Submitting the Assignment:

The length of your paper may vary depending on your poem and your analysis; focus on giving a full account of each topic (you can use my sample answers below as approximate guides). You do not need to double-space, but should follow the list of topics below.

Save your annotated poem as a Microsoft Word or PDF document and upload it using the link on the Blackboard Assignments page by 11:59 PM on Wednesday, December 4.

Format of the Assignment:

1.    1. Annotate For Literal Meaning

Include the full text of your poem in your document. Use marginal glosses and footnotes to explain any unfamiliar words (including references to real people, places, events, mythological characters, etc) or confusing phrases. See the way poems are formatted in the Norton Anthology for an example.

Marginal glosses: these are one-or-two word explanations of the meaning of an unfamiliar word to the right of the line in which it appears. The anthology uses italics for the glosses and places a degree symbol next to the word being defined. You may find it helpful to use the table function in your word processing program to separate the glosses from the lines (you can always make the dividing lines invisible). You can look words up in a regular dictionary, but in some cases you may need to consult the OED for a word thats no longer used or that had a different meaning in the 16th or 17th centuries.
Footnotes place a longer explanation of a hard-to-understand phrase or reference underneath the body of the poem. If you find a reference to a person, place, thing, or event that the reader needs to understand, look it up and explain it briefly so that the reader can understand its relevance. If you find a phrase or sentence thats especially confusing that cant be explained with a marginal gloss, rephrase it in your own words in a footnote.

Example of annotated lines:

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas1 just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of2 a demons that is dreaming,

And the lamp-light oer him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

1 Another name for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom

2 i.e., his eyes look like the eyes of a dreaming demon


2.    2.  Catalogue and Analyze Figurative Language

Following your annotation that explains the poems literal meaning and references, you should make a list of its examples of figurative language (things that dont literally mean what they say). Look especially for examples of metaphors, similes, symbols, personification, hyperbole, understatement, or oxymoron (see the handout of poetic terms for more information about each of these terms). You can organize them by category, but should briefly explain the meaning of each one and how it contributes to the poem. You should find at least eight (total) examples of figurative language including at least three different categories. For example:


his eyes have all the seeming of a demons that is dreaming (line 40)
The poet compares the ravens eyes to those of a dreaming demon. Comparing him to a demon emphasizes how sinister and evil the raven seems. By suggesting that the demon is dreaming, Poe may mean to make the raven seem more otherworldly, or make it seem less like a human being who is talking to the narrator: it could mean the raven looks like hes having a prophetic vision of the future, or is in some kind of trance.


the lamp-light oer him streaming (line 41)
In this line, streaming suggests a comparison between the light from the lamp and water flowing. This makes the light seem more tangible, like it has physical form, and may emphasize how the dark shape of the raven blocks it.


throws his shadow on the floor (line 41)
This line portrays the light like a person who is throwing down the ravens shadow, almost as if the shadow has some physical shape instead of just being the absence of light. Like the word streaming, it makes the whole scene seem more physical and forceful than if the light were simply shining on the raven.

3.    3. Describe and Analyze Sound Effects

Meter: how many syllables per line (is it the same throughout or does it vary?) Whats the predominant pattern of stresses? Is the poem written in iambic pentameter (ten syllables with alternating stresses on the second beat, e.g. In TIME when WE shall DINE on BREAD and WINE)?  Do all the lines follow the same metrical pattern or do some of them vary the stresses? If so, do they seem to do it to emphasize particular words or moments? Are the lines usually end-stopped or enjambed, and how does that affect the way they flow from one line into the next?
Rhyme: What is the rhyme scheme (e.g., aabbcc, ababcdcd, aba bcb, etc)? Is the poem a sonnet? Are there any rhyme pairs that seem to especially suggest parallels or contrasts between the two words or concepts?
Other sound effects: does the poem include significant examples of alliteration, assonance, or onomatopoeia? How do they contribute to the overall effect of the poem? (if youre discussing an effect like alliteration dont just say it stands out or makes the poem flow: think about what effect the repetition of that specific sound has).

To take examples from the lines quoted above:


Each line has sixteen syllables, and the stress is not iambic. It seems to fall on the first syllable of every two-beat unit instead of the second, although less on the first word of each line: AND the RAVen, NEVer FLITting, STILL is SITting, STILL is SITting. (This is called a trochaic rather than iambic rhythm). Because each line is so long but still follows the tight rhyme and metrical patterns, they feel a little breathless; if youre reading aloud, its almost hard to make it to the end of the line without stopping for breath, but the lines are end-stopped instead of enjambed, so there isnt usually a moment when you could naturally pause in the middle of the line. The fact that the lines go on so long while building up rhymes and stresses raises the tension for the poem as the speaker gets more paranoid.


And his eyes have all the seeming of a demons that is dreaming (line 42)

The rhyme of seeming and dreaming is especially striking because it is an internal rhyme (the last word rhymes with a word in the middle of the same line rather than at the end of another line). Because the rhymes come so close together, and because each one is a two syllable word, the repetition of sounds is much more noticeable. Seeming and dreaming also parallel each other very strongly in their meaning: they both suggest something that has to do with illusion or that isnt quite real. Having them so close together contributes to the dreamlike feeling of the poem, and the repetition of sounds makes it hard to differentiate individual words, which also makes the effect disorienting.

Alliteration and Assonance:

the pallid bust of Pallas (line 39): in this phrase, we hear the repetition of the p and l sounds and the assonance of the a in pallid and Pallas. The b in bust also echoes with the p sounds since the two consonants are so similar, and the s sounds in bust and Pallas echo even though the words dont rhyme. The p and b sounds are very punchy, like a hammer beating, and the s sounds create a harsh raspy effect. Taken all together, the repeating sounds feel almost oppressive, like you cant escape from them, which is similar to the mounting anxiety the speaker is feeling.

4.    4. Structural Analysis

Explain the relationship between the poetic structure of the poem and the structure of its ideas.

a.    Poetic structure: does the poem have any structuring elements other than the rhyme scheme, or does the rhyme scheme or line length change at any point? Is it divided into stanzas? Is it a sonnet (three quatrains and a concluding couplet)?

b.    Structure of ideas: where are the points when the poem changes topic, direction, or perspective? For example, does it offer a series of descriptions of different things about the person or thing its describing? Does it describe a problem and then offer a solution? Does it start by portraying something one way and then suggest its actually different? If its making an argument, does it try to consider different angles on the subject?

c.    How do the poetic structure and the structure of the ideas overlap? Particularly if the poem is divided into stanzas or quatrains, do they work as distinct paragraphs or units of thought, or do the ideas bridge from one to the next? If the poem is a sonnet, does it include a turn before the last quatrain or the final couplet?

5.    5. Select and Discuss Key Words: Ambiguity and Connotations

Choose three words from the poem that you think are especially rich in connotations or ambiguity of meaning (words that can have more than one meaning, words with many layers of meaning, or words that create a strong positive or negative emotional response in the reader). Explain the significance of each word for the poem. For example:

shadow (line 41): Shadow is a word with a lot of connotations beyond its literal meaning. Although the scene is literally describing the way the light from the lamp casts the shadow of the raven on the floor, the word shadow also suggests something dark, sinister, or evil; it also sometimes suggests something casting a long shadow that keeps other things out of the light, or something that has a powerful sinister influence even from far away. In this line, these other connotations are relevant because the poem is describing how the speaker will nevermore be free of his grief for his dead love or of the ravens evil influence. The shadow of the raven on the floor suggests to the reader that the narrator will never be able to escape what the raven represents.

6.    6. Select and Discuss Key Words: Chains and Patterns

Choose at least three words or phrases from different lines in the poem that set up some kind of chain or pattern that runs through it. For example, you might look at moments where the same word is repeated in different contexts, or where words with related or contrasting meanings appear (for example, if different lines of the poem contained a series of words like bright, light, and dark, or if several lines of the poem include the phrase love is, or if it mentions different flowers like roses, lilies, and daisies at different moments). How does this through-line or repeating motif help to structure the poem or develop its ideas? How does it set up parallels and contrasts that help to better explain the poems subject? Where words or images repeat, are they used the same way or are they variations on a theme that are used differently each time?

7.  Bibliography

Your bibliography should come at the end of the assignment and should include your sources for any words or references you explain. You dont need to include everything in standard bibliographic format, but should follow these guidelines:

You dont need to include citations for ordinary modern dictionaries (such as Merriam Webster).
If you use the OED, your list should include the Oxford English Dictionary followed by the headings and definition numbers for any definitions you used. For example,

Oxford English Dictionary: attempt 3(b), horrid 2(a), patent 1(b)

For any other sources you use to look up references, you can simply include the name of the thing you were looking up and the URL (for online sources) or bibliographic citation (for print sources) of anything you used in your definition. For example:


If you consult any sources that specifically discuss your poem, you must include them in your bibliography with a brief explanation of what you used them for. You should primarily work on analyzing the poem for yourself, but if you still cant figure out a line or a reference you may check other sources that discuss it as long as you make it clear what information youre using from them.

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