The major premise of this course is that poetry can be off-putting to readers who might normally be drawn to the genre because of the precise terminology that has arisen over the years to describe the literary effects that inhabit a text fundamentally aware of itself and its rhetorical situation. So my main expectation is not that you will get the “right” interpretation of a poem, but that by the end of the term you will be able to explain yourself fully, exhibit comfort rather than anxiety with poetic devices, and support yourself amply with apt detail.
Pursuant to that goal, and in recognition of the fact that this is a general education course, there will be two sections on the midterm exam (this will also be true of the final exam). In the first section I will ask you multiple choice questions having to do with concepts in the instructional pages for this course, using for examples only poems that have been linked in the past. In the second section, I will provide you with a poem and even the claim I want you to argue, and then the prompt will direct you to support that claim via a number or techniques. But you won’t know any of the details until you see the question after finishing the multichoice section. I’ll be searching for signs that you can be thorough with your reading (within the constraints of the span of time I’ve allotted) and organized with your presentation. You might consider simply constructing one paragraph per technique or poetic element I suggest, and sticking to that element as you prove the claim. Or, you might think of two or three holistic ways in which the elements I suggest might be made to support that claim, and then take me through those reasons talking about all the suggested elements in each paragraph (this path is suaver, and I like it better, and I will prize the effort you expend more highly, but I admit it’s a harder path for the initiate).
So this is essentially a closed-blackboard exam (no illicit google searches to see how other people argue about these texts). I’m hoping that in order to prepare, you’ll go back and reread the poems from the first part of the class again, and do a bit of pre-work for yourself that matches the advice from week 3 (on how to start reading and arguing about poems, lingering especially on my post about how to write up a textual analysis): identify the voice, setting, and situation of each poem, then paraphrase what is being said and try to figure out the tone. After that, you might also mark up the poems to call your own attention to the places in the poems where important things are happening, or the forms of the poems are augmenting or detracting or redirecting from their content. You’ll only have 60 minutes for the entire exam, so I feel confident that there won’t be enough time for you to dredge something up online and still have time to write your essays; anyway, you won’t know what the prompt is until you see it when you download the exam, and at that point the clock is already ticking.