Paper Guidelines

At least three formal papers of progressive length and complexity will be required. Instructors may require short written assignments in addition.

For formal papers, topics will be developed in consultation with preceptors. It is hoped that lectures and discussion will present useful techniques of literary analysis and interpretation.

Of the many books on writing and style, I know of none so trenchant and useful as Strunk, and White's The Elements of Style (Macmillan), which is a "recommended" text for the course. Strunk's original version is available on line.
The following specific guidelines are basics on which all instructors will insist.

  • Title papers.
  • Include a Title page with your address (campus, e-mail).
  • Number pages.
  • Use normal margins and double spacing.
  • Staple or fasten pages.
  • Keep a copy.

  • Prefer active to passive verbs.
  • Prefer short, familiar words to bulky, obscure ones.
  • Avoid inflated expressions: not "possesses" for "has"; not "states" or "asserts" for "says."

    References and Quotations.

    Papers are not for retelling plots, but to formulate imaginative and critical analyses or interpretations of works based on what the texts say. Hence, texts should be adduced as the primary evidence to back up your points. This requires distinguishing between the functions of quotations (not "quotes," which is a verb) and references

    A quotation is called for when your point depends on the precise wording of the primary text. A quotation shows the reader the actual words you are interpreting:

    Plato's ironic style may well be described with an image that Alcibiabes applies to Socrates: "Socrates' arguments ... are covered over on the outside with words and phrases that are like the hide of a ridiculous Satyr, for he talks about donkeys and pack-asses, about blacksmiths, cobblers, and tanners ... so that an inexperienced and ignorant person would take everything he says as a joke" (Symp . 221e-222a). The Platonic dialogues similarly treat low themes, but we should be warned not to take them at face value.

    A reference to a primary text enables the reader quickly to locate a specific and significant passage in a work on which your point is based. A reference says, 'If you doubt what I'm saying, or if you've forgotten this little passage, you can look it up.' E.g:

    In the Symposium Plato reminds us that the body has its uncontrollable urges by having Aristophanes break out in a case of hiccups just before the doctor speaks (185d).

    Neither reference nor quotation is needed for general points that only an illiterate would doubt: "The creation in Genesis culminates with human beings." [No reference necessary].
    But both are necessary in:

    Two accounts of the creation of women may be discerned in Genesis : "male and female" are created at 1.27, and the story of Eve is given subsequently at 2.18-24.

    Format for Citing texts.

    Since we are, alas, reading translations, it is honest and useful to identify the translation used; this need be done but once, most easily in a footnote appended to the first citation (whether a quotation or reference). E.g:

    1 All citations are taken from Homer, Iliad , trans. R. Fagles (New York, 1992).

    Names of works may be underlined or italicised.

    After the first citation, citations can appear parenthetically within the text: "all's fair in love and war" (Od. 16.227). [Note placement of periods]. Footnoted citations are also permissable.

    On first citation give author and unabbreviated title: Homer, Iliad , 9.45 (not The Iliad ), Plato, Republic , 339c; thereafter you need only cite: Il . 8.56-60; Rep . 566-567.

    Citations should identify the passage as precisely as your edition allows: "Homer, Iliad 1.22-30 Fagles", but "Ovid, Metamorphoses , p. 57 Innes".

    Redundant citations are allowed (and encouraged) for utility: Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus 85-91 (p. 26 Fagles).

    No "lines" or l. or ll. necessary.

    No roman numerals. Od. 12.56 [not Od . XII.56]

    Write out numbers from 1-9; for ten and above use the numbers: "In Book five of the Odyssey , Odysseus begins a journey that will last beyond Book 24."

    Use indented, block quotations if quoted text exceeds three lines. Brackets and ellipses (...) are useful in integrating quotations into your text and reducing them to the essentials you need.

    In General: BE CONSISTENT throughout.

    Common Editorial Abbreviations your preceptors may use:

    ww = wrong word (time for a dictionary check)

    wk = awkward (read the phrase aloud and fix it)

    ^ = insert (see margin for matter to be inserted)

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