small logo ENG028: Introduction to Literary Theory, Criticism, and Research, Part II

IV. Poetry

A. The Nature of Poetry; New Criticism

B. Analysis of Poetry: Some Conceptual Tools

Informal Written Assignment, due on December 1
Metric Exercise: Write out the scansion of following poem, indicate its rhyme scheme, and identify the stanza form.
          A slumber did my spirit seal;
             I had no human fears--
          She seemed a thing that could not feel
             The touch of earthly years.
          No motion has she now, no force;
             She neither hears nor sees;
          Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
             With rocks, and stones, and trees.
Reader-Response Exercise: Read the poem over carefully and write down your personal reactions. Describe your initial reaction to this poem. What do you think is its primary meaning? What emotions does it express? What features of this poem do you find most striking (either positively or negatively)? After considering these questions, has your initial reaction changed in any way? If so, how?
Informal Written Assignment, due on December 8
Assignment: Using the Oxford English Dictionary, look up all the underlined words and write explanations of their meanings in the context of the following poem, William Shakespeare's Sonnet 147. Remember to pay attention to the part of speech (noun, verb, adverb, etc., which can be deduced from the context) as well as the time period (late sixteenth century). Look up any other words you need to understand the poem
Analyze examples of figurative language as used in this poem, as follows:
  1. What type of figurative language does Shakespeare use in lines 1-4? Explain the vehicle, tenor, and connection of this figure.
  2. What type of figurative language does Shakespeare use in lines 5-8? Explain the vehicle, tenor, and connection of this figure.
  3. Explain how line 9 ties these two figures together.
       My love is as a fever, longing still
       For that which longer nurseth the disease,
       Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
       The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
       My reason, the physician to my love,
       Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
       Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
       Desire is death, which physic did except.
       Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
       And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
       My thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are,
       At random from the truth vainly expressed:
       For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
       Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.
When we discuss this poem in class, we will also compare it to a sonnet on a similar subject written by a woman, Edna St. Vincent Millay's "I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed."
SECOND FORMAL PAPER: final version due December 18

Choose a poem that appeals to you by a well-known poet; the poem should be at least 4-5 stanzas long at the minimum and no more than a few pages at the maximum, and should be well enough known for you to find at least two critical analyses in print. Find and read two published analyses of this poem; these may be separate articles or sections of books or longer articles, but each analysis should be at least two pages. Write a paper working out your own analysis of the poem, using the tools for analyzing poetry and including considerable detail about all aspects of the poem (sound and meter, diction and syntax, imagery and figurative language, tone, theme and meaning, etc.) and explaining why you find this a compelling and meaningful poem. Use the critical readings to support your analysis when appropriate and explain the ways that your reading differs from these published critiques (using proper MLA in-text citations and "Works Cited" format). All drafts and final version of paper must be wordprocessed; include a copy of the poem with your paper.

See also Poetry Guidelines: Reading and Writing for Understanding, an online guide for how to write a paper analyzing a poem, posted by Donna Reiss of Tidewater Community College.

Preliminary due dates:

December 3: title of poem and working bibliography of articles
December 10: first draft of paper


Barbara F. McManus
ENG028 Syllabus
December 1998