Throughout my entire senior year, I made huge progress in English. One of the most difficult types of writing I was presented with was explication. In the beginning of the year I struggled a lot with the idea of explicating. I had trouble forming theses and organizing my information. I couldn’t build a thesis based on a piece of literature and it was so frustrating. I would discuss with classmates and never really find a solution for my problem. Compared to junior year, which was a breeze, senior English was difficult for me on almost every level. All the constructive criticism I was receiving helped, but always puzzled me. I continuously wondered why I wasn’t getting the A’s I always did and what the source of the problem was.
I began to focus more on model working that Mr.Gallagher would post on the blog. I actually studied some of it. The strategies began to shine through in most of the papers. I began to practice. Explicating different excerpts-especially in my journal.
As all this was happening in English class, there were problems outside of the classroom for me. I was dealing with colleges, recommendation letters, scholarships and Biology AP. The more stress I was under, the more I worried about my English grade.
I remember the first explication that I wrote and was in tune with myself instead of writing random analysis of the piece. It was the Plum-Plum Pickers explication. I understood the excerpt from the story, I picked up on all the main points, I developed an original thesis, and wrote the paper. It was so much easier than all the times before because this time, I used the passage explication sheet differently. I asked myself the questions, but wrote them down on paper, not just considered them in my head.
By the time the Portrait Critical essay came around, I was nervous but not as much as I would have been if I didn’t develop the skills that I had at the time. I worked hard on that paper. I rewrote that thing almost 3 times. By the time my final draft was passed in,
(almost two weeks late) I felt confident that the paper was skillfully done with an original thesis, even though I was backing myself up with the work of other critics.
It turns out, I wrote a B+ paper. At that point, I was amazed at the progress I made. I went from difficulty with thesis development to explicating the work of an author like James Joyce.
Looking back, reviewing my folder, all the work that I’ve passed in, the changes I underwent are evident. I take pride in the fact that I can now deal with stress and cope with expectations from different courses while excelling in an area that was once difficult. Don’t get me wrong; English will always be a challenge. I will always find new ways to do things and will always be presented with new challenges.
In my opinion, this year was a year of great progress and even though it started out terrible, I learned a lot about my writing skills, I improved them, and I opened my eyes up to new forms of literature and different ways of looking at works of literature. Specifically, my favorite thing was criticizing passages from a feminist point of view. Taking a specific standpoint on a piece of literature really digs into the construction of the words and motives of the author. It’s an experience I hope to continue and a tool I will definitely bring out of my shed in college and life. As well as learning all of the above this year, Mr. Gallagher brought to my attention certain things that changed me in a way. The art he brought into the classroom from the Breughel paintings to the work of David Hockney gave me different outlooks on literature, art and life. It’s amazing how many things exist that so many people aren’t even the slightest bit aware of.
From this year’s English class I will take with me the following: the power to explicate, the power to explicate through a critical lense, the power to develop a strong, original thesis, and a broader mentality concerning literature and the arts. I owe most of this to Mr.Gallagher, because everyone else taught me plain grammar. It was my pleasure.