“When I Consider How My Light Is Spent” (John Milton)

Quotations are from X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia’s Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, Sixth Edition (New York: HarperCollins, 1995).

Historical Criticism: This approach “seeks to understand a literary work by investigating the social, cultural, and intellectual context that produced it—a context that necessarily includes the artist’s biography and milieu.” A key goal for historical critics is to understand the effect of a literary work upon its original readers.

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Avoid Wikipedia, Schmoop and other unreliable sources

Now that you have selected the poem you will be covering in your research paper and the critical approach you will be using, it is time to begin development of the paper. By now you should have a thesis statement; if not, be sure to write to me with your thoughts and remember that the thesis will suggest itself to you because of the critical approach you have selected. Review the material on the approach you are taking from the handout distributed in class and pull from that material an approach/thesis/question you would like to address in your essay.

That is, What will you be trying to prove? Usually the best way to approach this is to pose it as a question. What question would you like to answer in your paper? See if you can develop a three-part question. Then…

Develop a sentence outline in which you answer the question using textual support to add to the evidence. Think of the research paper as being composed of three essays (each 3 to 5 paragraphs) plus an introduction and conclusion. Thus, for your outline, try to come up with three answers to the question (thus I, II and III of your outline), and support each answer with your own reasoning and support from the text.

After you have completed a working outline (which I will be glad to review), proceed to do your research, looking for five to seven (minimum) sources (books, journal articles, reference guides) from which you can pull quotes to add further support to your outline. Whenever you quote from a secondary source, include within parentheses after the quote the last name and the page number of each source. Important: Avoid Wikipedia, Schmoop and other unreliable sources (which will be disallowed once you transfer to the university/state college). Stay focused on reliable, authoritative sources. Hint: Begin by consulting the web site devoted to your author. This is maintained by experts in your area and will offer links to many helpful sources. Also, our campus library has a wide collection of books and journal articles on each of the authors.

From here, I suggest you develop a rough draft (which I’ll be glad to look over if you desire) followed by a final draft of the paper. Be sure to follow MLA formatting guidelines throughout.

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