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A dialogue with history:

We have been looking at the poet’s response–conscious or unconscious–to his or her environment, both political and personal.  Using history as a context, as a starting point, how does poetry respond to political and social moments in history?  Through close reading and analysis of one poem, discuss how the poet is reacting to or commenting on a political or social moment.  Be sure to select a poem that has a strong and specific political or social basis.


Your essay should explore, through close reading and analysis, two poems that share a common theme.  It should also represent your own ideas above and beyond what has been discussed in our DB’s while using substantial examples from the poems for support.  Make a claim about the similar or different messages each poem makes about the theme, and how each poem expresses it.

Elements of Poetry:

Your essay should employ some of the elements of poetry in a close analysis of the poem.  In this essay, you will be making a claim about how the elements of poetry support a claim about the poem (its meaning, voice of the poem, etc.).  Consider any of the following elements of poetry: figurative language, diction, theme, imagery, symbolism, line breaks, voice.  You do NOT need to discuss all of the elements.  You may find that your entire essay focuses on one element or you might discuss how two or more elements act in concert to support a claim about the poem.  Your essay should NOT become a series of unrelated paragraphs each dedicated to one of the elements.  The key to this essay is a cohesive discussion of how one or more elements support a single claim.

description of a work (or passage, quote, paraphrase, summary) rarely stands alone as a piece of writing about literature.  It is, instead, a tool, a means of supporting a point or opinion.  To analyze is to break something down into its parts to discover what they are, and, usually, how they function in and relate to the whole.  For instance, a description of the rhyme scheme in “The Raven” by Poe tells you what that scheme or pattern is but says nothing about how it functions in the poem.  If you were to add such an account to the description, then, you would have analyzed one aspect of the poem.  In order to do so, however, you would first have to decide what, in a general way, the poem is about: what its theme is.  If you defined the theme of “The Raven” as “inconsolable grief,” you could then write an analytical paper suggesting how the rhyme scheme reinforces that theme.

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