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English 12: Harris- Blake and Tolkien: Assignment


William Blake & J.R.R Tolkien Paper 2019

Main Topic:

Demonstrate scholarship and insight as you write about Romantic character development in works by Blake and Tolkien.  What is their notion of an ideal character, and how does one achieve such an ideal identity?

For Focus & Organization:  

In your introduction, clarify in a thesis statement how Blake and Tolkien use textual and artistic symbolism to represent Romantic character development and their ideal of the poetic character.  

In your first two body paragraphs, first analyze the written and visual text of a short work (or short selection from a longer book) by Blake that we studied such as “Introduction to Songs of Experience” and then analyze the written and visual text of a section from one of Blake’s other books such as the selection from Milton we studied or America: A Prophecy, for example.  

For the final body paragraph, widen the context of your discussion to compare Blake’s poetic vision with a representative scene of Tolkien’s character development of Bilbo, such as the “Unexpected Party” scene describing Bilbo’s response to Thorin’s song, as well as a the symbolic design of one of Tolkien’s artworks such as Undertenishness or Grownupishness.  

In the conclusion, continue widening the context with a brief mentioning of a specific experience in our world today that is relevant to our reading of Blake and Tolkien.  Consider why these authors continue to be meaningful to us through the ages.

For Scholarly Research:


Enhance your paper with literary criticism by briefly engaging with relevant biographical or footnote detail from Stephen Greenblatt’s The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Romantic Period, critical insight from Northrop Frye’s “The Case Against Locke” in Fearful Symmetry, David Erdman’s “The American War:  The Fierce Americans” in Blake: Prophet Against Empire, and/or a critical essay from our Library’s collection of resources such as Modern Critical Views edited by Harold Bloom.


Literary Criticism

Stephen Greenblatt is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author of thirteen books, including The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve; The Swerve: How the World Became Modern; Shakespeare's Freedom; Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; Hamlet in Purgatory; Marvelous Possessions; and Renaissance Self-Fashioning. He is General Editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature and of The Norton Shakespeare, has edited seven collections of criticism, and is a founding editor of the journal Representations. His honors include the 2016 Holberg Prize from the Norwegian Parliament, the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and the 2011 National Book Award for The Swerve, MLA’s James Russell Lowell Prize (twice), Harvard University’s Cabot Fellowship, the Distinguished Humanist Award from the Mellon Foundation, Yale’s Wilbur Cross Medal, the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, the Erasmus Institute Prize, two Guggenheim Fellowships and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of California, Berkeley. Among his named lecture series are the Adorno Lectures in Frankfurt, the University Lectures at Princeton, and the Clarendon Lectures at Oxford, and he has held visiting professorships at universities in Beijing, Kyoto, London, Paris, Florence, Torino, Trieste, and Bologna, as well as the Renaissance residency at the American Academy in Rome. He was president of the Modern Language Association of America and a long-term fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin. He has been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Philosophical Society, and the Italian literary academy Accademia degli Arcadi.


Northrop Frye, 1912–91, a Canadian literary critic, was ordained in 1936 as a minister in the United Church of Canada. In 1948 he was appointed professor of English at Victoria College, of which he was later principal (1959–66). Fearful Symmetry (1947) is an authoritative study of William Blake’s symbolism and religious mysticism. His most influential study, Anatomy of Criticism(1957), a synoptic overview of the principles and techniques of literary criticism, attempts to uncover and categorize the underlying myths and archetypes of world literature. The Great Code: The Bible and Literature (1982) is a discourse on the narrative and stylistic devices of the Bible. His other major works include The Well-Tempered Critic (1963), as well as studies of Shakespeare, Milton, T. S. Eliot, and the English romantic poets.


David V. Erdman, 1911– 2001, an American literary critic and editor, was Professor Emeritus of English at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Professor Erdman established his reputation as a William Blake scholar.  Throughout his career in academia Erdman held a number of university positions. After graduating from Princeton in 1936, he became a professor of English at the Agriculture, Mechanical and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Monticello). He held this position until the next year when he became an instructor of English at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He stayed at Madison from 1937 until 1941. For the next year, he was an instructor in English at Olivet College, Olivet, MI. During the 1942-43 academic year, he was an assistant professor at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. For the next three years, he did not hold position at a university, but rather worked for the United Auto Workers-Congress of Industrial Organizations (UAW-CIO) in Detroit, MI as an editor in the education department, from 1943 until 1946. In 1948, he returned to the academy as an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, a position he held until 1954. In 1968, Erdman became a professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and began editing publications for the New York Public Library, New York, NY.  During his career he was also member of multiple scholarly societies, including Modern Language Association of America, Keats-Shelley Association, Shaw Society, and the English Institute (of which he was chair in 1960).  Erdman's Blake: Prophet Against Empire was published in 1954. Jacob Bronowski stated that: "Blake: Prophet Against Empire is the most important book that has been written about Blake... it expounded the view of Blake as a poet of social vision and human protest".  Erdman's edition of Blake's writings (with critical commentary by Harold Bloom) replaced the earlier edition by Sir Geoffrey Keynes as the standard reference within scholarship and has dominated since. Beyond his contributions to the poetic scholarship, with the publication of his ground-breaking "The Illuminated Blake," Erdman became the first Blake scholar to interpret Blake's illuminations and their interaction with Blake's poetry.


Harold Bloom is Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. Educated at Cornell and Yale universities, the books he has written include Shelley's Mythmaking (1959), The Visionary Company (1961), Blake's Apocalypse (1963), Yeats (1970), A Map of Misreading (1975), Kabbalah and Criticism (1975), Agon: Toward a Theory of Revisionism (1982), The American Religion (1992), The Western Canon (1994), Omens of Millennium: The Gnosis of Angels, Dreams, and Resurrection (1996), and Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1998), a 1998 National Book Award finalist. The Anxiety of Influence (1973) sets forth Professor Bloom's provocative theory of the literary relationships between the great writers and their predecessors. His most recent books include How to Read and Why (2000), Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds (2002), Hamlet: Poem Unlimited (2003), Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? (2004), Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (2005), The Anatomy of Influence (2011), and The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime (2015). In addition, he is the author of hundreds of articles, reviews, and editorial introductions. In 1999, Professor Bloom received the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Criticism. He has also received the International Prize of Catalonia, the Alfonso Reyes Prize of Mexico, and the Hans Christian Andersen Bicentennial Prize of Denmark.


Paper Requirements

Paper Checklist:

  • Creative and clear title indicating thematic focus and mentioning the main author
  • Introduction with catchy hook such as the use of your own simile relevant to your readings, the authors and titles and historical information for context, a bridge with the main style device mentioned such as symbolism, and the last sentence as your thesis statement that mentions authors and specific style examples and how those key style examples convey the clear thematic point of their works.  
  • Body paragraphs use clear and consistent focus on how style conveys thematic point
  • Use style terms (symbol, etc) and concept terms (associated with myth, philosophy, etc)
  • Always avoid the use of we, you, I unless in personal anecdote
  • Use logical organization and clear transitions in topic sentences for unity and coherence
  • Topic sentences need to echo wording from your thesis points about style and theme
  • Substantive paragraphs use appropriate evidence such as multiple short quotes rather than long block quotes for any and all claims you make
  • Specific examples should be provided in a consistent and balanced manner
  • Partial quotes and paraphrases need parenthetical citations of lines for poetry and of pages for any prose such as the biographical sketch from the anthology or from novel
  • Conclusion rephrases thesis, widens context with a personal or social relevance, and ends with a catchy clincher such as your own simile
  • Around four pages with Works Cited as final page documenting in individual entries all required primary works (poems, novel) and any use of secondary critical works (biographical sketch by scholarly Norton editor, literary criticism by Romantic scholars).
  • Avoid spelling, grammar, or usage errors


Major Deadlines:  First Draft Due For Writing Workshop on Friday, January 24

             & Final Draft Due on Tuesday, January 29


Questions? Ask Ms. Stuart