In this short paper, I want you to practice making an analytic argument about a work of literature, grounded in textual evidence (close reading) on Langston Hughes’ I, Too poem. Develop a claim about the poem that is specific, debatable, and significant, and which you can support with observation of the poem’s language and structure (rather than with reference to historical context or your own opinions).
Your paper should 700-900 words in length.
In structuring this or any other essay, focus on argument, evidence, and structure. Below, please find my general writing advice about those aspects of a strong essay.
1. Argument. A good analytic essay about a work of literature should have a strong
argument or thesis. It must do three things:
a. Direct our attention to some specific aspects of the poem. You only have 900
words, so what are you going to focus on? A particular image? A recurring metaphor? The way the poem is structured? b. Tell us what you found or discovered by analyzing these specific aspects. <link is hidden>
what does this word, scene, metaphor, or image reveal about the poem’s meanings? c. Explain something that needs explaining. This is the “so what?” part of your
argument. Why does your argument even matter? Does it help us see something about the poem that we might have missed? Or explain something that wasn’t particularly obvious?
2. Evidence. When you do research in quantitative fields, your evidence comes from
observable data. In literary analysis, your data consists of observations of the text. You should include specific quotes from the poem, as well paraphrase of its content and descriptions of its form. Remember, your job is to convince us that the poem does indeed do what you say it does and mean what you say it means.
NB: For this paper, you don’t need to worry about citations—you’ll only be writing about one text, and it’ll be pretty obvious where your quotations come from. All ideas in the paper should be your own—I’m not interested in what anyone else but you has to say about this poem. Just be sure to use quotation marks correctly when you include language from the poem.
3. Structure. Your essay should have an introduction, conclusion, and body paragraphs
where you develop the argument.
a. In your introduction, you need to give us whatever context we need to understand
your argument, and state the argument itself. One or two sentences generally describing the poem you’re analyzing will help situate your reader before you dive into the argument. b. Each of your body paragraphs should develop a unique idea or sub-claim that relates to your main argument. They should also give evidence of that idea or claim. Pay particular attention to the first sentence of each paragraph. It should state the main idea of the paragraph, relate back to your thesis statement, and also make a transition from the previous paragraph. This is the trickiest sentence of any paragraph for most people, because it has to all of those things efficiently. The middle part of the paragraph will describe and analyzing your supporting textual evidence, and the end of the paragraph will tell us what we learn from this analysis, moving your argument forward. c. In your conclusion, you should say something about the broader implications of
your argument. Do not use the conclusion to merely repeat your argument. This is a very short paper—we haven’t forgotten your thesis already, so we don’t need to be reminded! Instead, use this as a chance to say more about the “so what?” of your argument. Why does your analysis matter for how we read this poem?
Submission and Grading:
I will evaluate the paper based on the quality of its argument, evidence, and structure. I will also allocate some points for prose style, grammar, and general mechanics, so be sure to proofread. In terms of formatting, I prefer that essays use 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced with 1-inch margins. I grade on content, not format, but you can put in me a good mood by following these formatting guidelines!