1 Faegar

Graded Paper Poem Analysis Essays

On the whole this is quite successful work: 
your main argument about the poet's ambivalence?
how he loves the very things he attacks?
is most persuasive and always engaging.

At the same time, 
there are spots 
where your thinking becomes, for me, 
alarmingly opaque, and your syntax seems to jump 
backwards through unnecessary hoops, 
as on p. 2 where you speak of "precognitive awareness 
not yet disestablished by the shell that encrusts 
each thing that a person actually says" 
or at the top of p. 5 where your discussion of 
"subverbal undertow miming the subversion of self-belief 
woven counter to desire's outreach" 
leaves me groping for firmer footholds. 
(I'd have said it differently, 
or rather, said something else.) 
And when you say that women "could not fulfill themselves" (p.6) 
"in that era" (only forty years ago, after all!) 
are you so sure that the situation is so different today? 
Also, how does Whitman bluff his way into 
your penultimate paragraph? He is the last poet 
I would have quoted in this context! 
What plausible way of behaving 
does the passage you quote represent? Don't you think 
literature should ultimately reveal possiblities for action

Please notice how I've repaired your use of semicolons.

And yet, despite what may seem my cranky response, 
I do admire the freshness of 
your thinking and your style; there is 
a vitality here; your sentences thrust themselves forward 
with a confidence as impressive as it is cheeky. . . . 
You are not 
me, finally, 
and though this is an awkward problem, involving 
the inescapable fact that you are so young, so young 
it is also a delightful provocation.


c. 1991

Writing commentary is undoubtedly the most difficult part of writing any essay.  All other parts of the essay are more formulaic in nature.  There are standard rules for how to write a thesis statement, a topic sentence, a blended quotation, etc.  But when it comes to commenting on evidence, there isn’t one set way to do it.  In fact, there are many, many comments one can make about a piece of evidence, and no two people will explain the same piece of evidence in the exact same way. Likewise, the exact same piece of evidence can be used to prove two disparate arguments. Nothing shows this is true more than the literary analysis essay.  

If you were to give your students the exact same thesis statements and quotations to use for an essay, you would be amazed at how different the essays would actually turn out!  How can this be?  This occurs because the writer’s voice comes through the commentary.  It is within the commentary that students share their original thoughts and unique insights about a piece of literature.  This presents a challenge for students who are often left asking what to write, and it can be tricky to teach students how to write commentary without putting words in their mouths.  

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