8-10 pages, 400 points (40% of your grade)

This assignment involves preparatory work, including a proposal and a descriptive bibliography (50 points), which will be due before Thanksgiving Break.  Thus, the final paper itself is technically worth 350 points or 35% of your grade

Due Dates:

  • Tuesday, November 16: Proposal and Descriptive Bibliography
  • Tuesday, November 23: Research Day & Optional Conferences
  • Tuesday, November 30: Workshop: Five Page Minimum
  • Sunday, December 5: Final Paper Due By Midnight vial e-mail


This final assignment asks you to write a well-researched, polished, argumentative essay on a topic of your choosing. The paper will be 8-10 pages and include reference to at least 4 secondary sources. We will workshop these essays on the second-to-last day of class (November 30), and I strongly encourage you to meet with me to discuss the paper as it moves through the drafting phase prior to Thanksgiving Break. Not only do I know a lot about Whitman scholarship, but if some book you want is checked out, I probably have it in my office!  I encourage you to begin blogging towards your final paper in the coming weeks.  You can post about a particular poetic relationship that has really grabbed your attention, or offer reflections on / summaries of sources that you begin to dig up.

Your paper should approach some aspect of Whitman’s influence (thus, your essay will reflect on the work of Whitman and at least one other poet).  Please support your argument by building a suitable research conversation around your topic (at least four sources) and by offering close attention to the poems under consideration.

A successful paper will articulate a clear, argumentative thesis backed with solid literary evidence and interpretation, and employ secondary sources effectively as support.


The final paper must be typed and double-spaced, with a cover sheet that includes the title of your paper, your name, the date, the name of the class, and your professor’s name. Use uniform 1-1.5 inch margins with a 12 pt., easily readable font, such as Times New Roman or Garamond.   Please include page numbers and employ proper MLA citation rules.


Paper Proposal, 1 page single-spaced:

In your proposal, you will begin to map out the territory of your researched critical essay, offer a research question, and  include a list of consulted secondary sources. Your proposal will answer the following four questions:

  • What figures will your paper address, and what aspect of this poetic relationship will be your primary focus?
  • Why is this relationship an important / interesting one to explore?
  • What is your guiding research question?  I know you don’t have a thesis yet, but you should at least have a question to which your eventual thesis will provide a novel answer.


Finally, you should also provide an annotated preliminary bibliography of at least 4 sources in MLA bibliographic style.  An annotation, for the purposes of this proposal, is simply a three-four sentences capsule summary of the source with an emphasis on how it will be useful for your argument.

[thanks to professor duvall for sharing his research prompt, parts of which I have borrowed / adapted here]