Introduction to Hispanic Literature (S328-Fall 2010)


Composition #1:  Analysis and Interpretation of
"Canción de jinete"

Analyzing Poetry

Draft Due:  viernes, 1 de octubre
Final Draft:  lunes, 4 de octubre


"La poesía no quiere adeptos, sino amantes.  Pone ramas de zarzamora y erizos de vidrio para que se hieran por su amor las manos que la buscan."
- Federico García Lorca, poeta español
"Que el verso sea como una llave / Que abra mil puertas."
-Vicente Huidobro, poeta chileno

The first composition will be an analysis of a poem:  Federico García Lorca's "Canción de jinete".  The fundamental point of this paper is that you use any of the relevant tools we've worked on in class (rima, encabagalmiento, lenguaje literario, etc.) to build an interpretation of the poem. What is it that you think the poem deals with?  What do you believe it's saying precisely?  Your title and thesis should clearly reflect your position on the theme/topic that you’re focusing on in the poem.  If you’ve been preparing your analyses of the poems for each day in class, the paper is a continuation and a culmination of your work until now.

You will work on a 1st draft of your composition by Friday, October 1.  That day, we'll do an in-class workshop in which you'll get feedback from one peer on your essay.  You'll also be able to ask any questions you like about structuring your argument, etc.

Ultimately, on Monday, October 4, you will turn in your paper, a list of all the literary language you can find in the poem (figuras retoricas, de lenguaje y tropos) (see "la poesía" and your notes from class discussion), and your notes on the poem  (see below).

Here are suggestions to help you create an interesting analysis.  Pay particular attention to the pre-writing and writing suggestions.  Also note the new suggestions at the end of the page, particularly the one regarding clear thesis statements.


To turn in:

1.  Your paper
2.  A list of all the literary language you find in the poem (figuras retoricas, de lenguaje y tropos) (see text "La poesía") and where you find it in the poem (verse number or actual words).  Please type this up.
3.  Your notes on the poem (even if you take many of them on the poem itself, turn that in too)
4.  Your peer-editing sheet & first draft.

Although obviously your paper and list of literary language will be typed, your notes do not have to be typed up.  Just staple them to the end of your paper.

Poem"Canción de jinete" (Once you click on this link to my anthology of Lorca's book Canciones, scroll down to the proper poem. Feel free to read others for fun.)

Cuestionario:  Cuestionario, "Canción de jinete"
This cuestionario provides some basic questions just to help you get going with the poem.  It is not required.


2-3 pages (2 full pages=minimum)

Times, 12 font, regular margins

**No bibliography. No data on Lorca nor on the time period.  Do not do any research on the poems - this paper is entirely about your ability to analyze the poem using the tools we've learned.

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Pre-Writing Analysis

Here are tips on how to begin analysis and then organize this paper.  Remember that organization and going to the point are fundamental to proving your interpretation.

Here you’ll find more specific guidelines regarding your methods for creating readings of poems.  The "Strategies" document is much more detailed, but this reminds you of some fundamentals.  We've already begun to use some of these, but I would like for you to really work with them in terms of technique, in addition to or instead of what you are already doing.  They should help you approach your paper in a more directed and productive way.

1.  Read the whole poem, looking up what you need to, but focusing on the basic "plot".  Figure out what is going on estrofa by estrofa.  Next to each one, write in prose what you think is happening. You can adjust it as you read on and find different things, etc.

2.  Focusing on each estrofa, one by one, go thru each one and identify all the literary language you can find, and use those lines of thought to spin out all the connections and associations you can make within each estrofa.   Answer the cuestionario as you move through each estrofa.  Look at what kinds of tools the poet is utilizing to say what he's saying  (ie. if you see anafora, why do you think it's there – what does it add to the meaning of the poem or those lines?; if there's hyperbole, note it and note down ideas about what kind of effect it has.)  As you move along building your interpretation little by little, you can whittle down your connections to those that really seem to work within the poem, in other words, things you can support using the text.  But first, it's good to get as many primary associations b/t images, language, punctuation, etc. that you can get.  These are your tools for later consolidating your interpretation.  At the brainstorming stage, no idea is too "out there".  You can decide as you go which readings don't respond to the text and that you want to eject, and which ones seem to work well that you want to keep and plug back into the poem and see what happens.

3.  Then, look at rima pattern and the types of verses (llano, agudo, esdrújulo).  Do any stick out? Is there a particular form that's being used?  Why write the poem in this form?  What connotations can you get out of that form?  What does it add to the meaning or reception of the poem?  What can you get out of this formal aspect that adds to how we can read the poem?

Writing:  Close Analysis

Taking into account what you've already done, and the fact that you've been taking the poem apart in a more methodical way, your job now is to put it back together for the reader in your own vision:  now, in other words, you're making your interpretation.  Take any and all you can use and piece together your reading.  This is exactly the same methodology that you used in your paper on film, and this will be your paper.  Go about organizing and writing it in this way:

a. Introduction:  You can explain broadly what your reading deals with, and then, go directly to what your interpretation of the poem is.  This is your thesis.  See below ("Suggestions") regarding the thesis statement.  This will help you take your paper, and your reading skills to the next level.

b. Then your composition should go estrofa by estrofa, methodically working on building your reading.  Each paragraph should deal with an estrofa.  Unless you want to make the point that one word in particular resonates with something prior to it (which happens quite often), you should work estrofa by estrofa. Try not to jump around - if you need to refer back or forward, you can do that, but it's best if you go thru it methodically so you can concentrate on the complexity of connections and not the complexity of the organization of your writing.  This set-up, therefore, will make it easier on you.

You can even question the gaps and connections between estrofas as you get to them, as we can do with, for example, cases of encabagalmiento.

c.  When you get done with each estrofa and move on, you should feel like you're building something, like you've got a solid slab that you can add onto with the next paragraph.

d.  When you get to the end, the interp should be rounding out, you can be pulling it all together.  Once you finish up, take a look back and see if your thesis needs fine-tuning or adjusting.

e.  Your conclusion should pull everything together and can suggest any questions that you think the poem brings up and doesn't answer, things that your interpretation brings up for the reader to continue thinking about.  It should take us from the specifics of the poem and your argument, to larger issues.

*A note:
1. If you feel there are two (or more) distinct readings of any poem you’re working on, separate them out.  First tackle the more elemental one (if there's one that's less complex, for example) and *then* do the second one, making connections back into the first one if you feel it's helpful or interesting.  *Separating out* two distinct readings or planes can be the best way to organize multiple readings of poems that seem to occupy different discursive spaces, so experiment with this in your readings for class and in your interpretative analyses.

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Clear thesis:
This is the one, basic issue that will push your paper towards perfection.  State clearly in your introduction what your interpretation is exactly.  Your interpretation is your thesis.  Avoid general or vague statements. This doesn't mean you have to say it in 5 words or less.  The rest of your paper will continue to explain and prove this, showing how it works in the text.  Don't stop short by simply writing that you're going to analyze a broad theme, or that "X" is a theme in the poem, or that the ending of the poem represents an interesting twist.  These are all too vague.  Push very hard before writing on what your thesis/interpretation actually is, what it is precisely that you're looking at in the paper.  Many people did this very well in the film paper, but everyone can always improve here.  The way I've outlined above how you should go about formulating your interpretation before actually writing should help you to do this.  By the time you sit down to explain your interpretation in the paper, you should know where you want to go.  One thing some people have found helpful is to write a hypothetical introduction *first, and *then* after finishing the rest of the paper, go back and rewrite, fine tune and specify the thesis more.  Sometimes, it's not until you've gotten to the end of the paper do you actually see more clearly what your point was.  Use that to your advantage and go back and fine-tune the thesis and paragraphs.

Take care of grammar.  Avoid repetetive vocabulary and sentence structure; look for different ways of expressing yourself.  Put into place transitional phrases that help the reader move through smoothly.  Aim to improve your Spanish!

Cite correctly and consistently.  In citing the poem, you'll be citing by verse, so number the verses on your copy so you can easily refer to them.  The number/s of the verse/s in parentheses is enough (no need to say title or author here).

If you are quoting more than one verse from the poem, set it up as follows:  "Cordoba./Lejana y sola.//Jaca negra, luna grande,/ y aceitunas en mi alforja./"  This means that you will use one backslash between verses, and two between estrofas, as we have already discussed in class.

Title your paper in an interesting and suggestive way!  Don't go with the title of the poem or no title at all.  Being able to title your paper in a suggestive way often indicates whether or not you're in touch with what your main focus or point actually is, so use it as a way to test yourself:  do you know what you're really getting at in the paper?  Do you have a main focus?

As always, any questions, just let me know.

Enjoy and good luck!

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