I expect that your paper will respond specifically to the close-reading assignment and will otherwise follow the directions that you were asked to follow. You are absolutely welcome to speak with me about your project before you begin working on it, or at any stage of the research or writing process. Your paper must represent your own original work; any borrowings from anyone else's language or thought require proper academic attribution. Your paper should conform to the MLA standard for academic papers.
Always retain a copy of your paper until you have received a final grade for the quarter. Never give me the only copy of an assignment that you have put work into.
You must turn in a printed copy of your paper; I do not accept electronic copies except in emergencies. (For instance, if you need to leave town before the paper is due because of, say, the hospitalization of a family member, you may send a copy by email as a good-faith gesture, to show that you have in fact completed the assignment, but I will expect you to turn in a printed copy when you return to campus. In this particular circumstance, I may very well also be willing to grant an extension, even if it is close to the deadline.)
Paper deadlines are absolute. Everything must be turned in at the beginning of class on the due date. Being even one minute late incurs the same penalty as being a full day late. You need to make sure that you are adequately prepared to turn in your assignment when I call for it.
Remember that the syllabus says thattechnology problems are not normally an acceptable excuse for late work. In fact, you should remember that the only acceptable excuses for late work are genuinely serious emergencies (hospitalization, family death, natural disasters, etc.), and if you have such an emergency, you should anticipate that I will ask you for documentation. You must have your work ready to turn in, properly formatted, stapled, and assembled, at the time when the work is supposed to be ready, and at the place where you are supposed to turn the work in.
I am available after class (usually), during my office hours, and by email to answer questions that you may have about any of these requirements. I do not perform "pre-evaluations" of drafts, but would be happy to discuss specific questions, talk about outlines, or help you with issues that arise as you go through the writing process, provided that these conversations occur in my office (i.e., not by email). Though I do try to answer quick, non-complex questions by email before papers are due (subject to my contact policy on the course syllabus), please realize that I am likely to receive many emails shortly before each paper is due, and that (although I will respond as quickly as possible) it is unwise to email me at the absolute last minute and expect an immediate reply.
Specific meanings of grades
The grade that your paper receives is based on which of the following categories best describe it. A paper may receive a + or - after the letter grade to indicate where that paper falls on the relevant letter-grade spectrum.
In addition to displaying all of the virtues of an A paper, an A+ paper is wonderful in every imaginable way.
Exceed expectations in meaningful and substantial ways: they don't just answer the question and then stop.
Pose a meaningful interpretive question, and then fully address the major question(s) that the WP prompt asks the writer to address by fully developing a set of related ideas into an effective argument.
Have a well-considered, thoughtful thesis statement, and spend the paper demonstrating the correctness and validity of that thesis statement.
Are logically and rhetorically coherent, showing that their writers have thought carefully about these papers' structure and language, and made effective choices in crafting these aspects of the papers.
Have few mechanical problems, and no serious mechanical problems. (A serious mechanical problem is one that meaningfully impedes the ability of the reader to understand the argument without slowing down or is a fundamental violation of the basic conventions of written standard American English.)
Demonstrate a complex engagement with their topic.
Effectively transition between ideas.
Are engaging to read, effectively provoking an intellectual or emotional response from the reader.
Are effective at persuading the reader that the paper's position is solid and reasonable.
Make use of a diversified vocabulary and set of sentence structures.
Demonstrate the relevance of the writer's argument in addition to constructing a solid argument in the first place.
Provide evidence that the writer is strongly in control of voice, tone, structure, and other high-level writing concerns.
Critically assesses the sources the writer uses (including the primary text), rather than simply treating them as authoritative.
Provide evidence that the writer has made a large number of conscious writing decisions with an eye toward the overall effect of each one, and that each one contributes to the overall success of the paper (everything pays off).
Consider and address reasonable objections or differences of opinion that the reader may have.
Are very clean in terms of writing mechanics: there are no major problems, and very few minor ones.
Have no (or only a very few minor) problems complying with the MLA standard for formatting and citation practices.
Look outward (often in the paper's conclusion) toward the broader implications of the writer's thoughts expressed in the paper.
Take risks in their writing, rather than playing it safe, and demonstrate a payoff for those risks.
Make very thoughtful and effective choices about what evidence to use and how to use it.
Pose a meaningful interpretive question and address that question in a solid and convincing way.
Demonstrate that the writer understands his or her topic.
Make a clear and logically sound argument.
May have some non-serious grammatical and mechanical errors here and there.
May have some structural awkwardnesses, but still basically work as pieces of fundamentally effective writing; they are basically organized and structured effectively.
Are on-topic throughout the majority of the paper's body. If there are digressions, they are short, and each digression demonstrates that it has a worthwhile payoff.
Have strong, clear thesis statements.
Use evidence effectively to support the writer's argument.
Show that the writer is basically in control of the paper, though s/he likely needs to make more conscious writing decisions in at least some areas of the paper. Among other things, this means:
papers in this range basically flow well; they demonstrate that the writer is effectively in control of pacing, tone, voice, and structure, without any genuinely serious problems that prevent the paper from doing what it is trying to do in a fundamentally effective manner;
a variety of sentence structures are used;
choices about phrasing are generally effective and thoughtful; and
these papers have a sound logical structure to their argument.
Have a satisfying conclusion.
Basically do a solid job of complying with the MLA standard: they comply in most ways, and without any egregious violations.
Often take the safe path in terms of writing choices, and therefore do not demonstrate clearly and effectively that the writer has substantially developed his/her writing skills during the course of the project.
Do not take risks, or do not demonstrate a solid payoff for risks taken.
Pose some kind of interpretive question about a text, but either do not formulate that question with sufficient clarity for a successful answer to emerge, or do not sufficiently address the question once they have posed it.
Spend a substantial amount of time off-topic, without demonstrating a payoff for those digressions.
Do not demonstrate that the writer has exhibited any care at all, or anywhere near enough care, with questions of revision and editing.
Are unclear about the overall direction of the paper.
Make an argument that is basically unclear, underdeveloped, or logically weak.
Do not demonstrate the relevance of the paper at even the most basic satisfying level.
Engage in interpretations of evidence or argumentative methodologies that are fundamentally biased, flawed, or have genuine methodological problems.
Diverge substantially from the expected paper length.
Do not demonstrate that the writer is effectively in control of the paper's structure and voice.
Exhibit difficulty staying on topic.
Have not effectively developed a logical structure for the paper. For instance,
they may not have a fully developed logical structure; or
the paper may not be organized effectively at even the most basic level; or
the paper's ideas may not be effectively matched to its paragraph structure; or
the pieces of the paper's structure are otherwise not clearly related to each other in a productive way.
Have substantial problems with their thesis statement. For instance,
there may not be an identifiable thesis statement; or
it may be unclear what the thesis statement in the paper means; or
the thesis statement may be so vague or uncontroversial as to throw the paper's relevance into question.
Rely excessively on basic, repetitive syntax.
Have substantial problems with citations, though not problems serious enough to raise questions about plagiarism.
Have substantial problems with complying with the MLA standard.
Have substantial mechanical problems that either cause genuine interpretive difficulty or are extremely annoying for the reader.
Have non-trivial, genuinely serious presentation problems.
Receiving a C- on a paper means that it just barely satisfies the absolute minimum requirements for a college-level paper.
Receiving a D on a paper means that the paper has at least one fundamental problem that keeps it from being an appropriate analysis that deals with the question at a satisfying basic level. Often, one or more of the following is true:
The paper suggests fundamental problems with understanding and/or analyzing the material.
The paper is unclear and/or disorganized to the point of causing interpretive difficulty for the reader.
The paper has frequent, severe grammatical/mechanical problems, or profound problems with conforming to the MLA standard.
The paper's efforts to structure its narrative and/or argument are (nearly) nonexistent or pervasively ineffective; the paper consists of disconnected observations or other fundamentally ineffective types of responses.
It is doubtful that the paper is relevant to the question of how a literary text should be read.
(If you have questions about how your paper does not meet basic standards for a piece of analytical writing, please see me! I am happy to discuss how you can better succeed at the task of analytical writing.)
Papers receiving an F are plagiarized or otherwise fundamentally and pervasively dishonest, or are a profoundly inappropriate response to the writing assignment. Note that plagiarism will definitely result in penalties beyond simply receiving an F on the paper. See the course syllabus's section on plagiarism for more information.
Receiving a lower-than-expected grade is not necessarily a reason to freak out. Writers of B-range papers are doing just fine. Students who write papers that receive lower grades can often improve their grades on subsequent work by correcting the problems that I note in my comments. In any case, remember that no individual writing assignment is worth all that many points during the quarter, and that scoring below what you would like to score does not irremediably injure your grade for the quarter. I would always be happy to discuss how you can better succeed at the task of writing in my office hours (and am happy to meet you outside of my office hours if they are at inconvenient times for you). Students who are having problems with grammar, structure, or other matters related to writing and its mechanics may also benefit from the assistance of Campus Learning Assistance Services, which provides tutoring in many subjects, including writing, at no charge to students.
If you believe that the grade you received is not a fair assessment of your paper and would like to dispute it, you should write me a letter explaining specific reasons why the grade I gave you is not a good match for the paper you wrote, basing your argument on the grading rubric above. Note specific discrepancies based on my comments and passages from the paper. You should turn the letter in to me, along with a copy of your paper that has my comments on it. We will then schedule an appointment to discuss your grade.
You are of course welcome to talk to me about your paper even if you do not believe that the grade is unfair. I would be more than happy to elucidate comments, go further into material that you found interesting, or discuss how future papers can better achieve an exposition of your ideas. Please feel free to come to my office or schedule an appointment with me if you would like to discuss any of these topics.