Sin Boldly! Dr. Dave's Guide to Writing the College Paper

By David R. Williams | Go to book overview
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9
For Instance:
Two Examples

1--"Robert Frost:
Gentle New England Satanist"

To give you an idea of how this game can be played, let us dance through an example, not of the finished product but of the process of developing a paper topic.

Let's say you have been given the assignment to write about a poem. Let's make it one that every American schoolkid is familiar with, Robert Frost "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." And let's assume you have no idea yet what you intend to say. Begin your writing with a simple description of the generally obvious literal facts. Make it clear that you understand the literal meaning, that indeed you read the words. We professors, cynical bastards that we are, look for that. Tell me that "Stopping by Woods" is the picture of a person riding through woods in the wintertime and stopping to "watch the woods fill up with snow." Use brief phrases or significant individual words from the text as evidence. At the very least, this proves you read the poem. Imagine a working title, something hopelessly vague like "The Meaning of Frost's Famous Poem." This at least gives you something to begin with.

Once the literal facts have been described--a fairly easy task in this example--then begin your ascent. Step beyond the literal and ask, What else might be going on here? What is suggested? What can we learn that isn't obvious?

-101-

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