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220 Paper Rules

Page history last edited by Eric Leonidas 3 years, 11 months ago


Length: 4+ pages (4 is the minimum), double spaced, 12 pt. font, standard margins (1-1.5 inches).  I’m not a fanatic about length, but it isn’t possible to do a good job with this in 2 pages. 


Your paper must have a title.


Your pages must be numbered.


Statement of Argument: Your paper should offer your argument in the first paragraph.  It should be clear, and clearly identifiable (in other words, you ought to be able to point to a sentence or two in the first paragraph and say, "There, that's my argument"). Please remember that an argument is a claim, an idea that someone could contest, and might want to.  A description of what happens in the play is therefore not an argument, nor is a message (after all, if the play has a moral message, how can we argue against it?).


Introduction: You should not begin your paper with abstract statements about anything; simply say that "In Shakespeare's [play title, in italics]..."; or, "At the conclusion of Shakespeare's Othello, the protagonist...."  If your argument follows the assignment guidelines, it should tell us that something happens in the play and that this happening means something.  From that meaning your reader should be able to take away a sense of, "Oh, that's why I'm reading this--I guess I don't care much about nature imagery in general, but if paying attention to how Shakespeare uses nature imagery shows me what kind of conduct leads to life, rather than death and destruction, I suppose I have something at stake in that information."


Paragraphs: By and large, your paragraphs should begin with topic sentences.  Topic sentences tell us what the paragraph is about, and (in a paper of this type) should require evidence to support.  Thus, "King Lear has three daughters" is NOT a topic sentence.  Your paragraph CANNOT be about the FACT that Lear has 3 daughters, nor does that take a paragraph to support: it's a simple fact.  Along the same lines, "Touchstone says..." cannot be a topic sentence, because we don't need a paragraph to support that.  On the other hand, "Touchstone's remarks about the shepherd's life suggest the play's ambivalence about country life"--now THAT'S a topic sentence.  It makes a claim about meaning: Touchstone's remarks is representative of a larger perspective in the play.  Such an IDEA, as opposed to a fact, requires some support.


Verb tenses: conventionally, we use the simple present tense to talk about literature: Shylock schemes, Hamlet thinks, Rosalind pretends, etc.  By the same token, Shakespeare writes, shows, demonstrates, suggests, offers, etc.  Do not use a present participle: Shakesepare is writing, Shylock is scheming.  Simple present, please.


Edit for concision—make sure every sentence is as direct and economical as possible.  Watch especially carefully for "passive voice": "Toby is beaten by Sebastian."  Try instead, "Toby beats Sebastian."


Proofread, proofread, proofread.


Quotation (this is the short version; see additional information here):


1.  First, don’t over-quote.  You should analyze 3-5 passages, but you surely won’t need to quote all of them in full.  Generally, you shouldn’t be putting more than 4-6 lines in a quote at any one time.  It would simply take too much analysis to make sense of more than 6 lines.  Be sure to analyze your quotes fully: pull out words and phrases and explain them; note important images; focus on any ambiguities or words and phrases repeated from other places in the play.


2.  Quotations require introduction.  "Considering his current state, Hamlet contemplates suicide:"; "Orsino introduces a song by invoking death and labor:" "Antonio agrees, believing Shylock's offer to be in jest:"  And then they require close analysis.  For these reasons, you shouldn't begin or end paragraphs with quotations.


3.  Cite your passages parenthetically in your text by act, scene, and line numbers.  For instance:


     Thou kill’st me in his life; giving him breath,

     The traitor lives, the true man’s put to death.  (5.3.73-74)


Note that I’ve preserved the line breaks (this only applies to poetry), and that I haven’t put the name of the play in the parentheses (it will be clear because you’re only writing about one play).  Also note that since this is a block quote, I haven’t included quotation marks.  Any explanation preceding or following this quote would need to indicate that York is speaking about his son Aumerle.


4.  Works Cited list.  At the end of your paper include a “list” of the works you refer to in the paper.  I expect it will have only one work, your edition of Shakespeare.  If you do use outside sources please cite them as well, both within the text and in your Works Cited list.  A note: there are thousands of Shakespeare web sites.  Most are junk, and very few will help you with this assignment, which asks you to read a few passages closely.  There isn’t much of that on the web.



Finally, the most important aspects of the first paper are that you have an argument about what a character’s change means and that you analyze a few passages closely to support your argument.  Similarly, in the second paper what is critical is that you have a claim about the way in which some aspect of the ending resolves a larger issue in the play.  I care about all the other things English profs care about—grammar, style, organization, citation, etc.  But without an argument, no matter how eloquent the paper is, you will not do well.  I’m happy to see you and even read a draft (you must have it to me at least a week prior to the due date).  I am, however, extremely busy, so make an appointment rather than drop by office hrs.  You may also email me ideas and questions.


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