Rail yard background, from the Library of Congress


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, three of which should be hyperannotated. Here is some guidance on the process:

The three annotated entries should a) include at least one full-length book, b) include no more than one entry that is already included in Ashplant's bibliography, and c) all be unique in the context of the class; that is, nobody else should be hyperannotating the same work. (Having common entries in the rest of the bibliography is fine.)

Each hyperannotation will consist of five parts:

  1. The citation, in MLA style
  2. The annotation
  3. Textmarks: notes within the annotation of lines or episodes of Ulysses that are especially important to the author's argument
  4. References: citations of primary or secondary sources that are especially important to the author's argument
  5. Obsessions and themes: categories of analysis, especially but not only ones we have used in class, that connect to the author's argument

Further remarks on the bibliography:

  • 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, especially books, 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.

  • In general, emphasize more recent work, but also look for older sources that get cited frequently.

  • Do the entries themselves in MLA style.

  • Put the entries in order by date of first publication, oldest first. 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

The other part of the assignment is a 2-3 page cover essay whose primary purpose is to explain your rationale for selecting the three works you have chosen to annotate in the context of your full list. This reasoning is important: the ease of finding criticism on Ulysses puts unusual pressure on the process of selecting important works. In establishing the centrality of your annotated works, you should describe the kinds of searches you have performed and how you gathered the specific information that led you to choose some works rather than others.

To give your reader a sense of why your three sources stood out as those most worthy of your closest attention, you may which to consider factors such as these in your cover essay:

  • 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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