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Essay One Explain Wordsworth’s theory of poetry, as this theory is articulated in the passages I have selected from his

Preface to Lyrical Ballads. Your task is to transmit in your own words what Wordsworth says, in a way that remains rigorously faithful to what he means. Where he is unclear, it’s your job to figure out what he means and to restate what he said in a way that makes it clear. It’s not your job to criticize what he says, only to understand it and to explain it. Some students consider this type of work is boring and mechanical, but understanding a complex text like the Preface is damn hard work, and this work can’t be lightly skipped over. Anybody can make vague remarks about a vaguely understood text (this is what some students think is “creative” or “original”); the real intellectual excitement comes from digging, digging, into a text so that it very gradually and reluctantly gives up its secrets to you. What I’m looking for in these papers is evidence of this kind of digging. Everything you say needs to be precise and to be grounded in Wordsworth’s own words. So you will need to pepper your sentences with brief, sharp quotations from the text that support whatever you claim that Wordsworth is saying. You should write about 2 pages. I don’t mind if you go a little under or a little over, but that’s it. Two pages is not much; this means you need to organize your discussion very skillfully, and not to waste any words. Don’t screw around with introductions and conclusions; go right for the jugular. And don’t try to blow rhetorical smoke with English major bullshit that you think sounds smart and has gotten you an A in other classes. I hate that stuff. I want to see you thinking into and thinking with the text, period. Since you don’t have much space, you need to try to figure out what the overall shape of Wordsworth’s argument is, and then organize your paper as a sketch of this overall shape. Or say that your job is to boil his argument down to its core. What are the main issues that Wordsworth addresses? What is he standing up for, and what is he arguing against? What are the main difficulties in understanding his argument? How does he answer his own questions about what a poet is, and what a poem? You don’t need to footnote your quotations from the course packet. Staten’s students turn in your papers in hard copy, at our next quiz section. The rest of you check with Brian or Terris to see how they want theirs turned in. They will look at my papers and I will look at theirs, and we’ll co-ordinate how we evaluate them.