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Poetry Explication EN 345

An Explication is a complete and detailed analysis of a work of literature, often proceeding word-by-word or line-by-line through the work. For this paper, you will be writing an explication of a poem. You may choose any of the poems we have read or will read for class. In the Explication you will be presenting your “reading” of the poem you have chosen. Such a reading will require you to understand all aspects of the poem and to have a grasp of the meaning of individual parts of the poem in relation to the entire work. You are not, however, striving to be exhaustive in your “explanation” of the poem, but rather you should strive to be selective in considering only those details that are significant to your own thematic understanding of the poem.

An explication demonstrates your ability to (1) follow the essential details of the poem, (2) understand the issues and the meaning the poem reveals, (3) explain some of the relationships of content and technique, and (4) note and discuss especially important or unique aspects of the poem.

Introduction: Include title (in quotation marks), author, dates, brief background of the author if necessary and relevant, a brief summary of the plot (situation), or literal level of the poem, and your thesis, which probably will mention two or three techniques the poet uses to convey his/her argument (theme). The thesis will include what you believe to be that argument.

Body Paragraphs: Systematically go through the poem showing the techniques stated in your thesis and showing how they relate to the poet’s argument. Brief quotes should be incorporated into your sentences to clarify your point. Do not, under any circumstance, quote the entire poem within the paper. If you quote three or fewer lines, an inline quote, you should introduce the quote with a signal phrase, and then quote the section of the poem, indicating line breaks with a “/” and stanza breaks with a “//”. To quote more than three lines, use a block quote. In either case, follow the quote with a parenthetical reference of the line number(s). And then, make sure that you follow the quote with an analysis of the quote.

Conclusion: Here you pull the paper together and reaffirm your thesis. You could discuss how the poem relates to real life and/or use this paragraph to disagree with the poet’s argument if you wish.

Additional Style Tips: While the explication tends to be a chronological progression, consider the organization of the paper. How can you group your observations? This, as any other formal paper, should be a multiple-draft project where your initial observations are organized into main points, and these main points are then focused with a thesis in the intro, with topic sentences in the body paragraphs, and finished with a conclusion.

Three page drafts are due Thursday 9/10 (these will be peer reviewed) and your final essays (with drafts and research notes attached) are due Thursday 9/17. You should plan to choose one of the poems we’ve discussed, draw in one or two of the critical readings we’ve completed, and deeply and thoughtfully analyze the poem.

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