Song of Myself
Step 1:Choose either a section of Whitman’s “Song of Myself” or a section from one of the twentieth century responses to it (Michael Gold’s “Ode to Walt Whitman,” Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California,” Langston Hughes’s “I Too,” or Ezra Pound’s “The Pact”) and perform a close reading of the section. Pay attention to how the form of the poem relates to the content.
Once again, I am asking you to use close reading (which you can now identify as a “new critical” approach to literature) as a way to begin to build your argument for this paper. Again, this means paying close and sustained attention to how the language of a passage, and other formal elements like sound patterns, affect the passage’s over all meaning. Use both the close reading guide from assignment 1 and the handout “questions for approaching poetry for the first time” to help you with this step (if there are unfamiliar words or concepts in the guide, look them up in Hamilton, a style guide—like those you use in composition classes—or the Dictionary).
As you think through the literary devices in your passage, pay special attention to the literary devices from Hamilton that we have been working with in relation to poetry.
This step (close reading) is designed to help you come up with your argument, or thesis, and help you build your evidence. As the attached guide says, “Doing a close reading involves a thought process that moves from small details to larger issues. Writing a close reading begins with these larger issues and uses the relevant details as evidence.”
Step 2:Once you’ve thought in these focused and specific ways about the whys and hows of either “Song of Myself” or one of the responses to it, write a focused paper that makes a specific argument (thesis) about the theme of the poem. You should tie that argument (thesis) explicitly to the literary devices that make it possible for you to experience that theme. Make sure you use lots of specific evidence. Make sure also to explain and develop your analysis of these elements, so that your reader will understand how and why you’ve reached the conclusions you have. (As in math problems: show your work!)