Discuss the use of form (rhyme, meter, stanza length and structure, punctuation

Essay One: “Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz”
The Task:
Compose an essay in MLA format of 1000 words minimum. Discuss
the use of form (rhyme, meter, stanza length and structure, punctuation,
and any other formal element you find to be relevant to your analysis) as it
relates to content in Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz,” how it reflects,
embodies, complexifies, and resists the progress of the narrative. Questions
for thought: What kind of dance is a waltz? (I myself would probably begin
by defining “waltz” for the reader, using The Oxford English Dictionary, to
be found in the Galileo databases, to do so.) Where does the rhythm break
in the poem, and why does it do so? Remember that time is a part of point(s)
of view, and that the poem occupies two of them.
The Method:
You should use what you learned from my commentaries about the
poem to support your analysis. In fact I will expect you to display a
command of the information I gave you in that lecture. What you also must
do in composing this essay is make use of The Oxford English Dictionary
and spend some time researching the complete meaning and etymology of
what you consider to be key words in the poem. This OED research must be
incorporated into your essay in service of analysis. Quote only relevant
material (avoiding the obvious or irrelevant meanings) and make sure you
a.) place quotation marks around quotes, b.) cite your use of the OED
properly, and c.) do not paraphrase the dictionary. Do this research first,
before composing your essay.
You must thoroughly define at least six words from the text
of the poem, and use those definitions to make points about the
poem. Do not define your own words. If you use a word I do not
know, it’s my job to look it up. And I repeat, do not offer obvious or
irrelevant definitions. To tell us that “death” is the “cessation of life”
adds nothing. Likewise, if you look up “romp” and find that one
definition is “illicit sexual activity,” you would not include that
definition because it doesn’t pertain to the poem. Again, your
definitions must be in service of making a point.
The formula for critical analysis is at base quite simple: propose an
argument, quote and cite the relevant text (fully, and exactly as it appears
on the page), and discuss how the text supports your argument. Thus, your
essay should begin with a proposition, and end with one. Do not include
introductions or statements about what you propose to do, or needless
conclusions that wrap things up. Do not include biographies of the author,
or make the claim that the speaker in the poem is Roethke himself. The
speaker is always to be treated as a fictional character. Just do the work of
deductive analysis, the work of reading. In your case this will be done both
by argument and supporting evidence from the OED.
It is important that you consider your work to be a kind of publication.
Therefore, it should have an interesting and catchy title that also includes
the author and title of the work under analysis. The usual formula for titling
an academic paper is a two-fold one. One the left side of a colon, give your
reader something clever or witty; on the right side of a colon provide a
clinical descriiption of the project that includes the author and title
The Caveats:
Failure to perform the required OED research will result in a grade of
zero. Simply tacking on definitions to the essay without purpose or
relevance doesn’t constitute acceptable research. Do not use any secondary
source material in composing this essay. Use only the OED as your tool for
supporting your claims. Do not use secondary critical sources of any kind.
At this point I am only interested in seeing how well you can analyze a text
on your own.
Your essay should be free of grammatical and mechanical errors.
Essays that contain more than five such errors will automatically receive a
failing grade.
Essays not conforming to MLA format will not be accepted and will
not receive credit.

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