Networking “Howl”

Your two-page, typed essay is due on Thursday, December 10, at the beginning of class.

Your goal in this assignment is to use Ginsberg’s “Howl” to show me what you’ve learned this semester.  What does this mean?  Similar to our “mystery text” assignment, your essay should show me the connections among “Howl” and the texts we’ve read over the course of our time together, i.e. your goal is “network” Ginsberg’s poem within our syllabus.  Obviously, given the two page limit, you won’t have time to connect “Howl” to all these poems, essays, and fictions.  You’ll have to be strategic about which connections you want to make and which will best demonstrate your learning, but you should be able to connect “Howl” to at least three texts.

You can “network” Ginsberg’s poem through motifs, themes, and forms it shares with any text from our syllabus.  Don’t feel that you have to provide a “reading” or grand interpretation of “Howl.”  Instead, focus on finding and elaborating the ties that bind “Howl” to our other texts.  Don’t forget: “Howl” may share common elements with another text but only to differ or even disagree with that text.  In other words, the dialogue between texts may be salubrious; it can also be contentious and critical.

As with our “mystery text” assignment, there’s no need for a thesis statement – – start explaining the connections you want to develop from the first sentence of the essay.

Some other things to keep in mind:

  1. One hopeful fruit of all the annotation that you’ve been doing is a greater attention to and appreciation of the words on the page.  As you draft your essay, try to work inductively – – e.g. from the words/phrases on the page up to more general meaning and significance.  Quote examples from the texts to illustrate and develop your ideas.  There’s no need to use MLA citation for your sources – – instead, “just put the author’s name in parentheses at the close of your quotation” (Hanley).   There‘s more than one way to quote a source, and here’s a quick introduction to various ways to handle quotation within your sentences.
  2. Despite our compressed time frame, it’s absolutely permissible to discuss, ponder, and plumb the assignment  together in informal groups.  (I would encourage it.)  However, you must write your own essay.
  3. Be sure to proofread.  As always, I will borrow the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” rule from baseball.  After the second typographical, spelling, grammar, or usage error, I will stop reading your essay and evaluate what I’ve read.
  4. If it helps, here’s another way to think about this assignment: I’m asking you to use the texts we’ve already read to make sense of a new text, “Howl.”  In other words, how do our class texts alert you to significant and interesting features of “Howl.”  How well can you use our syllabus to “read” something new?  This gives you a chance to extend and reflect on what you know.  It gives me a chance to see how much you’ve thought about the texts we’ve read.

Enjoy!