Featured Post

Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How to Comment on a Graduate Student Paper

I found these comments in my file for the theory class.
“Critical Review of...”

Rewrite

Let’s start with the title: it could be a bit more revelatory and interesting—a minor issue. The intro is strong, but the last sentence of the 1st paragraph is weak. Here is the place where you could insert a strong thesis statement, but instead you simply announce that your paper is going to comment on the article by B. Something that we already know from your title. Likewise, the concluding sentence of the essay is weak: you apologize for not dealing with every aspect of the essay, instead of taking advantage of the final position to highlight your own strongest point, whatever you feel that to be. The time to make this kind of statement is early in a paper, as a kind of captatio benevolentiae.

You might need more context in the second paragraph. What exactly was B reacting against? I would say there are two main traditions: neo-classical poetics in Europe did not really consider the novel as an artistic genre because it was a new, upstart form that did not form part of the classical canon. Secondly, B was writing partly in reaction to the Russian formalists. If you don’t see this context, it becomes hard to see why B establishes the dichotomy between poetry and prose. Poetry (poetics) entails a certain narrower, classical view of genres. I don’t think that it as easy as you assume to extend his “prosaics” to the realm of “poetics.” I also think you need to consider the historical development of the novel as a genre.

In the third paragraph: it is unlikely that B knew Gramsci. You should look up the actual dates of publications of Gramsci’s work rather than just saying that you don’t know whether he knew Gramsci or not. Good summary here, though.

Page 5: “Essentially a genre theorist of the novel, I...” Who is the genre theorist, you or B?

You make good points throughout, but a better thesis statement and conclusion would result in a better, more cohesive paper.

***

Final Grade A -

Most of my previous comments have been addressed. Generally, this is a strong paper, building on strengths of the first version. My main critique at this point would be that the paper could test B’s theory against real examples of novelistic and poetic discourses. It seems a little abstract, too theoretical, in a way. The reader doesn’t really have a sense of what B’s theory would look like when set in motion. The paper could go even further in the direction of proposing an interesting idea about Bakhtin’s theory.
I didn't give a grade for the first version, because I want attention on substance not on "why did I get this particular grade." I didn't have to change any information to publish this on my blog because there is nothing personal here. Everything is about the work, nothing about the writer as human being.

I also gave some interlinear comments that I didn't save.

Now I'm feeling I should have kicked his or her ass even more. But beyond a certain point is becomes counter-productive.

No comments: