Poetry and Literary Writing

For this assignment, you will choose one short story, one poem, or one play from our course schedule and connect it to something in the real world— a current issue.  In this paper, you will incorporate elements of argumentation by

  • constructing a thesis statement that clearly states your position.
  • providing adequate support from both the work and secondary sources that develop the connection you have made between the work and the current issue.
  • including a refutation of least one source that disagrees with you or sees your interpretation of the work from a different perspective.

You will be graded not only on your depth of analysis and critical thinking but also how well you integrate secondary sources into your writing and how closely you adhere to MLA documentation. Your paper must be logical, unified, organized, well supported, and free of grammatical and spelling errors.


Your primary source is your textbook. You must also include at least four (4) secondary sources. Secondary sources will be any literary criticism that relates to the story or poem that you are using.  Secondary sources may be in the form of scholarly articles, essays, books, or electronic resources. A good way to approach this assignment is to look for two literary sources that relate to the point you are making abut the work, and two sources that relate to the issue itself.


Your paper must be typed in MLA style (double spaced, 12-point font) with parenthetical references and a Works Cited page. A cover page is not required.


1) Access the PSC Library online or visit the PSC Library on any one of our campuses and ask a librarian for help. He or she will be happy to get you started with your search. Be sure to bring a copy of this assignment with you.

2) Keep in mind that it is always better to gather more sources than you will need. Search for articles in scholarly journals; print any articles you select. If you locate a book that might contain some material relevant to your topic, scan the table of contents or the index. Many times, only one chapter or a few paragraphs will be helpful to you. If you take any sources off the Internet, print them out and make a note of the date you acquired the information.

3) Make sure to write down all the bibliographical information for each source. Begin keeping a Works Cited page.

4) Avoid collecting biographical information on the author. This type of information is usually irrelevant to the analysis of a literary work.


•    State your thesis clearly in the first paragraph.

•    Check your paper for unity (staying focused on your thesis) and coherence (using transitions between paragraphs).

•    If you are writing about a short story, do not summarize the plot!

Retelling the story only shows me that you have read it; it doesn’t show me that you are thinking critically about it. Use only the portions of the story that develop your point.

•    Integrate your sources smoothly into your paper. Make sure it is clear to your reader why you are referring to a particular source.

•    Remember that a direct quote cannot stand on its own; it needs some type of introductory tag. A good rule to follow: Don’t begin a paragraph with a quote.

•    Proofread your final draft–check grammar, punctuation, and adherence to MLA format and documentation. Make sure that you have at least four secondary sources (your textbook or another anthology or textbook that contains one of the stories you are discussing does not count as a secondary source.)

•    It is normal to delete a source or two from your paper after you decide it does not fit in. If you do so, though, make sure to delete it from your Works Cited page as well. Always check to be sure that the sources you cite in the text of your paper match up with your Works Cited page. Alphabetize your works cited entries.

MLA documentation requires two steps: including your parenthetical (in-text) citation in the text of your paper AND listing the complete information for your source on your works cited page. To understand how it works, think about someone who is reading your paper and sees a source that he or she would like to read in full. That reader should be able to go to your works cited page and easily locate that source. In other words, what you list in the parenthetical citation should match what is at the beginning of the Works Cited entry.

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