Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
"The readiness is all" (Hamlet V.ii.222).
Goals of this course include the improvement of your skills in information literacy and critical analysis by researching and articulating your insights into some kind of presentational or written format. The idea of this assignment is the honorable one of having you package brilliant scholarly textual analysis in impressive, professional ways.The Project:
The project will be minimally a total of four pages, double-spaced. This document will consist of at least three pages of your own interpretive analysis focused on one short quotation from one of the Shakespeare plays we have read together, followed by at least one page of annotated bibliography consisting of at least two entries, each one summarizing a different academic journal article.Finding a Topic:
The essay will, in the first paragraph, identify one short intriguing Shakespearean quotation from a moment in one of the plays we have examined. Then you will unpack its implications both immediate to that moment and to larger themes or concerns in the play. You are aiming for an excruciatingly focused angle on this facet of the play, not some concept so vast that you mistakenly think you can start with an arbitrary and vague quotation and then "fill pages" more easily. You need a focus before you start thrashing about with secondary sources; you need to know specifically what you are searching for. Otherwise the secondary sources will take over, dictate your discussion, and you'll be reduced to a mere summarizer of someone else's thoughts. And the grade will suck.
The rule here is simple: the more particular -- the more focused -- the better. Although these works have been combed over for a long time, critics and scholars tend to engage themselves in the same old hackneyed main issues and ignore the closely focused explication of specific details. So be conscientious, nay ruthless, in focusing your scope. Find that specific moment, subtle motif, or character issue represented in just one or two lines of Shakespeare text. What is peculiar and subtle about this moment? Consider the language and its several layers of potential meaning. Then consider its larger significance within the play -- perhaps how this moment advances one of the key themes or motifs in the larger work. Is there a larger pattern? Something revealed about the character speaking the line(s)? Why is this one observation or insight of yours significant in the larger framework of the play? What are the ramifications?Researching:
The typical weakness with papers for a class such as this is the too vast nature in the selection of the topics. The foolish mind thinks that selection of some enormous subject such as "love" will allow for superficial discussion of three different plays slapped together to fill the required pages. Such a project is arbitrary in scope, will baffle your readers, and its resultant grade, again, will suck.
The excruciatingly close focus should be on your perceptions rather than your evaluations or on you (e.g., "I feel that Proteus is an OK joe"). Rather than as an "opinion," think of this as your perspective or insight. Also, this is not a "review" -- drippy "appreciation" or rhapsodic praise of Shakespeare is tiresome and dorky, so between the rough draft and the final draft, omit all those "Shakespeare does a great job, but then that's why he's the immortal Bard" embarrassments. More stylistic advice is coming in class as more examples of what I never want to see again keep occurring to me.
You will be researching and include secondary sources, but original insight and analysis should still dominate the entire discussion portion of the assignment.
You need to locate and read at least two articles somewhat related to your topic. These may include a specific chapter in a book on Shakespeare or a scholarly article retrievable on the web, but they must be academic journal articles, ideally retrieved from the library. Do not expect these articles to be addressing your exact topic directly -- you do not even want that to be the case. And at the other extreme, you do not want them to seem arbitrarily chosen: they should be more appropriately focused than just happening to concern the same play. Ideally, they should represent a scholarly conversation taking place, loosely on a topic to which you can legitimately add your voice without simply replicating what has already been said.Alternate Projects:
I will demonstrate in class the process of targeting a search with the appropriate index, and an accompanying hand-out also takes you through the steps. You may wish to photocopy your articles even though you do not have to submit them with the project.
I welcome other kinds of projects that demonstrate the same objectives: ability to carry out sophisticated research, to discover an original purpose and focus, to write with clarity and influence your audience's perspective. You may find a way to construct a bibliographical, filmic, pedagogical, apocryphal, or popular culture related project appropriate to Shakespeare studies that will inspire enthusiasm and break new ground impressively. You may work on a cooperative endeavor with a colleague or two -- just double or triple the requirements (e.g., for two people, at least four articles and a total eight pages). There are many possibilities; just make sure you get approval for an alternative project directly from me. Think about it.Doing the Bloody Work:
The last page(s) of your project will consist simply of an annotated bibliography: the two or more articles each listed as an MLA-style Works Cited entry and each entry followed by a short summary of the article, with key quotations included, properly cited with parenthetical page numbers. Your essay portion should appear first, with the Annotated Bibliography following behind and taking the place of a Works Cited list. Include also, alphabetized, the Shakespeare edition you are using (but this entry does not need an annotation).The Deal:
Meeting these requirements, on time, assures you of at least a C grade (see grading sheet). Specific quotations from the play should demonstrate the validity of your argument. The analytical discussion should be persuading readers of the significance of adopting your unique perspective on the material; it should not be a report of pointless factoids nor a scan of tons of bilge. MLA documentation is required for humanities papers and should be carried out correctly; so stop making me cross out commas, p's, pg's, pgs's, and all other manner of clutter between simply author and page in parenthetical citations of secondary sources! Also quit with the bastardized Works Cited lists (MLA cross-bred with numbered references, APA corruptions, etc.). Refer to a handbook (MLA, Hacker's A Writer's Reference, Keys for Writers, etc.) for correct documentation, read my online MLA advice or the hand-out, and/or ask me ahead of time. "Are you gonna be like really strict on us about Works Cited format and all that stuff?" Uh, yeah? And stop priding yourself on having a jaunty identity based largely on your supposedly unique lack of skill in spelling. The presentation and appearance of your work should be letter-perfect so that niggling surface matters do not distract your readers from your ideas.
Your final revised essay must consist of four typed, double-spaced pages containing an intriguing (not underlined) title, vigorous and concise analytical work, no extra spaces between paragraphs, and the annotations, all in a clean, effective, illuminating, properly documented presentation (correctly punctuated in-text parenthetical citations of author and page, and a correctly formatted MLA-style annotated bibliography).
For further instruction regarding documentation, refer to the handout given with the assignment or ask me ahead of time. Proofread well so that minor surface matters do not distract readers from your ideas. The grade for any manuscript lacking the research component or containing a renegade, variant, or insane documentation system will strike you as intensely disappointing.
You are obligated to hand in the assignment at the beginning of the class period on the designated due date. Truancy is, of course, no excuse (i.e., "I couldn't get my paper in 'cuz I cut class"). Fate, as we know, plays amusing tricks. I tell you right now that Aunt Louise could drop in a flash on "paper-due eve": it is your obligation to anticipate anything like this in your life that could go wrong and to take preventive measures or to develop back-up plans. You also must accept responsibility for being so foolish as to stake your grade on a computer's or printer's reliability. And no bitter ironies about roommates and alarm-clocks. No work submitted means you did not meet the requirements of the course (big F); late work will not be read but at least you will have met requirements minimally (little F factored in).
On a more positive note, I assure you that I am happy to provide advice and help at any stage of the pre-writing, researching, and drafting processes, short of giving you a topic and writing the text for you. Ultimately, though, it must be completed and turned in when due; the compressed nature this mini-semester does not allow for screwing around and cheesy excuses. Get to work on this project early, consult with me as needed, and turn in the best possible masterpiece. Sample papers, good to excellent, are available on the web site, as are instructions and examples for the required MLA-style documentation: here. Other recommendations about various writing issues can be found here, including my snotty comments regarding rancid phrases and about generally turning in the project.
"O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!" (Hamlet III.i.150).