The Draft Response

The Draft Response

The draft response, which readers write in the form of a letter to the draft writer, gives students an opportunity to formulate their ideas before arriving at the workshop. As such, it all but ensures a high-level discussion. 

You can expect to spend at least 30 minutes reading and responding to the draft. As you carefully read each draft, write marginal notes to the writer on anything that puzzles you, then write a letter to the writer in which you address these questions:

  • In your own words, what’s this paper about? (What’s its idea?) Don’t assume that the writer knows what his or her own paper is about! Mistrust the stated thesis (if there is one).
  • What do you see as the strength(s) of the draft?
  • Identify two elements of academic writing (thesis, structure, etc.) that you think the writer should focus on in revising, and discuss these in relation to the draft. Try to point to specific sentences and paragraphs whenever possible.
  • In the cover letter, the writer has asked one or more questions. What answers do you have to offer?

Sample Draft Response

Dear [Fellow Student],

To me, your paper is about the fact that Hamlet chooses Horatio as an ally because he recognizes in Horatio the strength and clarity of mind that he lacks in himself. This is a good idea. I like how you consistently tie this idea into your paragraphs throughout the paper. Your stitching is also very good, and I felt that the transitions between paragraphs were pretty smooth. Good job with that.

I think you’re right when you say in your cover letter that the thesis could be stronger. I think the thesis needs a little work. It doesn’t really address a problem that you have with Hamlet’s speech; it’s more of a statement about the value of his friend. I think part of the general problem you’re having is that you don’t tie the actual speech into the paper enough. The introductory paragraph doesn’t mention the speech at all, and the paper is supposed to be about the speech. If you focus more on the text and adjust your thesis so that it addresses a specific aspect of the speech, you might have an easier time making the point of your paper more clear.

The other element that I would focus on when you revise the paper is style. Sometimes your word choice and use of idiomatic phrases detracts from the quality of the paper. Some of the things you state would be fine in casual conversation, but are not appropriate in an academic essay. For example, on p. 2, you say that Hamlet is not “on top form,” and on p. 4, you say that Hamlet decided to “get serious.” You could put these ideas another way.

In terms of other stuff, I like the comparison to other Shakespearean works in your intro. I was a little taken by surprise when you mentioned the possibility of a romantic relationship between Hamlet and Horatio later in the paper because I definitely didn’t see that coming, but I kind of like the idea. It’s definitely an interesting perspective that deserves to be mentioned, and you do a fairly good job of providing evidence for it. Maybe you should just prepare your reader somehow beforehand so the theory doesn’t seem like it’s coming out of nowhere.

In general, I would say focus on your thesis and on incorporating the speech more into your essay, and be careful not to let your “street voice” creep into the essay. If you can solidify the thesis so that it focuses more on a problem or on a unique interpretation, then I think the paper will be much more effective overall. Good luck, and try to get a couple hours of sleep 🙂

Sincerely, [Fellow Student] 

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Cover Letter for Your Draft

Please bring three copies of your draft and your cover letter to class on Thursday.

The Cover Letter

The cover letter, which students include with their papers, gives them an op- portunity to set the terms of the workshop experience.

Please include a cover letter with your draft in which you answer the questions below and present any other concerns that you have. Think of the cover letter as an opportunity to ask for the kind of feedback you need. All cover letters should be about a single page double-spaced.

  • What do you see as your main idea or point?
  • What idea or point do you feel you’ve made most successfully? least successfully?
  • What’s the number one question about your paper that you’d like your reader to answer for you?
  • If you were going to start revising today, what would you focus on?

Sample Cover Letter

Dear Reader:
The main idea of this paper is to show why the character of Horatio was needed in the play and how Hamlet made use of him. The speech I’ve chosen to examine implies a special relationship between the two characters, one that I’ve also tried to explore. It seems to me that Hamlet uses Horatio to fill in the gaps that were created by his madness and political intrigues at court, though I’m not sure this idea comes across clearly enough.

The point I think that I’ve made most successfully has to do with Horatio’s overall quality, a point that I reinforce throughout the paper. But I would really like to more fully explore Hamlet’s personal doubts and complaints as reflected in his speech, especially concerning his po- tential insanity. It just seems to me that my thesis could be stronger. I also think I need to work on my structure. I think the overall organization works—intro, background on Horatio, discussion of the speech, discussion of Horatio’s importance to Hamlet, conclusion—but within each sec- tion, I’m having trouble linking my ideas to my thesis. Each paragraph needs to have a purpose that’s unique, yet not so different that it doesn’t fit into the essay. That’s the trouble I’m having.

Aside from the questions I have about thesis and structure, I’d like to know, How can I make the “speech” portion of my paper stronger? It needs to be more carefully planned and to end with a bang, not a whimper. Any help you can give me about how to expand this part of the paper and make it strongly would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your help and for taking the time to read this draft!

Sincerely, [Student’s Name]

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English Honors Conference

Here is the schedule for the upcoming English Honors conference. Their theme this year was “Adaptation of Narrative across Media,” so you will actually already know a lot about the presentations. I’m curious about the one on Wuthering Heights, which suggests “that book is not always better.” I’m going to try to go to that one, and then the paper on Batman which I read a version of.

English Honors Conference 2013
Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
9:30 am to 3:00 pm
Rosenthal Library, Fifth Floor
Presidential Conference Rooms 1 and 2

9:30        Breakfast: Coffee and Tea and Bagels

9:50:      Greetings and Opening Remarks (Conference Room 1): Elma Rahman

Panel 1 (Conference Room 1) 10:00 am – 10:50 am

Adaptation Techniques

Chair: Shaunette Wilson
Emily Pertz: “Washington Square and the Different Faces of Catherine Sloper”
John Emrich:”Metamorphosis of Wuthering Heights, or: The Book Is Not

                Always Better”
Robert Lee: “
Road to Perfection: Where East Meets West in Max Allan
            Collins’s Road to Perdition”

Panel 2 (Conference Room 1) 11:00 am – 12:00 Noon

The Internal Workings of the Psyche

Chair: Elma Rahman

Aparna Gokhale: “‘One Center, One Diamond, One Woman’: Physical and Mental Fragmentation in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and Michael Cunningham’s The Hours
Michelle Chan: “Unreliable Narrative in Novel and Film: Kazuo Ishiguro’s The
                Remains of the Day and Its Film Adaptation”
Jessica Berke: “Obsession in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo
Katy Erickson: “Patriarchal Horror in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

Lunch: Sandwiches and Soda — Noon to 12:30 pm
Please note the simultaneous sessions after lunch.

Panel 3 (Conference Room 1) 12:30 pm – 1:20 pm
Science Fiction and Fantasy: Theoretical/Philosophical Topics

Chair: Joanna Mavromatis

Tara Gildea: “‘But One Thing I Forgot All This While’: Interruptive Force and the
                Inescapable Elusivity of the Medial in Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World
Jess Williard: “No Answers, Only Choices: Structures, Semantics and Philosophy

                in the Adaptations of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris
John Giunta: “‘But as a Symbol?’: Hunting the Posthuman in Christopher Nolan’s

                Dark Knight Trilogy”

Panel 4 (Conference Room 2) 12:30 pm – 1:20 pm  
Power Relations

Chair: Elaine Housseas

James Chozo: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Much More than Femininity”
Becky Kim: “The Glamour and the Reality behind The Devil Wears Prada
Stephanie Davis: “The Horror in the Early Adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula:

                German Expressionism versus Hollywood Cinema”

Panel 5 (Conference Room 1) 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm
Society and Identity

Chair: Rosalyn Bajraktari

Erin Kenny: “Vito to Michael: A Violent Journey from Father to Son”
Shanee Peroune: “For Us All: Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have

                Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf
Jazmine Estremera: “In a Gray Area: Varying Perceptions of Sexuality in Oscar Wilde’s

                Picture of Dorian Gray and Its Film Adaptations”
Iris Tamayo: “Steel Magnolias: The Racelift”

Panel 6 (Conference Room 2) 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm
Character Studies and Archetypes

Chair: Lisa Marie Diodato

Daniella Vulpe: “Has Humanity Found a Real Person in Ralph Fiennes’s Coriolanus?”
Joanna Mavromatis: “Beneficent or Malevolent: The Influence of the Philosopher-King

                and John Dee on Julie Taymor’s The Tempest
Katherine Vasile: “The Iliad Adaptation through Wolfgang Peterson’s Troy: Heroism’s Truth”

George Hogan: “The ‘Angstification’ of Aragorn: Epic in the 21st Century”
Closing Remarks (Conference Room 1) 2:35 to 2:45 pm:  Elaine Housseas

The festivities continue at the English Prizes Ceremony in the Godwin-Ternbach
Museum, Klapper Hall, Fourth Floor, 3:00 pm, with a reception to follow.

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