Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hopkins Review Essays - Winter 2011

Though the literary essay may not feel as "creative" as a story or a poem, it does provide some very useful tools to help us progress as creative writers.  For this semester, we'll be writing five-page essays to be turned in with the final portfolio on the last day of class.  For your essay, please choose either a story or poem(s) from the Winter 2011 Hopkins Review.

If you've taken one of my sections of IFP I, then you're already familiar with the 13-point grading rubric I use for grading essays.  If this is your first time submitting an essay for me, I recommend taking a look at my article on Poetry Essays and Grading just to familiarize yourself with what I'm looking for in the essays.  The basic rubric for poetry will apply to fiction as well.

Our Source: The Winter 2011 Hopkins Review
To prevent the possibility of plagiarism or outside research, you must select a story or poem from the Winter 2011 Edition of the Hopkins Review.  You can access an online table of contents, but I'm afraid the texts are only available from the bookstore.  Copies are available at the Information Desk.

Although I do not typically require a rewrite if you choose a work from outside the assigned edition, I may deduct 10% (a full letter grade) if you choose a work from the Norton Anthologies or another edition of the Hopkins Review.

5pp vs. 3pp: How Your IFP II Essay Differs from IFP I
The main difference between the IFP I essay and the IFP II essay is one of depth.  In IFP I, my focus in grading was to see that students identified the main literary techniques and analyzed them.  Full points for Evaluation and Discussion could be earned through two solid paragraphs - one which addressed the strengths and weaknesses of the work, and one which addressed the placement of the work in the literary canon.

For IFP II, you will need to deepen your focus on these two areas.  In the evaluation, provide specific examples of where the story or poem is well-written, and provide specific advice regarding any areas which are not as well written.  In the discussion, I would like you to compare the work to other pieces we have read this semester.  Is the piece a meditation poem?  Or is it closer to flash fiction?  How is it relevant to our understanding of literature?

In both of these areas, it is perfectly all right to point out ambiguity - I actually encourage it.  If you aren't sure how to categorize a given work, then simply give it your best.  Talk about which categories it seems to be close to, and give reasons why it doesn't quite fit.  In these essays, we don't have "right" answers so much as we have well-supported arguments.  I have seen several cases in which an essay promoted an interpretation which I disagreed with, but the quality of the reasoning meant that the essay received full points.

Trust Yourself
This semester, I have been very impressed with the overall quality of the online presentations and discussions.  Continue this in your essays.  If you have a chance, I recommend re-reading the presentations which you liked most.  Look at how much detail is given in these presentations and the how the conclusions are supported.


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