Duffy Paper

As we saw in the letter from her to her publisher, Carol Ann Duffy felt that The World’s Wife (TWW) “is not a ‘normal’ poetry collection by me—it’s close to popular entertainment.” For this assignment, you will write a six-page (or more!) paper that examines TWW in relation to Duffy’s previous collection, Mean Time.

In a sense, your argument will be to agree or disagree with Duffy’s assessment—either is an equally valid choice. It is important, however, to remember that you are making an argument, something that you will need to persuasively demonstrate. You should draw your evidence for this argument from close reading and analysis of the language and techniques present within the poems and volumes. You are required to not simply look at the overarching themes or organization of the two volumes, but to examine at least one poem’s language from each volume.

You not only need an appropriate amount of evidence but also to spend an appropriate amount of time explaining how your evidence adds up to your interpretation. Make sure that you do not simply summarize the poems’ plots but focus on one theme or aspect of the text. You are not required to use external sources for this assignment, although you may do so if you would like. Again, whether you use external sources or not, the focus of your argument should be on the texts and their poems. You will have to quote directly from the texts and examine their language in order to build your case.

Finally, whether or not you use external sources or not, you will need to create a Works Cited page in correct MLA style. Feel free to use EasyBib to make this process easier.


I will grade these papers simply with letter grades. A+ = 100; A= 95; A- = 92; B+= 88; etc. I will focus on a few discreet things in grading:

  1. Appropriateness of scope: Here, I am looking to see that you understand what can be persuasively covered in the page limits.  A topic that is too big (e.g. the role of women in Duffy’s poetry) may result in a poorly developed essay.  Something more manageable (e.g. the role of mothers in Duffy’s poetry) allows you more room to build an argument.  Further, the thesis for the essay should state an argument, not just a topic.  This – “My essay will consider the roles of mothers in Duffy’s poetry.” – is a topic.  This – “Although Duffy believes her poetry to have changed from Mean Time to The World’s Wife, her depiction of mothers within both texts leads the reader to doubt the poet’s claim.” – is an argument. One way to determine whether you are presenting a topic or an argument is to ask yourself, “Could a person reasonably argue against what I am saying?” If the answer is “no,” then you probably don’t have an argument. Demonstrating the validity of your thesis should be the goal of the paper and thus, each paragraph.
  2. Integration of quotations/use of evidence: It’s not a persuasive argument if you don’t have evidence to prove it. This essay should consist of a series of close readings, the analysis of which builds to prove your argument. You can’t do this without substantially quoting the text. The quotations you use should be smoothly introduced by and integrated into your own prose. Furthermore, you should clearly and effectively provide analysis of the quotations, tracing for the reader how the language of the text connects to your larger thesis (A → B → C → D). Finally, your paper should make correct use of the MLA style.
  3. Prose and organizational effectiveness: This is a writing class and a writing assignment, so the quality of your writing will be at issue. This means on the level on individual sentences—including mechanics—and on the level of essay organization. It should be possible for the reader to see why your paper is organized in the way that it is and that this organization contributes to the rhetorical power of your argument. Furthermore, each paragraph should generally be about one topic.


  • Your paper must be in 12-point Times New Roman font.
  • It must be double-spaced except for where you type your name and the date on the first page.
  • It must have a title.
  • The pages must be numbered in the upper right corner according to the “Name #” system (i.e., “Croxall 1”)
  • The margins must be 1” on all sides.

Getting Me the Goods

Papers must be emailed to me as PDFs by the beginning of class on Tuesday, 29 November Thursday, 1 December. Please name files in the following format: Last Name-Duffy.pdf.


This assignment was designed by Brian Croxall and is licensed with a Creative Commons BY license.

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