Writing an essay

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Essay #3 (Poetry Analysis)

Write a ten-paragraph analysis that responds to the question of whether Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World should be (re)classified as a work of poetry. Research secondary sources and respond to at least four secondary sources by following the ten-paragraph template below:

1) Although counter-intuitive, skip the introduction (including the thesis!) and the conclusion until last. Start writing your essay as though the thesis paragraph does not exist. Start with a paragraph that introduces someone else’s idea — this paragraph’s job is to explain what the other writer is trying to say. You should not express an overt opinion about that argument: your task is to only summarize. For those of you more daring, you may attempt here to hint that you do not actually agree with the idea, but you should nevertheless present that idea fairly and accurately.

2) The second paragraph praises something about the other writer’s essay. Find something you like in the other essay and spend a paragraph saying good things about it.

3) The third paragraph critiques the other essay. Describe something limited, or wrong, or questionable, or out-dated about the other writer’s view. You might begin the paragraph with “However, on a deeper level …” This paragraph is not meant to be an exhaustive destruction of the other view: it’s merely pointing out a crack in the foundations.

4) Now, in the fourth paragraph, you should argue your own viewpoint. You should transition from talking about the other essay to describing your own take. You have three options here as Graff/Birkenstein instruct us (“They Say/I Say,” Ch. Four): to “ally” with the other writer and argue something similar, to “oppose” the other writer and present a disagreement, or, the most difficult option (but the one with the highest rewards), to “pivot” to a seemingly unexpected position or situation. Present your own idea.

5) Paragraphs five and six develop your view. This is where you’ll want to quote from the poems and present your evidence to support your view. This is also where you will most likely introduce the second scholarly source in order to develop your ideas as a response to either its main claim, supporting claims, or use of evidence. Use the same approach as above to respond to the source and either ally and argue something similar, oppose and show why you disagree, or pivot to a new position.

6) Paragraphs seven and eight explain so what? Here you’ll want to describe why the difference between your view and the other writer’s (or writers) view matters. If you think differently than the other writer/s — why is it important? These two paragraphs explain why it’s meaningful that the other writer (or both writers) think one way and you think another. Alternatively, you might use these paragraphs not to explain why the difference matters but instead to form a bridge between them. Perhaps there’s a bigger picture, an overall take that is more important than the difference you just illustrated. Maybe there’s a third possible viewpoint, one that can reconcile this seemingly intractable disagreement.

7) Once your main paragraphs are written, it’s time to go back to the start and compose your introductory paragraph. The introduction is required in the college essay, and of course it goes at the very start of the essay. This paragraph begins with a “hook” or question, a sentence crafted to grab the reader’s interest; the paragraph closes with a thesis statement that presents your big idea, your main claim. So the introductory paragraph includes two key sentences: a “hook” and a thesis claim, which makes this paragraph the hardest to write for many students. But at this stage there’s good news: You’ve already written those two sentences.

The first sentence of the thesis paragraph, the hook, poses a question, a puzzle to interest the reader. You can write this sentence by summing up, in one sentence, the difference between what “they say” and what “you say.” Whatever disagreement was between you and that other writer, that’s the question with which you introduce your essay.

The thesis statement is simply a one-sentence summation of paragraphs six and seven where you explained “so what?” That’s the big idea of your paper, the essay’s point, the main reason you wrote what you did. Write out these two paragraphs in one sentence — that’s your essay’s thesis statement.

For your conclusion, you have two options — an easy one and a hard one. Either write a paragraph about anything you’d like that leaves your reader wanting more or, alternatively, attempt a “return” in which you return to the praise you gave the other writer in paragraph two, the aspects of the other argument you seemed to love, and you take all that praise back. You reveal that those apparently good aspects of the other argument are in fact faulty and reveal that writer’s deep misunderstanding of the topic. Those seeming virtues were, in reality, merely signs of the other writer’s complete failure.

8) Be sure to give your essay a title that reflects your main idea, your big claim, and entices your reader to want to read your essay.

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