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A Hypertext Resource for Literature

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Annotated Bibliography
and Cover Essay

The bibliography will have two parts:

1. The bibliography proper

This will comprise about fifteen entries, at least ten of which should be annotated. Here is some guidance on the process:

  • When you search for sources, some projects will offer you a wealth of obvious possibilities. Such projects will require you to develop criteria for selection right away. Others will have fewer narrowly relevant sources; in those cases, look for related material by checking the sources of recent critical writing or by thinking yourself about relatively theoretical elements of your project (nationalism, authorship, orality, gender, etc.).

  • "Reading" sources for your bibliography may be different from reading them for your final paper. This assignment does not ask you to read your sources the way you read class assignments. That would require far more time than you have at your disposal. Instead, it requires you to write short, accurate summaries of what each work does. Writers' introductions should give straightforward, useful information about the content and approach of full-length books. Looking at the introduction, chapter structure, and sampled sections of a book should give you a good idea of how it works. When looking at articles, be sure to check the opening, closing, and transitions of each article, looking for the information that the writer claims to add to existing criticism. When you find works that will be especially important to your own writing, you will of course go back and read them more thoroughly, whether before or after the bibliography is due.

  • Look for a mix of books and recent articles. In general, emphasize more recent work, but also look for older sources that get cited frequently.

  • Do the entries themselves in MLA style. You should be able to copy and paste them into your Works Cited list.

  • Put the entries in order by date of first publication. A Works Cited list will, of course, usually arrange entries by author's last name, but ordering the bibliography by date can help you see chronological progression in your sources.

  • When writing the annotations, think of your audience as your classmates: readers who are interested in related topics and who might want to use your bibliography to find useful material for their own writing. (This audience is literal: I will compile and distribute a combined bibliography to the class.) Write a number of pithy sentences on each of your annotated sources, paying attention to how the source works on its own terms rather than your plans for using it.

2. The cover essay

Write a 2-3 page cover essay that addresses at least two of the following areas, according to your own sense of the approaches that will help you most as you think through your paper:

  • Keystones and best enemy--describe one or two works that seem to be the most relevant sources for your essay, the ones against which you need to define your project most carefully. Then describe the source that you think does the best job of saying something with which you fundamentally disagree: that's your best enemy.

  • Chronology--describe the way critics' approaches to your readings have changed over the years and how that progression might influence your own approach.

  • Elimination criteria--if you looked at sources and chose not to include (or to annotate) them, explain your rationale, especially if your reasons go beyond simple lack of relevance to your specific project.

  • Models of approach or style--describe what you learned from one or two sources about their approach to crafting critical arguments: how a writer quotes others, makes a certain kind of point, uses strategic footnotes, manufactures friendly disagreements, or does anything else that strikes you as useful in ways that go beyond the "content" of that writer's text.

  • Theoretical context--comment on writers who address general issues that your project will engage without necessarily (but possibly) touching on the specific text you want to analyze.

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