Literature Foundation 2010


Week 4


The first formative essay.

1. The deadline for submission of this essay is Thursday of week 6: November 11th. You can of course write it any time you like, but if you wait to start work until after the week 5 seminar, you will benefit from what you have learned in that seminar...

2. Please submit the essay in electronic form. Email it to me as an attachment. If any of you don't understand how to do that, let me know and I'll explain.

3. This is your one chance to practice for the assessment of this module, which includes two 1500 word essays, each an analysis of a text. In order to make this formative essay as similar as possible to the assessed essay for which it is a preparation, I will allow a word length of up to 1500 words. There will be no penalty for doing the regular requirement, 1,000 words, but the extra will be allowed and marked. But no more than that: any words that go past the 1500 limit wil not be read (this is the Departmental rule).

4. You will notice that I am not giving you a choice as to which text you write upon. This is for several reasons.

a) It will mean that when we go through the poem in class after the essays have been returned we are all talking about the poem that has been written upon.

b) The quality of the marking and commentary will be more equal and more informed.

c) It will make the next innovation possible. See 5 below for the next innovation.

5. Each essay will be returned to the student, with inline commentary, a comment sheet, and a marking chart, by email. In addition, if and only if the student specifically allows it, I will post the essay and comments anonymously on to the Web in a private intranet for other students to see. You will only be able to see the other essays if you allow your own to be seen. No penalty for not wanting to do this, of course; but if you do, you will find it extremely valuable.

If you do want to take part in this, when you email me the essay, include in the email a statement to the effect that you want to, and give me your student registration number. The essays posted will only be identified by reg. number, and only if I have a reg. number will I post the essay and give the address of the inranet to the student who decides to take part.

7. I have prepared an extensive (and, by that, I mean extensive) set of notes on how to write an essay. They set out exactly what I want and what I don't want. You may find them fanatically pedantic. Ok, but get used to it: that is how the English Department thinks. The marking will be meticulously based on principles and practices set out in those notes. If you read those notes and internalise them, and keep coming back to them, for the rest of your time in the English Department, you will, I predict, get better marks. Or so I have found many times in the past.

The notes are here: the Essay Checklist. They are also linked in

8. Finally, here is the poem. Please analyse form and content in detail. Stay close to the words of the text. Analyse the way in which the form and content work together to produce meaning. Research it. Find out about the author, his other similar poems, and the critical debate around it. You won't have much room to develop that, but it will nonetheless be useful to you in your analysis.

There must be a reading list at the end of the essay laid out according to the style guide. I will expect citations of good sources in the body of the essay, again cited in the approved author-date fashion laid out in the style guide.

Some notes: 1) there is no title. 2) this is one of the truly great poems of English literature. 3) Donne didn't put in the line numbers. I did. 4) Donne is not responsible for the punctuation; no-one knows how he punctuated it.


01 At the round earth's imagin'd corners, blow
02 Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
03 From death, you numberless infinities
04 Of souls, and to your scatter'd bodies go;
05 All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow,
06 All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
07 Despair, law, chance hath slain, and you whose eyes
08 Shall behold God and never taste death's woe.
09 But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space,
10 For if above all these my sins abound,
11 'Tis late to ask abundance of thy grace
12 When we are there; here on this lowly ground
13 Teach me how to repent; for that's as good
14 As if thou'hadst seal'd my pardon with thy blood.


John Donne. The poem was first published in 1633, after Donne's death, but was probably written around 1609.


Any problems at all, please get in touch.



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