TEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF A POETIC TREATISE ACADEMIC ESSAY
Instructions: Essay One: Textual Analysis of a Poetic Treatise
Closely read a poetic treatise in order to analyze its rhetorical situation and message.
In this essay you will closely read and interpret a poetic treatise that functions as the introduction to a book of poems and describe for your readers, in detail, the rhetorical situation of this text. Your goal is to clearly explain to your readers how the treatise works to convey meaning. To this end, your thesis should be specific and offer a textual analysis of the treatise: What is the author’s purpose? To whom is he writing? Why? Keep in mind that your assignment is to describe exactly how the treatise works as a preface to a book of poetry. Because you are writing for other students of writing, your readers will need detailed examples and thorough explanations of the points you are making. These examples will come from direct textual support in the form of direct quotations, descriptive paraphrases, and brief critical summary (see Ch. 5 in A Student’s Guide to First-Year Writing).
WRITING THE ANALYSIS
When you analyze a text, you break the text down into its major parts. To make your own interpretation convincing, offer substantial direct evidence from the text and carefully lead readers through your lines of thought step by step. Chapter’s 2 & 6 in A Student’s Guide to First-Year Writing will be valuable resources as you complete this assignment. The most persuasive reason to study literature is to help us understand the world outside of ourselves and connect to it in a meaningful way. To develop your thesis, consider your initial reaction to the text. Perhaps you felt the author was trying to communicate an important idea about society. Perhaps the text offers a new way to think about the aesthetics of poetry—examine what you’ve learned through the comparison. This might make for a compelling conclusion to your essay.
In your introduction, you should
• Hook your readers with an explanation of your response to the text and how that response provides insight into the rhetorical situation of the text.
• Briefly describe and summarize the text. Use less than a paragraph for this summary and focus only on the details that are salient to your analysis. Keep in mind that we’ve all read this text. You don’t need to provide an exhaustive summary. Some brief biographical information about the poet might also be important.
• End your introduction with your argument that establishes how the treatise works to convey a message. This should be a snapshot of your entire argument that clearly establishes your claims about the text. This argument snapshot is your thesis statement.
• Forecast your essay by briefly stating how you’ll prove your points (this is a sophisticated way to transition from your introduction to the body of your paper). For example: Through “The Cask of Amontillado,” Edgar Allan Poe argues that even a simple act of friendship can become dangerous if coupled with thirst for revenge. We see this through Montresor’s feelings of superiority and his refusal to compromise (in this example, the second sentence is the forecast).
This is where you will argue each of your individual thesis claims using PIIE(t) to construct your body paragraphs. Remember, each thesis claim must become the topic sentence of a body paragraph. The rest of the paragraph then supports that claim with direct textual evidence followed by your own analysis that carefully explains exactly how that evidence supports the claim. You will have at least one PIE body paragraph per thesis claim. Think of yourself as a literary detective; offer proof for your claims by making and analyzing inferences from the text. Continue your introductory forecasting by arguing each thesis claim in the order that you stated it in your introduction. In your body paragraphs, you should
• Clearly identify your observations and inferences (thesis claims) and thoroughly explain what you read that lead you to make that observation or inference.
• Remember, direct textual support for your claim is the evidence for your textual analysis.
• Provide your readers with a detailed explanation of exactly how your evidence supports each of your claims.
In your conclusion, you need to
• Restate your thesis in a new way (“In this analysis I considered…”). BE BRIEF. Remember you just supported your thesis claims in the body of your paper. Your reader doesn’t need you to rehash of all of your points; just a reminder will suffice.
• Reflect a bit on what you have found. Your conclusion should explain to your readers why your argument is valid and worthy of attention. What insight does your analysis of this text provide for your readers? Why should your readers care about this? Remember that the purpose of your analysis, like all literary analysis, is to help your reader notice and understand something about the text that she may not have noticed on first reading. What does your analysis offer other readers of the text? Why should your readers care about your textual analysis?
Style and Formatting Guidelines
• The thesis should be a statement that applies to something specific in the text. You might think of the thesis as being an observation combined with an inference about what that observation means. In constructing your thesis, try to propose something other readers missed either because they glossed over details or because your personal experiences have given you a unique perspective. Avoid boring generalizations (“war is bad” or “communication is important”). If you get stuck, try adding an “if” or “because” to your original statement.
• Always write about writing in the present tense: Shakespeare suggests that…. When Hamlet decides to . . . ., etc.
• Put quotations marks around the titles of poems. (Use italics for plays or other long texts such as films.)
• When using direct quotes from poems, include the line number: “…” (line 6).
• Don’t write “I think” or “I know” or information such as “When I read the story….” Such phrases are not necessary and make your essay less persuasive.
• Make full use of opportunities to workshop your draft in class by bringing new and improved versions to each peer review session. Keep track of your classmates’ most important comments; you’ll submit this information with your final essay.
• Increase your own critical skills by helping your classmates with their drafts.
• To avoid losing credit, compose your essay in STANDARD WRITTEN ENGLISH. If you’re concerned about your editing skills, stop by Think Tank before the essay is due, and review your essay with a tutor. Take the time to edit carefully, giving special attention to the items we reviewed in class.
An excellent project will meet the following criteria, showing that you can:
• Effectively use the source text to support and develop your own argument
• Use a successful combination of brief quotes, long quotes, and paraphrase
• Integrate citations ethically, clearly, and effectively
• Make a sincere effort to employ the MLA scholarly conventions for citing sources, including parenthetical citations and works cited
• Organize development clearly
• Revise deeply as well as edit carefully
TEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF A POETIC TREATISE ACADEMIC ESSAY
William Carlos Williams is known to be an American poet whose works majorly dwelled on modernism and imaginism. Professionally, he was a practitioner of medicine, more specifically a pediatrician. However, his life was more known as a writer than a physician or medical practitioner. He had a full-fledged literary career. His work consists more of poems, novels, plays, short stories, translations, and critical essays among others. In the Introduction to The Wedge, he opposes the view by most critics that there would come a time when poetry would be rendered obsolete once socialism takes root. He calls this a faulty definition of poetry and the arts in general. His view is that just as mathematics will always be relevant, so is poetry and arts in general. This is brought forward by the fact that it is assumed from the Freudian concept that people turn to arts as a resort from frustration. As such, he is out to prove to the audience that art, more specifically poetry will remain relevant in all times to come because it is not something static but dynamic in its own way and always relevant to current context.
In this poem, Williams says,
“a poem is a small (or large) machine made of words. When I say there is nothing sentimental about a poem I mean that there can be no part, as in any other machine, that is redundant.”
In this statement, Williams meant that machines have different parts that are unique to each other but working in unison to deliver a given purpose for which they were all enjoined together to function. As such, it is apparent that poetry has its own unique function in a human beings life and any other aspect of life such as socialism cannot replace it. In Williams view therefore, the functions of poetry in life are unique to themselves and socialism cannot be used to replace them. To emphasize this point, Williams says,
“There is no poetry of distinction without formal invention, for it is in the intimate form that works of art achieve their exact meaning, in which they most resemble the machine, to give language its highest dignity, its illumination in the environment to which it is native.”
Williams opens this poem by stating that, “The War is the first and only thing in the world today.” This proves the fact that most of the poems in his collection “The Wedge” of 1944 were composed during the World War II. Williams wrote the “Introduction to The Wedge” to give his audience a perception that can enable them easily understand his collection of poems in The Wedge. During those times, it seems that many people found solace in arts and poetry after the frustrations of war, which led to Freud’s sentiments. It was a vision into the future about the fate of poetry as envisaged in the world that has adopted the socialism ideologies as opposed to war. The socialism ideology signifies a time when there are few or no frustrations because there is reduced fighting and competition for resources, which is a major cause of wars. Freud saw this as the end of poetry because in his view, there would be no reason for people to turn to poetry or art. As such, the “Introduction to The Wedge” reminds people the place of poetry and nullifies Freud’s claims.
Williams brings to the fore the idea that a man is not a static entity even though psychologists have made him appear as such and many believe it. In his view, there is no consistency in a man’s life. This is seen in his words,
“A man isn’t a block that remains stationary though psychologists treat him so – and most take an insane pride in believing it. Consistency! He varies; Hamlet today, Caesar tomorrow; here, there, somewhere – if he is to retain his sanity, and why not?”
This implies that the rational state of man makes him adopt the dynamic nature. Williams continues to say that, “The arts have a complex relation to society.” It means that art and society or man is two inseparable entities that their coexistence is unending. As aspects of life continue changing, so do art or poetry, a transformation that is expected to be similar in movement. Poems will be composed according to man’s thoughts in the current times that reflect his current status and times. Therefore, it would be unfounded to claim that there would be a time when art or poetry will be rendered obsolete when socialism takes root. This is seen when he says that,
“when a man makes a poem, makes it, mind you, he takes words as he finds them interrelated about him and composes them – without distortion which would mar their exact significances….”
Williams shows here that even during the times of socialism, poetry will still have its significant function in a man’s life. The compositions made will no longer be meant to be a solace from frustrations of war but his current views and thoughts addressing issues in the socialist state. Williams says,
“It isn’t what he says that counts as a work of art, it’s what he makes, with such intensity of perception that it lives with an intrinsic movement of its own to verify its authenticity.”
Whatever is composed by a poet at whatever time will always be relevant in the people’s eyes or the respective audience because there will always be that trending thing that it seeks to address. This marks the declaration by Williams that poetry is will not end with the inception of the socialist society. The compositions in time of socialism will still draw a multitude of audience because there will be very many issues of the times being addressed.
In sum, William Carlos Williams was
a renown poet whom in his work “Introduction to The Wedge” sought to correct
the wrong perception brought forward by Freud that poetry and art will only be
relevant in the war times. This is in view of Freud’s concept that people only
turn to art as a solace from frustrations due to war. His works were majorly
written during World War II, which explains these sentiments. In his view,
poetry will always be relevant in all times because the poet’s views always
reflect his or her current feelings and thoughts. As such, during the socialism
era, the compositions will reflect issues in the socialist states. He likens
poetry to the unending relevance of mathematics. The society is not static, so
it man and poetry or art.
Williams, Carlos W. Introduction to The Wedge (1944). Poetry Foundation, October 13, 2009. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/resources/learning/essays/detail/69410. 10 September 2016.