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Bewildering Assignment Explained

Bewildering Assignment Explained

By Miss Marm

Sometimes the problem isn't starting your homework; it's understanding what your professor's asking for in the first place.

Today, a confuzzled Sparkler sent me her first assignment for a college English class. Her questions are [in green brackets]; my answers are [in purple brackets].


Begin by properly documenting the text with MLA citation [as in, where we read the play?] [as in which edition of the play you're reading. For example: Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.]. For the play, identify five important passages [what qualifies as a passage?] [there's no hard and fast rule; I'd say anything more than five lines qualifies]; type each passage in its entiry. Beneath each passage, comment on its significance to the work as a whole. Your commentary should necessarily be an analytical interpretation [which is...?] [by this, your professor means NO SUMMARIZING. S/he doesn't want you to explain what's happening in the passage; s/he wants you to analyze the passage] and reveal the substance of the passage--meaning that there is something in the passage (a literary technique or device—ie figurative language, motif, symbol, diction [?] [diction means, essentially, the level at which people talk. Shakespeare writes a huge variety of dictions—it's one of his many amazing abilities. He can write drunks and dummies who use very low diction (casual, uneducated, coarse) and kings and queens who use very high diction (refined, literary, elegant)], characterization, tone, etc.) that contributes to your interpretation of some aspect of the work. Each literary technique or device may be used no more than twice. Your commentary should make effective, compelling inferances that show what the technique(s) of the passage do/does. Your generalizations should be original thought, not plagiarized ones; I caution you about using quotes/direct information from popular literary websites or other sources.

Hope that helps! (And btw, anyone else think this teacher is taking a shot at "popular literary website"

Topics: teachers, shakespeare, diction, assignments, citations

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