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English 1205

Reader Response Assignment



Each student will write a response to any work or works studied this term (except for Romeo and Juliet,Shakespeare in Love, or Li Po). This is a free-ranging, interpretive assignment, worth 20% of your mark: unlike with the essay summaries, the professor is particularly interested in your personal views of the subject. Think of it as a conversation between yourself and the work you’re writing about.


Choose a work that interested you: by being interested, you will be interesting. Remember Helen Vendler’s insistence that the pleasure of reading is the first reason we engage with literature: everything else –things learned, insights gained – follows from that aesthetic experience.


The Getting Started Section below is meant to prompt ideas, but you don’t need to answer every question below. Pick the ones that are relevant.


Note: This paper is due on Friday, June 22 in my office (MM219) by 4:30. (You can slip the paper under the door if no one’s in the office). Email me also an electronic copy.



Getting Started: Ask Important Questions


If you’re having a problem getting started, start by asking some basic questions about the work you’re writing about:


  1. Why was I interested in this work? Was I emotionally moved by the work? Why and how?


  1. What is the theme of the work, and why is it important? Did I learn something from the work? Did it make me think about the world in a different way? Are there ideas I agree with or disagree with in the work?


  1. Was the work formally challenging? Did it use language in an interesting way?

Was it beautiful?Would I read it again?



Technical Considerations


-This assignment should be from 2-4 pages long, typed and double-spaced.


-To help yourself with the writing, make an outline of your main points. Give your response a clear beginning, middle and end. You don’t have to answer every question asked above.


-This paper should be partly about yourself, but keep the work always “in sight”; keep returning to it and quoting it to underscore its relevance to your own experience.  Support abstract ideas with textual evidence. In other words, think of the assignment as a conversation between you and the work of literature.


-Do NOT summarize the content of the work; i.e. assume that Professor Walton knows and has read the work you are writing.


-Do NOT plagiarize. You don’t have to quote critics or use footnotes in this assignment, but if you do use another person’s words, you must put them in quotation marks and credit them at the end of the paper.


-A coherent writing style is essential. Punctuate correctly!Proofread! Don’t overuse exclamation marks.






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