relationship to poems’ content and interpretation, your first essay will ask you both to perform metrical analysis and to present a persuasive argument about a poem that takes meter and rhythm into account. Your analysis of the poem’s rhythm and meter should appear in your paper as a major contributing factor to your overall analysis of the poem. In other words, your claim about the poem should rely on BOTH the poem’s rhythm AND its verbal content and structure.
Audience: Who are you writing for?
For the purposes of these essays, assume that you are writing to someone who has read the same primary texts you have, but only superficially so. That means you won’t have to waste time explaining plot, but you will have to do the hard work of convincing this person (perhaps a classmate or a parent) that something deeper is happening below the surface of the text.
You may choose any poem from the list below as your primary text for Essay 1. Since you’ll need to account for the poem’s rhythm and meter, I suggest reading likely candidates aloud to yourself to get a feel for how the rhythm interacts with the poem’s content. This will help you discover themes in the poem that rely on both movement and content.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, you’ll need to make sure you have enough to say to fill approximately 2 single-spaced pages.
Brainstorm! Free write! Try making a list of the topics, themes, concepts, etc. that are present in your poem and that relate to the rhythmic characteristics you heard. Which topic(s) on your list will lend itself best to a discussion of how the poem’s rhythm relates to its content? For instance, you might make an argument about the portrayal of self-sacrifice in Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade.”
Writing an Argument
If you’ve never written an argument about literary works before, there can be a learning curve in transitioning from summary into analysis/argument. Part of the joy we derive from studying literature is the intellectual rigor required to constantly generate new interpretations of texts, and this helps to sharpen the logical and emotional skills we bring to other areas of our lives. To hone these abilities, you will apply the interpretive skills we have learned in class (and the associated vocabulary) to help a reader—a classmate or a parent—understand something deeper than just what the poem is “saying.” What hidden meanings are lurking below the surface of the poem? How can you use rhythm and content together to convince a friend or parent of what’s really happening in the poem?
Let your own curiosity guide you. Ask questions of the poems. Try to explain things that don’t seem to make sense. Interrogate a philosophical concept as presented a poem.