English 4160/5160
Assignment for First Short Analytical Essay
3-4 typed pages.
Due Feb 7

The topics below define parameters within which you may shape your own argument.  Select one.  Be sure to restrict the scope of your paper adequately to cover it in the assigned length (3-4 typed, double-spaced pages).  Unify the paper with a clear thesis and support your claims with thorough discussion of evidence from the text(s).  These, along with expectations that you will demonstrate a command of  academic English and the tenets of sound composition, are the criteria I will use to assess the essay.

1.  The Oven Bird
      Robert Frost

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past,
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And come that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

This poem by Frost is often read as an allegory.  The real subject, so this interpretation goes, is the dilemma faced by modern poets (writers) who sense the inadequacy of the conventional wisdom of an earlier age and the literary forms that expressed that wisdom in the face of "modern" problems.  The result is experimentation, an effort to find, as Frost said elsewhere, what would "suffice."  Interpret the work of one author we have studied early in the semester (Stein, Frost, Eliot, Hemingway) in light of this assumption.  Identify the particular "modern" problem(s) revealed in the text and analyze the writer's unconventional approach (or combination of conventional and unconventional approaches) to it (them) in the form, language, imagery, theme, and/or other elements of the work.

2.  William James wrote that "the breach from one mind to another is perhaps the greatest breach in nature," colorfully describing a condition that would become a major theme of early twentieth-century literature:  the isolation of individuals and a resulting interest in displaying/analyzing the workings of individual consciousness.  Discuss this theme in the work of two of the following writers:  Stein, Frost, Eliot, Faulkner.  You may discuss the works to illustrate the theme, or you may wish to compare/contrast treatments of the theme.

3. You may "roll your own" topic by identifying an important question related to one of texts studied early in the semester and providing a convincing answer to the question for your readers based on a reading of the text.  I encourage you to discuss your topic with me in advance.