The final project for this course is a seminar paper not unlike the kind you might find in typical graduate courses across the country. In this paper, you will make an argument about a poetic school, community, or movement of your own choosing. In this paper, you will establish and engage a dynamic critical conversation before offering your own extension of that conversation in a paper informed by your knowledge of American poetry across the twentieth century and its contexts, and enlivened by your own close engagement with the primary and secondary material through critical engagements and close readings. The seminar paper will be between 15-17 pages, it will incorporate at least 10 sources, and it will go through a peer-review and revision process. I am always open to discussing outcomes for the Final Project that might depart from the more familiar assignment described above; please feel free to pitch some ideas, but make sure this conversation begins as soon as possible in the semester.
The Final Project begins with conversations between the professor and each student about a possible topic, and then grows more focused as you prepare a carefully curated topic introduction, reading list, and supplemental bibliography. In addition to the final project itself, which will go through a revision process and receive feedback from both the professor and your peers, there will also be a more formal Proposal posted to the blog and due on the day of the mini module you design. You will also co-lead a class (alongside the professor) on the day that the class discusses readings related to your project (indicated as “student-choice mini-module” on the course schedule).
You mini-modules should include 1 critical reading and 4-5 poems and will be due the week before your readings will be discussed.
Final Project Proposal Blog Post: please post to the blog ahead of the day you lead your mini-module
The proposal, which is not included as one of your required 8 posts for the blogging assignment, should be 400-600 words long and use MLA formatting as relevant. Please organize your proposal along the following lines:
- First, come up with an intriguing title for your proposal. This may not be the final title, but it’s important to start formulating a title that is both informative and engaging. I like the template the pivots around a colon offering a more compact or even creative formulation followed by an explanatory statement after the colon.
- At the start of the proposal itself, craft an effective, brief, introduction that frames your project more broadly. This might involve summarizing your chosen topic in light of the conversation you engage, or establishing an important historical or theoretical context for your project, or even tossing us into the middle of a dynamic analytical moment. It’s all about “framing” the project strategically and effectively–and in an engaging manner.
- Next, offer some critical background on your topic–this is the conversation you hope to answer. You should make the theoretical or methodological foundation for your paper clear, and also describe the more specific critical conversation surrounding your chosen topic / texts in a way that makes room for your own argument. I call this part of your paper the expanded “Conversational Thesis”–essentially a map and mirror of the research conversation you will build through your research. You shouldn’t name actual critics here–just give a sense of the contours of the conversation by using phrases that provide a more general identity for the participants in the conversation.
- Next, formulate a tentative—but pointed and specific—hypothesis. The goal here is both to join and extend an ongoing conversation related to your chosen text. A tentative hypothesis–a preview of what you hope to argue–will be a tool you use to direct and refine your subsequent, and to help guide your own contribution to this conversation. Be ready to change and mold your hypothesis as you research and think more deeply about your topic. Together, the conversational thesis and the hypothesis form what I call “Dueling Thesis Statements“–which form a crucial building block of any extended research project. You can refer to these templates for building your Dueling Ts.
- At the end of your proposal, articulate, in a fresh way, the purpose or goal of this research. Do your best to convey a sense of urgency and importance and interest. How does your project ask us to think–or even act–differently? What are its broader implications? What is at stake here? You can also be personal here: what drew you to the project? Why is it exciting to you? What qualifications do you bring to the project?
Note that this project does not include a separate annotated bibliography. I hope you begin the mini-module by offering a justification for the texts you chose, and also gesturing towards the broader body of research you’ve begun to explore
The only difference between this project and a typical research paper is that it will be multi-modal, composed for the web, and will use links, images, and so on, as necessary. But but beyond this slight innovation on the classic term-paper model, I am open to other final project options that align with your own strengths, pedagogical interests, creative pursuits, and so on. So much fo the Post-1945 American Poetry we have read in this class seemed to heed a call for innovation–for finding new modes of expression, new forms, new ways of reaching audiences, and even new ways of inhabiting old forms. The final project in this course is modeled on a similar call to innovate and create. Other options include:
- A longer podcast or series of shorter podcasts exploring some of the poetries we have discussed this semester.
- A substantial creative project grounded in research into a specific school or mode.
- A lesson plan tailored for a target audience with an accompanying reflective essay.
I will work with you to negotiate what what a substantial equivalent of a 15-17 page research paper might be. All projects–even traditional papers–will be presented digitally on the course website, and so will involve some multi-modal elements.